Upper School (Grades 5-8)

Heilicher offers a private middle school experience that fosters life-long learning through rigorous academics and whole-child enrichment. Middle school provides students with opportunities for independence while receiving the individualized support needed to maximize emotional, social, and academic learning.

Our curriculum, based on national best practices and a thoughtful team approach, imparts knowledge, elicits curiosity, and hones student skills. It is stimulating, challenging, and deep, with emphasis on practical and forward thinking.

Recognizing the benefit of collaboration in the working world, our teachers incorporate team projects, group discussions, and interactions with others inside and outside the school walls. Using experiential teaching styles, students engage with ideas and concepts from multiple viewpoints; they are:

  • asked to learn and think deeply about other cultures, other countries, and, ultimately, other people’s experiences,
  • carried from the concrete into the abstract by exploring ethical dilemmas and current social issues,
  • allowed to wander and explore the world of debate and social action, and
  • filled with pride as they experience together classmates’ B’nai Mitzvah.

Our thoughtful curriculum, experienced and caring teachers, and challenging and encouraging environment prepares students for the next stage of their educational journeys as Jewish leaders and the life-long learners they are meant to be.

Todah Rabah for the wonderful capstone project experience you provided to the eighth graders. Their impressive passion and ability to grasp complex issues came through loud and clear as they eloquently communicated to parents and a broader communal audience.”

– Eighth Grade Parent

Multiple Intelligences

Howard Gardner, Harvard Graduate School of Education Professor, identified eight different intelligences that each student has the capacity to possess. The understanding that our students have differing strengths and weaknesses, allows the faculty at Heilicher to develop these different intelligences in a variety of settings and nurture passions that will result in great accomplishments.


Through academic rigor, a Heilicher middle school student can develop the habits of mind necessary to delve deeply into subjects which require critical thinking and thoughtful articulation of ideas.


With small class sizes, our students can develop relationships with peers and adults which will nurture independence and self-advocacy, yet provide an environment of empathy and connection.


The robust athletics program in the middle school offers students many sports activities from which to choose ranging from individual fitness to participation in team sports.


Through inquiry and discussion, our students engage in text study from Biblical to modern times which affords them the opportunity to grow spiritually. Self-reflection is encouraged and is an integral part of prayer experience. We create a safe environment for students to explore their personal beliefs.

Upper School Curriculum

A well-rounded educational offering, building a solid foundation for success in school and life. Upper school learning at Heilicher includes meaningful, real-life integration of subjects. Students will acquire and apply skills which are demonstrated in a variety of activities from an historic Colonial simulation to creating a Rube Goldberg machine reflecting laws of physics. Our dynamic curriculum is based in best practices in pedagogy and underscores the core values that will be with graduates for life.

Language Arts

The Upper School Language Arts curriculum builds on the basic skills and concepts developed in earlier grades. Expanding on Lucy Calkins' Reading and Writing Workshop, Upper School students learn to expand their persuasive writing capabilities, incorporate systematic research into projects, and develop and support ideas with details, reasons, and examples. Students delve deeply into literary analysis and oral presentation technique, while also maintaining a focus on the essentials of grammar, spelling, and vocabulary. The goal is to nurture students’ intrinsic desire to learn by offering content and choices that will challenge and inspire their growing curiosity.

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“The best way for me to sum up my nine years at the Day School is by quoting somebody I truly admire, William Shakespeare, ‘I shall the effect of this good lesson keep as watchman to my heart.'”

– HMJDS Student


Our mathematics program develops the basic concepts and skills that are used by students in their daily lives. The curriculum, although aligned with state and national standards, strives to provide opportunities exceeding those standards. Our curriculum requires students to refine problem-solving skills through accurate conceptual and procedural knowledge and practical applications. Mathematical reasoning is expanded through oral and written discussion to problems across the disciplines, particularly in Science and Social Studies.

The core set of curricular materials for the majority of students is Everyday Mathematics. This program is specifically designed to provide a spiraling curriculum that revisits topics at increasing levels of depth. 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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“My fifth grader really enjoyed the special extras for Math! He loved Math Masters."

– HMJDS Parent


The fifth through eighth grade science program builds on its Lower School base by taking students from hands on inquiry to complex lab work and lab journals, an introduction to chemistry, and initiation of extensive investigative methodologies. Students learn to integrate their understanding of science with the concepts and questions introduced in other curricular areas. In science, students grapple with guided ethical debate, use their mathematics skills and knowledge, and explore the greater world on macro and micro levels. 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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“It was because of my 7th and 8th grade science experience—especially all the labs—that led me to succeed in high school and college science and ulitmately to medical school.”

– HMJDS Graduate

Social Studies

The Upper School Social Studies curriculum focuses on making connections between historic and current happenings, formulating hypotheses on causes and effects of events, and understanding and tracing the path of Jewish communities around the globe. In the upper grades, ideas become more complex as students interact with ethical issues, conflict, divergent theories, and rich original source texts. Our goal is for graduates to have a solid base of facts and theory while having the tools and desire to do research and make connections on their own. The 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.

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“I was absolutely amazed after attending the eighth grade presidential debate. I learned more from the 'candidates,' than I have from any of the major TV networks. The debaters were clear, concise, knowledgeable and professional. I commend the students and the HMJDS Social Studies Department.”

– HMJDS Grandparent


Hebrew in the Upper School continues to develop by using the language for meaningful interactions as well as introducing students to a variety of authentic literature, modern songs, and written expressions.

Entering HMJDS in Grades 1 - 8 with little or no prior Hebrew language experience? Click below to learn how to prepare your child for a Dual-Language program.

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“Our students naturally integrate their thinking and learning. Once, a student of mine even pointed out that the Hebrew word for horse (soos) was a palindrome, something she had studied in her English Language Arts class earlier in the day.”

– HMJDS Faculty Member

Judaic Studies

The Upper School Judaic Studies program is characterized by a strong emphasis on critical thinking, text skills, and values-based reading of texts. The curriculum challenges students to reflect on the lessons of Tanakh (Bible), the students’ connection to the Jewish people, and their interactions with the texts. Students expand beyond the Torah text to study:

  • Mishnah
  • N’vi’im and K’tuvim (the books of the prophets and the Writings)
  • Rabbinic commentary including Rashi
  • Post-biblical texts including Midrash (ethical stories on the text)
  • The Talmud, and
  • Legal and philosophical texts up to present day.

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Our Upper School technology program is designed to help students learn to use technology respectfully, appropriately, and efficiently in their everyday lives. Fifth-grade students spend time in computer labs fine tuning their research, online communication, and writing skills before entering our 6-8th grade one-to-one iPad program where technology is integrated into every subject on a daily basis for academic pursuits. The ultimate goal of our program is for students to have the ability to learn and adapt to new technologies easily and a deep understanding of the larger online community and how to participate effectively and appropriately.

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The Upper School arts curriculum is designed to support students' knowledge about and skills in various art forms. Students are given opportunities to integrate the lessons and experiences from General and Judaic Studies into media projects and art exploration. Assessment of students is based on effort, improvement of artistic skill, creativity, and cooperation. Practice, incorporating new techniques, and being comfortable taking risks improve art skills. We hope our students will gain a life-long appreciation of art and continue to be creative themselves. Projects and units of study are subject to change or rotation on a varying schedule.

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“We feel fortunate that our daughter has so many opportunities at HMJDS to express herself artistically. You have played a huge role in building her art skills and her impression of herself and her abilities.”

– HMJDS Parent


The Upper School music program is designed to broaden students’ understanding of the social impact of music as well as to provide more opportunities to create and learn a variety of music genres. The Heilicher music curriculum has been aligned with The National Standards for Arts Education: What Every Young American Should Know and Be Able to Do in the Arts and the Fine Arts Curriculum Standards (FACS) as endorsed by the Music Educators National Conference (MENC), the American Choral Directors Association (ACDA), and the Minnesota Music Educators Association (MMEA). In addition, Heilicher offers instrumental music through the prestigious MacPhail School of Music. The music program also offers a choral ensemble for seventh- and eighth-graders.

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“During her time at HMJDS, our daughter learned so much about American and Jewish composers and music in general.”

– HMJDS parent

Physical Education

The PE program at HMJDS 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 physical education teachers on teamwork and to support their physical, social, and emotional growth.

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Health & Wellness

Wellness Wednesday

Each Wednesday morning kindergarten through eighth grade students participate in a variety of supervised activities that promote wellness. Wellness activities serve the bodies, minds, and spirits of our students. Activities can include Mileage Club, Tourney, Yoga, HipHop Dance, Zen Doodle, Strategy Games, Effective Techniques in Babysitting, and Big Brother and Big Sister. Activities are multi-age and provide opportunities for expanding social connections along with developing the mind and body.

Our Whole Lives (OWL) Sexuality Education

Students in sixth through eighth grades learn about sexuality through a learning program called Our Whole Lives (OWL). This curriculum provides accurate, age-appropriate information in human development, relationships, personal skills, sexual behavior, sexual health, and society and culture. A holistic view of sexuality, Our Whole Lives not only provides facts about anatomy and human development, it helps participants clarify their values, build interpersonal skills, and understand the spiritual, emotional, and social aspects of sexuality.

Field Trips

Getting out in the world is an important feature of the Heilicher curriculum. Fifth graders enjoy a Kindness Retreat which builds community. They also go to the Walker Museum of Modern Art or to another sculpture park. Sixth graders attend an Ethics Retreat in the fall and a four day Northern Minnesota Trip in the late spring. There is an over night seventh-grade retreat focusing on peer relationships. Eighth graders go to Washington, D.C. in the spring. In addition, there are trips which result from social action projects and coursework like a trip to the State Capitol to study democracy in action.

Community Connections

Upper Schoolers connect to the broader community through their social action work; participation in We Day, visit to Children's Hospital, STEP food shelf, active participation in VOICE (school-wide social justice projects) and connections to other schools through participation on sports teams.

Extra-Curricular Activities

Our Upper School students are active in our athletic program, including squash, basketball, soccer, volleyball, swimming, and ultimate frisbee.


Upper School students take the MAP (Measures of Academic Progress) twice a year. They also participate in subject based skills tests and authentic assessments such as projects and presentations.

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