Simcha Learning Center Integrated Curriculum

The Simcha Learning Center holds classes for children in Kindergarten through Bar/Bat Mitzvah.  All children attend school on Sunday mornings from 9:30 to 11:30. Beginning in Fourth Grade, students also attend our Hebrew program on Tuesday afternoons from 4:00 to 5:30.

All children in the Simcha Learning Center participate in a brief musical prayer service led by the Rabbi and Cantor, who then lead relevant and age-appropriate discussion on the importance of social action and Tzedaka. Following the prayer service, students join their teachers in the classrooms for creative, engaging studies.

Throughout the year, the children participate in monthly schoolwide events focused on Jewish values, holidays, and Israel. Thematic events and activities have included a Temple-wide scavenger hunt, a family sukkah workshop, a Chanukah puppet show for young children, a Chanukiah building workshop for children and families, creation of a human-size megillah for Purim, a Chocolate Seder for Passover, an Israel Day celebration complete with a model Kotel and shuk, Israeli dancing, participation in Mitzvah Day, concerts by Israeli musicians, and many more festive and engaging activities.

All students registered in the Simcha Learning Center are also encouraged to join the Junior Choir, which will meet right before school on Sunday mornings, from 9:00 to 9:30 in the sanctuary (unless otherwise notified). The Junior Choir leads special Shabbat services throughout the year.

Kindergarten and First Grade

We introduce children in Kindergarten and First Grade to stories and values from the Torah. Teachers incorporate basic Hebrew words into their lessons, introducing children to the Hebrew language. Children will even learn to write their names in Hebrew! In this age group, we also focus on the joy of the Jewish holidays to gain an understanding and appreciation of their Jewish heritage. All learning is reinforced through music, stories, plays, art, and other activities. Students engage in active, hands-on projects, designed to use all of their senses, leaving strong, positive impressions of Judaism in the minds of our youngest children.

Families with children in Kindergarten and First Grade are encouraged to participate in our bi-weekly Tot Shabbat program to reinforce what is being taught in school As the kindergarteners and first graders will be the older children at Tot Shabbat, they will have the wonderful opportunity to develop a sense of leadership and be role models for the younger toddlers.

2nd and 3rd Grades

In 2nd and 3rd Grades, children focus on stories from the Torah with an emphasis on understanding the characters and Jewish values, and how these relate to our lives today. Lessons and stories of the Torah are reinforced through analysis, dramatization, drawing, and singing. Holiday study focus on the origins of the festivals and our observances throughout the Jewish year. Classes engage in monthly mitzvah projects to reinforce the lessons in the Torah. Throughout the year, students review and build on their oral Hebrew skills. Hebrew vocabulary development will continue with numbers, animals, food, and other relevant words. Our text for teaching beginning reading and writing in Hebrew is Phonetic Hebrew Decoded. Children work with the book that corresponds with their personal level.

4th and 5th Grades

Beginning in Grade 4, students should be enrolled in our Tuesday afternoon Hebrew program, in addition to the Sunday morning Jewish studies program. While the Tuesday and Sunday classes are independent, the curriculum is designed for each to reinforce the other.

On Sundays, 4th and 5th Graders continue to learn about Jewish holidays as they delve into the deeper meanings of the holidays and ask not just how these ancient festivals relate to our lives today, but why they are still important to us today. Additional areas of study include Torah, Life Cycle Events, Study of Ritual and Symbolic Objects via hands-on art projects, and Tzedakah.

As they build their Hebrew skills, children will use either the appropriate level of the textbook, Phonetic Hebrew Decoded (focusing on learning the alef-bet and basic Hebrew reading, if this is their first experience with Hebrew) or the Hineni series, which assumes basic reading skills in Hebrew. Hineni: The New Hebrew Through Prayer 1 includes the opening prayers in the Shabbat Morning Service and prayers and blessings for the home, including Shabbat and the holidays. Students examine the themes of the prayers and how they support Jewish values.

6th, 7th, and 8th Grades 

This class is closely coordinated with Bar and Bat Mitzvah preparation. The text for this class is the Mishkan T’filah, and we use A-Year and B-Year curriculum to guide our students as they become Bar and Bat Mitzvah. By the end of 8th Grade, children will have a complete grasp of the elements of the Prayer Service. In the A-Year, children will delve deeply into learning about Israel (e.g., Zionism and how Israel came into being; the meaning of Israel for Jews worldwide) and Jewish rituals (What are they? Which ones do we do? Which rituals don’t we do and why?). In the B-Year, children will learn about the Holocaust (What happened and why, and what can we do to ensure that it will never happen again?), and Reform Judaism (History of the Reform Movement, different denominations of Judaism, etc.). Students will assist the clergy by leading services for our younger students throughout the year.