Friday, August 30, 2013

7/8 Boys Take Second Place in Cross Country

It was the very first meet of only our second year of competitive Cross Country, and yet the results were astounding.  As Coach Nokes explains to our students over and over again, Cross Country is about each individual student doing their personal best and so it was at yesterday's meet.  From top to bottom on each of our teams, boys and girls alike gave it their all.

In a rather remarkable turn of events, the "personal best" of our 7th and 8th grade boys team turned out to be some of the very best times in the entire competition.  5 of our runners finished in the top 25 and as a team they placed second only to perennial powerhouse, St. Louis School.

Two of our 5th and 6th grade boys also had top 25 finishes which means that, thanks to Coach Nokes, the MHA Cross Country program looks to become a powerhouse of its own in the coming years.

Click here for pictures of our students from the meet.  Congratulations to everyone who competed and gave it all they had!

Student Art on Display at the Dixon

Congratulations to Ruthie Kaplowitz, Rafael Blotner, Yisroel Weiner, Tamar Serman and Eliana Schlesinger, whose art work will be displayed in the Made in The Dixon Show at the Dixon Gallery & Gardens from September 15th through October 20th. 

Congratulations as well to our art teacher, Mrs. Chany Fleischhacker for continuing to teach and inspire our children to tap into their inner selves and express themselves artistically.

Peek Inside Our Classrooms Through Class Blogs

Every year many of our teachers offer parents, colleagues, and the public at large an in-depth look inside their classrooms by creating class blogs.  I wanted to call your attention to two new ones for this year:  Mrs. Bluma Finkelstein's Shivat Zion Blog which she uses to post assignments for her Girls High School Navi class which focuses on those sections of Nevi'im Achronim that speak of redemption (a corollary to last year's class which focused on sections relating to destruction or churban) and Mrs. Cathleen Triplett's Science Room Blog in which she shares some of the innovative and creative things she is doing in our Lower School science program.

Permanent links to both blogs can be found in the MHA Blog List on the lower right hand side of this blog.  I'll be posting more class blogs to the list as the school year progresses so be sure to check from time to time.

Alum Awarded for Religious Service

Ariav Schlesinger (CYHSB '10), who currently serves as a מש"ק דת (a non-combat officer responsible for Jewish affairs and religious issues on the base) for the IDF's Duvdevan counter terrorism unit, was recently honored him with an award called מצטיין מפקדת יחידת דובדבן תשע״ג.  It is an annual award given to a single member of the combat support staff to recognize excellence in service for non-combatants. 

As a religious soldier tending to the spiritual needs of religious and non-religious soldiers and officers alike, we are most proud of Ariav's accomplishment and his dedication to using the Torah values which his family and our school have instilled within him to make the world a better place.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

8th Grade to Control Mars Satellite

In just a few months from now, our 8th graders will be controlling the Thermal Emission Imaging System (THEMIS) aboard NASA's Mars Odyssey Orbiter.

Thanks to the efforts of Ms. Nicole Kolenic, our 8th grade science teacher, our students will be participating in the Mars Student Imaging Project run by Arizona State University.  Students will first learn about the physics and chemistry involved in studying planetary surfaces and then will work with Ms. Kolenic to construct a research project that will utilize the THEMIS instrument aboard the Odyssey to collect the relevant data. Their projects then will be vetted by a team of Arizona State scientists and, when given the green light, they will be given the opportunity, through NASA, to operate the Thermal Emission Imaging System and gather the information they are seeking.  When their projects are complete, students will then have to present their conclusions to the ASU team for feedback.

In February, the journal Science awarded the Mars Student Imaging Project its prize for Inquiry-Based Instruction.  As Inquiry-Based Instruction (or its close cousin, Project Based Learning) has been a focus of our professional development initiatives over the past year, Ms. Kolenic decided it would be a great fit for this year's 8th grade.  Through the project, students will not only learn about science, but they'll get to do science in the most dramatic and exciting of ways.  We can't wait to see the results!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Dr. Novick and IKaRR

In both our Upper and Lower School Back to School Nights, I had a chance to talk to parents about what we're calling "stage two" of our IKaRR Initiative.  In doing so, I noted that last year the IKaRR Initiative was largely an awareness campaign.  Through signs and stickers and magnets it shed light throughout our community that the Torah values of Integrity, Kindness, Respect, and Responsibility were at the heart of what we hoped to impart to all of our children.

For this year, however, our administration and faculty will focus our efforts not merely on awareness, but on education. That is, we are not going to take it for granted that our children know what we mean when we say we want them to act with "integrity" and we're not going to assume that they understand our expectations when we say "be kind to others."  So our signs throughout the school this year have changed from inspiring quotes from famous thinkers and writers to clear statements of expectation: "To act with Responsibility is to come to class ready to learn," "To act with Kindness is to notice when someone is hurt," "To act with Integrity is to keep your eyes on your own paper at all times," "To act with Respect is to make room for the opinions of others," etc.

The need for this type of explicit approach toward character education was powerfully and eloquently presented by Dr. Rona Novick, professor of psychology and Director of the doctoral program at YU's Azrieli Graduate School of Education, as one the ELI Talks at YU's Champsionsgate Leadership Conference this summer.  I urge you to watch it and consider how important her message is for us all.

Monday, August 19, 2013

We're Back!

All systems were firing today as our Early Childhood, Lower School and Upper School all successfully launched the new school year.  Excitement was everywhere and smiles of teachers and students filled the classrooms and the hallways as everyone embarked together on a new journey of learning and growth.

Here are some pictures from our fabulous first day:

Monday, August 12, 2013

AP Scores: MHA vs. The Nation

*National averages are from 2012, the most recent available
Each year at this time, I find myself facing the same dilemma.  On the one hand, over the past few years we have not been quiet about voicing our concern over the use of standardized testing as the sole barometer for measuring student and teacher success.  So much of what we believe to be important in education, and many of the elements which we believe are vital in preparing our students for success in the world that lays ahead of them, have little or no place in the standard set of nationally administered exams.

On the other hand, we still have to work within a system, particularly a system of higher education, that continues to look at standardized test scores for the purposes of admissions and scholarship awards.  As such, we at the MHA continue to offer a wide array of college level Advanced Placement courses every year which culminate in a standardized test each May.  And, though the underlying educational approach may not be our ideal, our students continue to amaze us with their outstanding results.

Impressive as our scores were when compared to the national averages, the most eye-opening numbers may not have been the scores at all.  Rather, they may have been the number of students who took at least one exam - 33 - and the number of exams taken - 65 - given that we only had 60 students in total between both high schools in grades 10-12.  That means over half of our students did college level work while still in high school this year, whereas in most other schools APs are limited to a far smaller percentage of the most academically gifted students.  And yet, of the 33 students who did such work in our high schools this year, 19 of them were recognized by the College Board for their achievement: 6 as AP Scholars, 5 as AP Scholars with Honors, 7 as AP Scholars with Distinction, and 1 as a National AP Scholar.

While ultimate credit goes to our students for their performance, our faculty deserve almost as much praise for having prepared them so well.  What's more, as the scores indicate, this year's success was across the board and in all subject areas, which attests to the strength of the faculty which Rabbi Lubetski has assembled and leads in our Upper School Division.

Congratulations to all on a job superbly done.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Faculty Color War

As we head into our opening in-service for the 2013-2014 school year, I wanted to share the rather extraordinary way in which our faculty capped off the 2012-2013 school year last June.  As our admin team was discussing how best to close what was a truly special year, we decided we wanted to do something out of the ordinary: something that would bring our faculty even closer together, something that they'd enjoy, and something that would help them celebrate the past year's accomplishments.

After throwing around a few ideas, we finally hit upon it:  Faculty Color War.  We'd divide our faculty into two teams - red and blue - and then instead of just another professional development session on campus, we'd head over to the Putt Putt amusement park where we'd spend the afternoon in lighthearted competition.  However, since mini-golf, batting cages, video games, and driving ranges don't speak to everyone, we included an art competition and a video competition as well.  Each team had to draw a mural, with the supplies we provided, that captured the themes of our character education program known as IKaRR (Integrity, Kindness, Respect, and Responsibility) and using the school's ipod touches, both teams had to create a video that captured the afternoon's excitement.

Other than a few thunderstorms, it couldn't have worked out better.  The competition was spirited, the murals were stunning, and the videos were downright hysterical.  Here are some of the sights and sounds from that memorable afternoon.

Blue Team Video:

Red Team Video