Head of School Dina Shtull explained: “Hebrew language is integrated with the overall academic curriculum and taught through multiple means — drama, music, the arts and technology. All aspects of language development are explored including reading, writing, comprehension, listening and speaking. Students learn both modern and Biblical Hebrew and how to navigate a Hebrew website.”
Teacher collaboration across disciplines and project-based learning are an important part of the school’s approach to teaching language.
One project for first and second graders was composing original Hebrew raps, a project that integrated language, music and technology. Teacher Aron Kaufman said: “Our raps in Hebrew are a bold statement of what we are doing here at HDS, a precious oasis of learning.”
Older students often help to teach younger students. Carol Gannon, a fifth-grade teacher at HDS, said: “The teaching of younger children is part of their development as leaders and mentors at the school. Teaching others is an effective way of reinforcing their own understanding and learning how to be patient and creative.”
Second graders regularly read Hebrew books to preschoolers, and fifth graders help first and second graders with their language projects.
HDS Board President Aaron Fried explained: "Knowing a language is an open door to deeply understanding a culture. Our students are grounded in their identities and poised to contribute to the world around them."
Board member and developmental psychologist Carey Sherman said there are other benefits to a strong foreign language curriculum.
“Educational and linguistic experts have long promoted the cognitive and cultural benefits of learning a second language in the early elementary years. Researchers have demonstrated that foreign-language study enhances a child’s cognitive development and has been shown to positively impact on achievement and test scores in other disciplines, including reading and math.”
Research at the Brown University Center for Applied Linguistics Alliance in 2005 also demonstrates students in dual-language programs develop positive attitudes about students of other languages and cultural backgrounds, and positive attitudes about themselves as learners.
Shtull said: “We are very aware that learning a second language is academically essential for our 21st century students. Hebrew is important as Israel is second only to North America in the number of companies listed on the NASDAQ and there is a demand for Hebrew speakers in high-tech, international relations and marketing. We are helping the children tune in to the importance of knowing Hebrew not only to connect to their heritage, but also as a tool for global communication.”