The importance of art expression and its impact on whole-child education is well understood by the Hebrew Academy, a Jewish day school in Huntington Beach accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.
The school is remodeling and expanding a new area to include an art studio and maker space that will be ready for the 2021 school year. The studio, which furthers the school’s goal of educating the whole child–socially, emotionally and academically–will be located next to the new STEAM lab. (STEAM adds art to the well-known science, technology, engineering and math acronym.) The lab will serve all grade levels, from the novice to the experienced, from the young child to the teenager.
In conjunction with the maker space, the art studio will support project-based learning (PBL), real-world problem-solving that draws on an interdisciplinary approach and cultivates critical and innovative thinking skills.
PBL empowers students at all grade levels to learn and apply knowledge and skills through hands-on, creative and engaging real-world problem-solving experiences with teachers acting as facilitators. As part of PBL, students have designed robotics, prosthetics, a greenhouse, roller coasters and many other impressive projects.
The school has competitions for the designs of these projects that are judged by Hebrew Academy alumni who now serve as physicians, biochemists, astrophysicists and in many other professional fields.
Judaic and mitzvah projects also take students out into the real world in a cross-disciplinary approach in which core values are emphasized. Grants from the Jewish Foundation of Orange County have enabled service learning in which students venture out into the community to help with causes like helping at a soup kitchen, sharing experiences with Holocaust survivors, creating packages for soldiers and distributing books and toys for children in hospitals. Students learn kindness and tzedakah, as well as how to budget for a project.
The greenhouse and agriculture projects provide a real multidisciplinary approach, offering lessons in modern technology in farming and producing fruits to harvest for Jewish holidays. Every year, children get to pick pomegranates for Rosh Hashanah and Etrogs for Sukkot among a multitude of many other delicious produce.
To aid the whole-child approach, technology has become ubiquitous at Hebrew Academy with computers being used as early as pre-kindergarten with most educational functions performed on laptops at most grade levels. All students from second grade up have their own laptops.
Hebrew Academy offers a variety of activities for after-school enrichment. They include sports, music, cooking, krav maga, dance and chess. The Junior Olympic pool is enclosed and heated year-round.
Social emotional learning and counseling programs address the well-being of the students. Through a generous grant from Jewish Long Beach, the school provides small-groups life skills programs and emotional support. To ensure success in the data-driven program, assessments are done in a number of different ways. An intelligent, computer generated assessment indicates every individual student’s precise level of progress throughout the year. The results are used to guide grade-level instruction toward mastery.
Most students, during the worst of the pandemic, gained a full academic year of progress in reading and math by the second trimester and the school was recognized by the United States Congress for its remarkable achievements.
With students in school for 175 days this past year, the middle school graduating class saw 90% of its students performing in the top 20th percentile and 70% performing in the top 10th percentile on the PSAT.
Hebrew Academy just celebrated receiving a six-year accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges. Hebrew Academy, unlike most other schools, did not postpone the lengthy accreditation process, because students have had active, in-person learning during a challenging year.
The results are a testament to the excellence of the Hebrew Academy comprehensive educational program. As the visiting WASC committee chair said, “My compliments to the Hebrew Academy for maintaining a strong educational program, and the faculty for their commitment to student learning and the whole child, which includes [social emotional learning] programs and positive reinforcement systems.”
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Top Reasons to Choose the Hebrew Academy
• Safe and secure 11-acre campus with extensive educational and recreational amenities.
• WASC-accredited at the highest level for over four decades.
• Twice Awarded Blue Ribbon School of Distinction by the United States Department of Education.
• Dual Curriculum with Individualized Program.
• Social/emotional learning.
• Serving students infant through High School
• Curriculum embedded with five core values.
• Ubiquitous technology throughout program
• Preschool dedicated facility with developmentally appropriate playground.
• Universal design for learning
• State-of-the-art new STEAM lab,
art studio, media labs and makerspace
• Expansive outdoor lunch area adjacent to Kosher kitchen—hot lunch served daily.
• Athletic fields include two soccer fields, baseball field, tennis and basketball courts.
• Full library including Hebrew language section
• Shuttle buses serving Irvine and Long Beach
Bryn Harari is the principal of Hebrew Academy.