September 7, 2017
16 Elul 5777

Ki Tavo

Shabbat Candle Lighting 7:25 p.m.

Editor's Note: Each week, this column will feature insights from a different Akiba educator and/or leader.    

Parshat Ki Tavo: Don't Eat the Marshmallow
Joe Hirsch,  4th Grade Judaic Teacher and Lead Learning Designer
Can willpower be taught with a marshmallow?

In the 1960s, Stanford psychologist Walter Mischel ran a series of personality tests with hundreds of young children, most of them four- and five-year olds. Researchers brought children in one by one, offered them a marshmallow, and presented a simple choice: Eat it now, or wait 15 minutes and get another. Some resisted, but most of the kids caved. (Watch their excruciating and hilarious reactions here.)

Over a dozen years, researchers conducted follow-up surveys with the preschoolers in Mischel's famous Marshmallow Test. Now adolescents preparing to enter college, the group showed there was more at stake than just a second marshmallow. Children who had exercised the willpower to wait reported a decreased likelihood for obesitystronger GPAs, better SAT scores, and higher levels of self-reported happiness than their peers who couldn't control their marshmallow impulse. Other studies have replicated Mischel's experiment and showed that self-control and delayed gratification are not predetermined traits but learned behaviors. In other words, self-control is a habit that can be taught, groomed, practiced, and mastered.

That is the lesson of the bikkurim, or "first fruits," described in Parshat Ki Tavo. After long hours of hard work, delicate patience, and good fortune, the Jewish farmer is finally ready to enjoy the fruits of his labor - but only once he dedicates the first samplings of the new crop to the kohen. (Only certain food products apply.) Don Isaac Abarbanel, a 15 th century Portuguese statesman and scholar, reads this commandment as habit formation -  a deliberate attempt to practice self-control and delay gratification. If we can conquer our urges for the first signs of fruit, we just might strengthen our willpower to serve causes larger than ourselves.

Educating children towards greater self-control is one of the most important lessons we can impart as parents and educators. If we're successful, then the fruits of our labor -  and theirs - will stand the test of time.   

Mazal tov to the Luzon family on Sahar's upcoming bar mitzvah. 

This week's agenda for Early Childhood students: 
  1. Welcoming new friends
  2. Developing our independence
  3. Strengthening our large muscles 
  4. Learning about the color wheel

Special thanks to Sandy Prager, Dani Meyerovitz and J ulie and Matt Feldman for volunteering as snack helpers.




Ariel Davis wins kudos for completing the entire Summer Reading Bingo. Daphna Kam, Joie Tucker and Griffin Schwarcz each completed half. Congratulations on your mountains of reading this summer!


In Avia Trachtingot's Judaic Studies class, students use  iTaLAM, a digital blended learning environment based on the successful TaL AM Hebrew language and Jewish heritage curriculum. 



In Lekisha Le Blanc's science class, students were tasked with either choosing a technology product with which they were familiar, or creating an original product. They imagined they were news reporters covering the product's first introduction to the public, and had to compose a 60-second informative report to be broadcast on the news.



Several middle school students are enjoying a new elective that focuses on leadership skills and training student ambassadors. They're discovering exciting history and artifacts on campus, and helped launch the school's new Instagram account @akiba_academy.


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