“We want to address students’ individual needs and passions and challenge them at all levels,” says Vivian Nadasdi, one of the science teachers at Solomon Schechter’s Upper School, a private Jewish day school in Hartsdale. With 300 students to cater to, that’s a tall order—but one the faculty fulfills.
Here, students take science for three-and-a-half years (seniors go to Israel and Poland for part of the year), starting with biology in ninth grade, then moving on to chemistry and physics, as well as environmental science. (The school has both a greenhouse and an outdoor garden.) Seniors also may opt into a forensics class. “We show them how scientific techniques like DNA and blood analysis are used in the criminal justice system,” says Dr. Elena Gizang-Ginsberg, who teaches the course, along with biology. Last year, when a student’s home was broken into, “she came in that Monday so excited—she’d followed the investigator around telling him where to take fingerprints,” Dr. Gizang-Ginsberg laughs.
Students who are especially intrigued by the sciences can begin intensive study as early as ninth grade, signing on with a three-year sci-tech program that teaches the fundamentals of engineering. “It’s a science classroom like you’ve never seen before,” says teacher Dr. Danny Aviv. “We challenge the kids to think creatively and do things like build robots and explore programming and electronics.”
Individual students have distinguished themselves as well—one, Sarah Landau, recently placed second in the Westchester Science & Engineering Fair for her work on molecular markers in thyroid cancer cells. (For a Solomon Schechter student, the contest proved an extra challenge: “Because the competition was on a Saturday, we had to make accommodations so she could still maintain the Sabbath,” says Sarah Wigodsky, who teaches physics.)
In all, this relatively new school—it’s on only its eighth graduating class—has amassed an impressive record, placing students in engineering programs at nearly all the Ivies. The faculty believe their fresh starting point works in the department’s favor. “We’re flexible and very focused on the future and preparing our students for it,” says Dr. Aviv.
Also Distinguished: Bronxville High School, Edgemont Jr/Sr High School, Horace Greeley High School in Chappaqua, Rye High School, and Scarsdale High School