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.

Student voices from The Realm of Thirdania

At JCDSRI, third grade isn’t just a collection of students who happen to be in the same age, they are civilization builders. The civilization this year’s third graders are building has been named (by them) The Realm of Thirdania. Student citizens of Thirdania take responsibility for many aspects of their realm, and one important role is the class blogger. Enjoy the first dispatch from the desk of this week’s Thirdanian blogger. (Edited lightly by Mr. Mirsky)

Hello. This is our very first kid blog!

This week we learned about how the grow room works. It has a tube that goes from the fish tank to the plants, and it sucks up all the fish water and the plant uses it as food. We also learned how to test the water to find out if it is good water for the fish to stay alive. We haven’t named the fish yet but we might soon.

We also came up with rules for the loft. We chose days for kids to go up in the loft, and you can only go up on your turn. We love how the lights make us feel peaceful and the sound of the fish tank makes us feel calm.

In Lashon we learned new words today. We are also excited that we picked our topics for our nontraditional presentations. They are cool topics and we are excited to write down facts.

We hope you enjoyed our writing in our first blog. 


Thirdanian Publisher

Thinking about how preschool children play

You could hear the giggles even before the children opened the door to the classroom and the smiles continued once inside. The Jewish Community Day School of RI second grade students warmly greeted their preschool buddies from the JCC/David C. Isenberg Family Early Childhood program with hugs and high-fives.  Once the welcomes were over, our students enthusiastically – yet gently – introduced their young guests to the bright and airy second grade classroom.

JCDSRI second graders had designed and created games about trees for their preschool buddies. This project was a part of their Tu B’Shvat (Jewish Arbor Day) challenge in TikkunXDesign, our school’s award-winning design program. At the beginning of the unit, our students explored and played games and attempted to articulate what made them fun.  They also brainstormed a list of additional games that they enjoyed playing. They realized, however, that their 3 and 4 year-old buddies would not like every game they did and that they needed to better understand their buddies’ interests and capabilities. This is an important Design Thinking mindset we practice during Design Lab — empathy.

In the following TikkunXDesign class, we brought in several games that were designed especially for preschoolers and our students compared these games with ones that were for 2nd graders. They chose a game that they were interested in adapting and worked in small groups over several weeks to redesign the game while incorporating information about trees. Finally, it was time to test the games by pretending to be 3 and 4-year-olds! At the end of that class, students had a chance to reflect and give feedback to each other about how the games worked and how they thought they might be improved.

When the preschool students came to visit, it was clear the games were a success! Our second graders were so excited to watch their buddies enjoy the games they had created. It was an afternoon filled with laughter, pride and learning.

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!





Second grade’s new buddies

Our buddy program has been a well-loved part of our school community for many years. Our youngest students in Pre-K are paired with buddies in third grade. These friendships continue over the next few years as kindergarten students buddy with 4th grade and 1st and 5th grade students are partnered. In this configuration, 2nd grade has always been in the middle. Though they don’t pair off with another grade, they’ve always enjoyed the unique privilege of caring for class pets…until now.

This year, our second grade students have begun a new buddy program with friends down the street in the JCC preschool. We have been reading stories, playing games, and building close relationships with our new friends. Every few weeks, we have walked down to visit their nursery school. Last week, for the first time, our preschool friends visited us here at JCDS! We introduced them to our class pets Bugsy the guinea pig and Gizmo the bearded dragon. We showed our friends how to feed the animals and we played a lot of games!

Buddy relationships teach older children to care for younger children and allow them to practice being role models. We are excited about this special new partnership!

Exploring the solar system

Second grade students are beginning to explore the solar system in an exciting interdisciplinary unit spanning science, reading and writing, art, 21st century tech skills and even Judaic studies. In addition to learning about the objects, planets and structure of our solar system, each student will research a particular planet in greater depth. At the same time, the class will examine the Jewish calendar — a lunar calendar — and study the phases of the moon.

Students will show their learning by creating posters and 3-D representations of their planets. To celebrate their hard work, parents and the rest of the school will be invited to a culminating celestial showcase!


What makes each of us unique

In second grade we’ve spent the first few weeks of school talking about what makes each of us unique. After spending some time learning about one another, we read The Thing About Georgie. This extraordinary book sparked many amazing conversations about the qualities that make each of us special as well as all of our unique challenges. We discussed the characters in the book who find themselves in difficult situations and made connections to back to ourselves. Our conversations provided opportunities for deep thinking about everyone’s needs for love and acceptance.