Senior Curriculum Offers Students New Opportunities

By Jacqueline Proshan ‘21

“For the twelfth grade curriculum, there is a real focus on starting to have their learning intersect with the real world to help them for the rest of their life – things they need to know as they leave a Jewish day school and head off into the real world,” Twelfth Grade Dean Rabbi Natan Kapustin explained.

Unlike their other three years of high school, seniors get to pick their social studies, English, limudei quodesh, and science courses. Each department offers special classes that focus on preparing students for entering the larger communities of New York City, the United States, and beyond.

The curriculum reflects Heschel’s mission statement, part of which states a desire to create an “ethical learning community that inspires its students to become responsible, active, compassionate citizens and leaders in the Jewish and world communities.” The twelfth grade course offerings aim to accomplish this goal, pushing students to develop their own opinions and to become more independent citizens in both the secular and religious realms of their lives.

“This year, there are classes that reflect interest in themes and issues in the world around us. For example, there’s Ariela’s social studies course on justice and equality, or Dual Narratives, taught by Joseph Eskin, which discusses the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. These are contemporary issues which are pertinent to the everyday lives of our students,” Rabbi Natan continued.

Twelfth grader Marley Storch discussed how her social studies class, “American Policy in the Middle East,” informed the way she thinks about the conflict. “I have a more nuanced position on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, and I don’t think one side is clearly right. Both sides are flawed but also have their own truths,” Storch said.

Seniors also choose their classes not just for the curriculum, but also for their own personal goals. “I chose Honors Advanced Biology for two reasons,” senior Leila Small shared. “One, after three years of high school and taking physics, chemistry and biology, biology was my favorite science. Second, although the school offers a biotechnology class, I thought that taking advanced biology would be more challenging, which is something that I wanted in my last year at school.”

Twelfth grader Lydia Schmelzer chose her English class, “Women’s Voices in Literature,” for a similar reason. “I wanted to push myself to read books I wouldn’t read on my own,” she explained. “In the other classes you read books that I felt were very important to read, but those were things I would have less trouble reading on my own.”  

Schmelzer also noted an added bonus of picking your own classes: Because you choose your classes, you are with kids in your classes that want to be there and have similar interests to you,“ she said, noting a unique aspect of the senior year experience.

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