A students experience at Ulpanat Orot extends well beyond the classroom. The wide array of extra-curricular activities, teams and programs encourage students to get involved in school life. Students are part of an environment that stresses contributing to the Jewish people while at the same time channeling their passions and honing their leadership skills. Bnei Akiva Schools emphasize a commitment to Medinat Yisrael. We expect our students to demonstrate Ahavat Yisrael, Derech Eretz and social responsibility towards the Jewish Community, Canada, and the world at large.
Learning with the YU Beit Midrash
Our students have the opportunity to learn with members of the Yeshiva University Torah Mitzion Beit Midrash Zichron Dov, permanently housed in Or Chaim’s Beit Midrash. In addition to individual opportunities to learn, the Beit Midrash run various programs approximately once a week at Ulpana.
The Ulpana Shabbaton is a yearly opportunity for the school to spend a Shabbat together in scenic Camp George. The grade 12s generally go up early to decorate and prepare for the rest of the school’s arrival, setting the stage for a wonderful weekend of Achdut, learning and communitybuilding. Shabbat includes davening, divrei torah, singing and shmoozing. It is a spiritual experience, allowing our students to interact with each other and their some of their teachers in an out-of-classroom, Shabbat atmosphere. Following Havdalah, the girls participate in several activities off-site, including curling or bowling. They then return to a thematic party with dancing and pizza. It is an annual highlight for students and staff alike – an experience not to be missed!
Clubs & Committees
At Ulpanat Orot, students have the opportunity to participate in clubs and / or committees. Clubs vary year-to-year based on interestand student leadership. Students are encouraged to speak to members of student council or student activity coordinators if they are interested in initiating a new club or committee at the Bnei Akiva Schools. Clubs must have a staff liason supervising the activities in order to be an official school club. Recent clubs have included:
- Intergenerational Book Club: Mrs. Fixler and a group of students meet monthly with a group of senior citizens to discuss a new and different book. This club is an exciting opportunity for students to read different books than what they’re reading in class, as well as an opportunity to further develop sensitivity to others within our community.
- Trivia Club: This club meets multiple times throughout the year, competing in thrilling trivia competitions. The girls are challenged on their general knowledge, with topics ranging from pop culture to history to Torah. The meetings are always high-spirited, intellectually stimulating and fun.
- Film Club: A classic film, some popcorn and Mr. Teversham’s analytical words. What could be a better way to spend an evening after school?
- Peer tutoring: A student-created initiative, students are paired appropriately with a mentor to guide and support their academic learning needs. This program is both a wonderful leadership opportunity for our senior students, as well as a valuable support for our younger students.
- Tehillim Group: A group of students meet every day at the conclusion of Tefillah to recite a Perek of Tehillim together, inspiring reflective thought on the words and ideas behind the passages of this ancient book. By the end of each school year, they plan to finish all five of the books of Tehillim and participate in multiple Siyums.
- Chess Club: Mr. Graham, a ranked chess player, challenges our students to match his strategies in the game of chess. This club meets weekly and any student can join at any time during the year.
- Current Events: A group of motivated students interested in politics and current events established the Ulpanat Orot Current Events Committee, which has expanded to include a popular Facebook page and eye-catching bulletin board. The board is updated weekly, headlining current events.
- Intramurals: Once a week there are pickup games in the school gym during lunch. Each week the intramural coaches change the sport. It is a great way to foster healthy competition amongst peers while also promoting physical well being during the school day.
- Alumni Mentoring: An initiative started by an alumni teacher, Mrs. Fixler (‘99), students create partnerships with alumni who have similar professional interests. Alumni guide and mentor our current students, continuing their relationship with the Ulpanat Orot community. Our current students appreciate hearing from someone who has had similar experiences and appreciate the wisdom the alumni share with them.
- Chinuch Committee: Bnei Akiva Schools takes a student-driven approach to co-curriculars. To encourage positive religious growth during Tfillah, as well as an understanding and appreciation for the centrality of Tzniut, student-led committees have been formed. Motivated students use a relatable approach to inspire and motivate their classmates. Other successful Ulpana student initiatives have included “Acts of Kindness Daily,” as well as “Stop Lashon Harah!
Our school provides coaching and weekly preparation sessions for interested students to compete in the National Bible Contest with Tanach teacher Mrs. Ofra Gemara. Each year a group of students advance to the final rounds. As in past years, an Ulpana student this year has qualified to compete in the International Chidon Hatanch Competition held in Israel on Yom Haatzmaut.
Each year, our students participate in two different Model UN programs. Under the guidance of faculty members, students research the politics of the country they have been selected to represent, in order to play the roles of real United Nations delegates at the conference. Participating in the Model UN programs adds to participants knowledge of world affairs and their public speaking skills.
Qualifying Grade 11 and 12 students participate in Yeshiva University’s Model UN Conference with hundreds of other yeshiva high school students across North America. All students are invited to participate in the Jewish Canadian Youth Model UN held in Montreal.
Student council is made up of a cadre of students (two grade 12 students, one grade 11 student and one grade 10 student and class representatives from grades 9, 10 and 11) who are responsible for administering and running student and school oriented programs. Activities coordinated by the student council include Rosh Chodesh programs, school barbeques, school lunch programs and various other initiatives throughout the school year. The student council also oversees other various clubs including: tisch club, book club, film club and Spanish club (clubs vary year to year). Much of the funds raised from student councils programs are donated to various local and Jewish charities.
W.O.W. (Women of the World)
Grade 11 and 12 students participate in W.O.W., a program inaugurated in 2010 with the goal of exposing our grade 11 and 12 students to outstanding women who have made a difference in their specific fields. By inviting guests to Ulpana, we introduce our students to influential women who they otherwise would not have met. In its first year, W.O.W. welcomed three very different women who each spoke at a coffee morning after davening, followed by a meaningful question and answer session.
The basketball team is open to all qualifying Ulpana students. The Ulpana Knights basketball team recently joined the SSAF (Small Schools Athletic Federation) where they play games against other private schools with similar enrollment sizes. The season typically lasts from October-December. Every February, the team travels to Miami to play in the Captain Galbut Memorial basketball tournament against other Jewish high schools from across North America.
The Cross Country team is open to all interested students. Practices are held in the fall and spring. The team competes in the Hanukkah Hustle in Hamilton, a fundraiser for a seniors fitness centre in the Hamilton community, as well as the Sporting Life 10K in May, raising money for children with cancer to attend summer camps.
Ulpana was excited to welcome back the volleyball team last year, after a several-year absence. The team played a few exhibition games against Tanenbaum CHAT and other SSAF teams last year and hope to carry their momentum into a strong season this year. Tryouts are held in the fall and games are played during the winter months.
As part of their graduation requirement outlined by the Ontario Ministry of Education, students at Bnei Akiva Schools must complete 40 hours of documented community service. The vast majority of our students however, complete well more than the ministrys requirements.
The philosophy of Bnei Akiva is central to our school and many of our students volunteer as youth leaders running weekly Shabbat programs, organizing shabbatonim and various other activities.
The Chessed Committee, organized by Grade 12 students, promotes opportunities for students to get involved in various activities including calling an elderly person each week, participating in Yachad programs, visiting nursing homes, volunteering with JIAS Toronto (Jewish Immigrant Aid Services) D.A.N.I (Developing and Nurturing Independence) Chai Lifeline, Friendship Circle and Bnei Akiva Shevet Yuval to name a few. The Chessed Committee also organizes an annual Mother-Daughter Evening for Ulpana students and their mother, grandmothers and sisters, the proceeds of which are donated to a tzedakah.
Youth Philanthropic Initiative (YPI): The Youth and Philanthropy Initiative is a one-of-a-kind experience that engages young people in social change and empowers them to participate in the growing of compassionate communities. Ulpanat Orot chose to participate in the Toskan Foundation’s Youth Philanthropic Initiative (YPI) as a great way to get young people to understand the local community needs and the values of community service and philanthropy. The culminating activity of the program will be a ten-minute student presentation on their chosen charity. Four Grade 10 finalist groups present to judges (previous year’s winners and faculty members). The “winning” registered charitable organization will be awarded a cheque for $5,000.00, provided by The Toskan Foundation.
Ulpana is well known for its outstanding choir. Students have the opportunity to be involved with our school choir which performs several times throughout the year at various events including our school shabbaton, Open House for prospective students and annual Mother-Daughter evening. The choir is run by several Grade Twelve choir heads who select the songs and coordinate the arrangements. At the culmination of the year, students record a CD in a professional recording studio which are sold as a fundraiser for charity.
At the culmination of the school year, Bnei Akiva Schools hosts an Art Exhibition evening. The work displayed is a representative survey of all the artwork done throughout the year from all grades at both schools. The high quality artwork comprises pieces in painting, sculpture, drawing, printmaking, and multi-media. Invitations go out to all Bnei Akiva families, as well as to those in the wider community. Visitors typically come away with great enthusiasm and inspired by the quality of artists done by our students.
Book Club Evening
As part of their summer reading curriculum, Grade 9 and 11 students participate in a book club evening. Parents are encouraged to read the books and participate in the program as well. Students craft the discussion questions and, for grade 11, a faculty member moderates the discussion; for grade 9, a grade 12 student moderates the discussion. This evening is a wonderful opportunity for students to share their thoughts, prefect their public speaking skills and engage their classmates, parents and teachers in a sophisticated literary discussion.
Rabbanit Purim is one of the longstanding Ulpana traditions. In the spirit of Purim, Grade 11 students write, direct and choreograph a play. They are responsible for ticket sales and for organizing a raffle which takes place during the intermission. At the end of the play, the Rabbanit Purim, is announced. She is the student elected by her peers to lead the school in the week preceding Purim. Proceeds from ticket and raffle sales are donated to tzedakah.
Public Speaking Contest
Bnei Akiva Schools runs an Annual Public Speaking Contest available to all students. Judges vary from year to year, usually made up of a panel of teachers, administrators and community members. In 2010, a people’s choice component to the competition was instituted, whereby the audience members themselves act as judges and text the number of their favourite finalist. The public speaking competition is a wonderful opportunity for students to learn to successfully communicate orally, to hone their public speaking skills and to give students an opportunity to share their beliefs in an encouraging atmosphere.