Collaboration, an important skill

Grades 3-5 have been practicing collaboration in TikkunXDesign while designing and building their own schools. In small groups, students brainstormed important elements of a school, created a floor plan, and built up walls and furniture to create a demonstrative model. At each point along the way, students were asked to build upon each other’s ideas, come to agreements about how to proceed, and delegate tasks to each other.

Local coverage of 5th grade environmental program

It has long been a JCDSRI tradition that our 5th grade class travels to Camp Isabella Freedman in CT to participate in a 4 day environmental retreat with a Jewish lens. This year’s trip was picked up by our local paper, Jewish Rhode Island. Read more about what our students got out of the trip and what lessons they brought home with them.

Teva program inspires JCDSRI students to help heal the earth


Meet our new school social worker, Meghan Cavanaugh

Meghan Cavanaugh joined JCDSRI’s faculty in September as our school social worker. Meghan has over a decade of experience working with children and families in schools as well as in home-based and office settings.

When asked about her impressions of JCDSRI, Meghan said that our school community is “positive and supportive — teachers reflect to students their strengths and talents, and model how to solve problems effectively and resolve conflicts fairly. Students are encouraged to think independently, create solutions to problems, and grow as learners.” She goes on to say that she is “most excited about helping students and teachers further integrate social-emotional learning into classrooms.”

Meghan is already making an impact focusing on four main areas:

  • Teaching students ways to manage their feelings at school so that they are ready to learn
  • Teaching teachers skills to help students pay attention, cope with their feelings in class and calm their bodies
  • Supporting JCDS families when their children meet challenges at school
  • Creating a team with teachers and staff to ensure the success of all students

Meghan is thrilled to be a part of the JCDSRI community and her presence is already felt. She is helping teachers further develop their developmentally appropriate, social and emotional curriculum and helping students learn mindfulness techniques to help them regulate their wiggly, squiggly selves in the classroom.

Genius Hour… when passions come alive

Fifth grader Ella Sinel won the SEEDlings student design challenge at StyleWeek Northeast this fall! In fact, the idea to open up the event to youngsters came from Ella. According to founder and CEO, Rosanna Ortiz, Ella “was very persistent in getting a hold of me because she wanted me to look at her sketches because she wanted to be a StyleWeek designer,” Ortiz said. “It was funny because this little girl was emailing every email address for me she could find. At first, I thought it was a joke.”

Ella’s passion for fashion designing was encouraged last year by fourth grade teacher, Melynda Silva, during Genius Hour — a year-long project that allows students to identify and pursue a personal passion.

Read more in the Voice and Herald below:



Time to think, reflect and write

One unique element of a JCDSRI education is the integration of Jewish values into our curriculum. Starting a new school year and studying Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur give us many opportunities to explore and reinforce these values. How do we do this? We practice the important skills of thinking and reflecting.

In Learning and Leading With Habits of Mind, educators Arthur Costa and Bena Kallick define the act of reflecting as “to mentally wander through where we have been and to try to make some sense out of it.” The ability to reflect is an important habit of mind that will help our students develop as thoughtful learners. Perhaps more importantly, these skills will help our students grow into thoughtful human beings, able to contemplate choices, actions and interactions with friends, family and strangers.

Every class has been engaging in developmentally appropriate discussions that encourage our students to think about their behavior as we aim to start the year resolving to better ourselves. For our older students, organizing our thoughts and putting them down on paper expands the exercise into writing practice — strengthening our expressive writing skills at the same time. For example, our fifth graders explored some of the prayers of the Yamim Nora’im — the High Holidays. Inspired by the structure of these prayers, they wrote about times when they hurt or disappointed others and how they attempted to make amends. In reflecting about these experiences, students noted that efforts to heal the pain sometimes seemed invisible in light of the hurt they had caused. As a result, sometimes it felt like the harm would be remembered rather than the healing. They wrote about their mistake but also the amends they attempted for which they would like to be remembered. Michelle Raskin, 5th grade Judaic studies teacher, was impressed by her students’ ability to examine their behavior and write about it with honesty and maturity. Clearly their years practicing reflection at JCDSRI have helped them develop this critical Habit of Mind.

Celebrating Israel!

Our school-wide celebration of Israel’s Independence Day was very active and kef (fun)! In honor of Israel’s 70th birthday, students played Israeli games and participated in Israeli folk dancing during recess. Students “visited” a variety of places in Israel as they traveled around school participating in different stations. We had an all-school trivia competition, Jewperdy, in Jerusalem. They also visited Jaffa, where children were challenged to an orange-picking/sorting relay, and Tel Aviv, where our artists created graffiti on the city’s “walls.” Finally, students created their own mosaics similar to those found in the Israeli city of Tzipori.

Each class collaboratively wrote a thoughtful poem reflecting their Hopes and Dreams for Israel. The poems were shared at an all-school Yon Ha’atzmaut assembly. Here is third grade’s class poem:

FOR YOU ISRAEL  כיתה ג HOPES . . .


FOR YOU ISRAEL  כיתה ג HOPES . . .


FOR YOU ISRAEL  כיתה ג HOPES . . .


FOR YOU ISRAEL כיתה ג  HOPES . . .



Purim at JCDSRI is a festive and busy day!

Our school-wide Purim celebration was filled with costume parades, games, hamantaschen baking and more! Leading up to Purim, students studied the holiday story from Megillat Esther (the Scroll of Esther) and each class decorated its door with a scene from the story. Students filmed themselves acting out the scene from their classroom door. On Purim, children visited each other’s classes and upon entering were treated to the student-made videos that brought the Purim story to life.

Older students chanted from the Book of Esther for the whole community. In the afternoon, we assembled bags with toiletries for people in need and everyone exchanged Mishloach Manot, goody-filled bags, to complete the celebration!





Genius Hour

Fourth grade is once again undertaking a Genius Hour. Genius Hour is a concept inspired by Google’s business practice of allowing their employees to use 20% of their work day to research ideas and develop products. Two products developed from this practice have been Google News and GMail.

Our students engage in a year-long passion project based on the same idea. Students pick a topic that they are passionate about and spend time in school and at home researching and building a product. Students are given guided free choice in picking their projects. Last year, culminating projects included novels, a fundraiser to the RISPCA, a video game creation, and a motorized bicycle. This year, students are interested in learning more about how watches work, creating YouTube “how to” channels in MineCraft and crafts, creating healthy snack foods, designing hats and more.

Abraham as role model

Now, more than ever, our world seems divided and discourse is often hurtful and irresponsible. Within this climate, our school, and the timeless values we practice, are more essential than ever. In this week’s Torah portion, Vayera, Abraham models for us how to welcome guests and treat weary visitors.

Our fourth grade students closely studied this text and drew relevant lessons for how we treat visitors and newcomers today. Using Abraham as a role model, our students translated his ancient customs into more modern practice. Welcoming visitors into our school is a skill we use all the time as guests often spend time with us. One of our class “jobs’ is the Greeter who is the person responsible for welcoming a visitor to class, inquiring who they are and letting them know what’s taking place.