Lower School (Grades 1-5)

In Lower School, we provide a nurturing environment for children to grow intellectually, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. Built upon best practices and infused with STEAM/inquiry-based teaching methodology, students are guided to develop their knowledge and innate curiosity. Our curriculum offers rigorous and creative challenge designed to meet the needs of diverse learners. We are uniquely poised to offer a solid ethical and moral foundation built on shared core values, Jewish prayer, and text study. This is an environment in which your child will thrive as a learner and a mensch (good person).

Explore our Lower School curriculum.

Language Arts

Heilicher’s Lower School uses Columbia University Teachers College Reading and Writing Project Curriculum to support writing and reading instruction. Main components include:

  • phonics
  • vocabulary
  • reading comprehension skills
  • word study
  • writing

Language arts activities are integrated in many other parts of the curriculum. Students write their strategies for solving math problems, keep science journals to record observations, and develop research skills in many disciplines. The Language Arts curriculum is enhanced by creative writing, poetry, drama, and technology.

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The core curriculum, Math in Focus, based on Singapore's approach to math education, emphasizes the importance of mastery, deeper-level conceptual understanding, and problem solving. Enrichment and enhancement activities are provided within the core materials. In addition, at all grade levels, teachers supplement curricular materials to provide challenges as well as reinforcement of important skills and concepts.

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The primary goal of the science program is to encourage students to understand and appreciate the systems and processes of the world around them. Our STEAM and inquiry-based approach to learning and teaching guides students to think deeply about their world. The steps of scientific inquiry (defining a problem, creating a hypothesis, testing the hypothesis, making careful observations, drawing conclusions, and asking new questions) challenges students to find innovative ways to solve problems and ignite change.

Our science program affords opportunities for purposeful exploration and experimentation that develops critical-thinking skills applicable to all aspects of life. Through examination of the physical, chemical, and biological world, students begin to identify relationships. These relationships include cause and effect, patterns, and cycles. Process skills are taught by integrating background knowledge with experiential classroom activities and scientific terminology. These skills are reinforced and expanded at each grade level.

Science journals allow students to document and communicate their findings from initial drawings to more complex analysis. The curriculum is integrated to connect with ideas and processes used across the curriculum. Mathematical skills, in particular, are given practical application in science. The curriculum is designed to teach benchmarks found in National Science Standards as well as the Minnesota State Standards for K-12 Science education.

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Social Studies

Student looking at globe

The social studies curriculum centers on the concept of community building and connections. Students develop the necessary social skills needed to be part of the school community with ever increasing responsibilities to their families, local, and Jewish communities, and as citizens of the world. Our social studies program reflects the mission of the school in trying to teach students to aspire to the highest values of the Judaic heritage and the principles of American democracy.

The core social studies disciplines such as geography, history, politics, economics, and sociology are taught throughout the grades. The courses are taught through a variety of media including literature, guest speakers, field trips, and Internet resources.

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Hebrew in the Lower School is characterized by a natural use of the Hebrew language. Students develop skills in all areas of language fluency including speaking, listening, writing, and reading. The school creates an avirah (atmosphere, environment) where Hebrew is heard and used in many settings on a daily basis. Hebrew is a living language that infuses holiday celebrations and comes alive through music, art, games, and food. It connects students to Jews around the world and Israel. Hebrew provides links us to ancestors, the Torah, and prayers.

Entering Heilicher in Grades 1-8 with little or no prior Hebrew language experience? Learn more about how to prepare your child for a Dual-Language program.

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Judaic Studies

Judaic Studies is characterized by an integrated approach in the primary years. While specific time is set aside for Judaic Studies, the curriculum is designed and supported by activities in all subject areas. The core components of the pluralistic approach to Judaic Studies combine key activities that teach both the keva (fixed portion of ritual and prayer) and the kavanah (a personal connection to the meaning of the action) of Jewish practice.

The first and second grade curriculum continues an integrated approach to core values, but directly includes Judaic Studies content in a unified block of Judaic Studies and Hebrew. Many of the holiday units are taught as part of the Tal Am curriculum and help cement the link between Judaic Studies content and the Hebrew language. Teachers expand the repertoire of prayers and students write their own personal reflections on new t’filet (prayers) introduced during these years. The Jewish Theological Seminary’s Standards and Benchmarks guide our Lower School curriculum. In addition, classes discuss weekly Torah portions and the connections made to daily living.

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Technology is threaded throughout the curricula at all grade levels. Students use PC and Mac computers, iPads, and SMARTboards to enrich learning and integrate skills. Programs, apps, and Internet tools such as Google Apps for Education are used to communicate, teach, and encourage learning, allowing for a variety of experiences upon which students can build.

From an introduction to the computer and basic activities in the early grades, to keyboarding, word processing, coding, and online research in the intermediate grades, technology supports and becomes part of all of the curricular areas. Students use computing to enhance their learning through fun, creative, and inquiry-based activities. Through our Portaportal and teacher Haiku Learning pages, families can access classroom news and Heilicher teacher-approved websites, offering skills practice to support grade level curriculum.

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"Technology is thoughtfully infused into the daily life of students, staff, and parents at Heilicher. Since both my husband and I work in technology fields, we appreciate that cutting edge technology is a natural part of our children’s school experience."

– HMJDS Parent


The Lower School art curriculum provides students with the tools to use a variety of visual media to communicate what they understand. Guided by and exceeding national standards, students are introduced to the basic elements of art including line, shape, color, texture, and pattern. Projects engage students with:

  • Drawing
  • Collage
  • Sculpture
  • Print making
  • Architectural models
  • Mixed media

Integration of art with Judaic and General Studies allows students to make connections across traditional disciplines. Participation in the Minneapolis Institute of Art’s Art Adventures program introduces students to different cultures and work across time periods.

Throughout their Lower School experience students are encouraged to take risks as they incorporate new techniques and avenues for creative expression.

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"The School’s art program succeeds in exposing my child to a wide variety of genres and cultures, materials and technique all at an age-appropriate level, with increasing depth and complexity each year.”

– HMJDS Parent


Music selections reflect different genres, cultures, and historical periods. Composers from diverse cultures and historical time periods are presented. The students' learning experiences include group singing, playing instruments, creating music, reading graph symbols that represent music, listening to music, and moving to music. Students use age-appropriate strategies to evaluate music, explore relationships between music and other disciplines, and study music in relation to history and culture.

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“It's a full blown art and music program at HMJDS, not something relegated to after-school programs. Everyone participates and I can see the pride the students have in their performances.

– HMJDS Parent

Physical Education

The PE program emphasizes development of physical skills, improvement in physical–fitness levels, respect between students through competition, and basic joy of play and participation. Students are mentored and coached by PE teachers on teamwork and to support their physical, social and emotional growth.

Our curriculum begins with basic hand-eye and hand-foot skills, large and small motor skills, and locomotor skills. Students in Lower School start with basic cooperative games as well as lead-up activities for team sports.

PE is a time for positive experiences that will encourage students to be healthy and active as children and adults. We emphasize skill acquisition, sportsmanship, teamwork, and managing body movement safely in time and space. Other goals include working on social skills in the context of cooperative activities which promote team building. Fitness testing in the fall and spring assesses student progress and often motivates students to achieve their personal best in addition to teaching them to set and achieve goals. Cardiovascular endurance, strength, and flexibility are assessed.

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“I love the PE program at HMJDS. The variety of sports, engaging instructors, and focus on ‘fun’ as opposed to competition has given my kids greater confidence and skill. It keeps them active, boosts their overall health, and helps them learn better in the classroom!” – HMJDS Parent

Community Connections

Heilicher students enjoy many opportunities to connect with the greater community through field trips, state and national academic and arts programs, and community service projects. We invite community members to share their expertise with our students.

Extra-Curricular Activities

Extra-curricular activities and co-curriculars are a great way for kids to flex their academic, social, physical, and spiritual muscles and cultivate new friendships.


The MAP (Measures of Academic Progress) is a standardized test which is administered in grades three and four along with teacher-created, project-based assessments. The Columbia University Teachers College Reading Assessment is used to evaluate reading progress in kindergarten through fifth grade. Progress reports are issued twice a year and conferences occur in the fall and spring.

Our teachers really make Lower School sing.

Meet the Staff