Saturday, December 21, 2013

Holiday break!

We made it to the holiday break! We wrapped up a fun and productive week with a school-wide morning assembly, then we adjourned to the middle school to clean, pack up, and put the finishing touches on our group commercials. Have a lovely break!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Ad project, round two!

We continued our advertising project this morning with a discussion about the science of persuasion and Aristotle's Appeals: ethos, pathos, and logos. 

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Identity, advertising, branding, and marketing

We're wrapping up our two month study of Identity with a weeklong project about how advertising has played on (and exploited) societal notions of identity. 

Planning an ad for Nalgene water bottles.

Middle School Student Government

Full middle school assembly this afternoon on the topic of student government!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Visitors from Joanna's class

We had visitors from Joanna's class this afternoon, who came to give a quick presentation on the physics of sky lanterns (specifically, how and why they go up). We'll be using them this Friday as part of an end-of-2013 school wide event.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Go see The Odyssey!

I hope everyone is planning to see The Odyssey! I saw it on Thursday and it was delightful. 

It must be seen in person, so this is the only photo I could post that wouldn't give anything away... Saturday is the last night! 

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Building the building blocks

We've been studying genetics as part of our exploration of the theme of Identity. Today, we made models of the DNA molecule. It was occasionally challenging, as you can see here by Sydney's face...

Art portraits

We've spent the last few sessions of Art creating portraits. Take a look at the familiar faces!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Scenes from Monday

We hit the ground running today after the long holiday weekend. Here's a quick look at a hectic and productive Monday: 

Block prints

The first round of block prints are in, and they're really cool! 

Morning Assembly: Play Rehearsal

...And we're back! 

After what was hopefully a fun and restorative long weekend, we're back at school. We kicked off this morning with an all-school assembly , rehearsing a scene from The Odyssey. 

Opening night is Thursday! 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Gaga to the garage

The Gaga pit has been disassembled and stored away for the Winter. Let the era of snow forts begin!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Dr. George and IGNITE Ann Arbor

Dr. George came by our class this afternoon and shared his five-minute presentation on the Guatemalan windmill project that he recently delivered at Ignite Ann Arbor

The Music Cafe

Our first Music Cafe was last night, and it was remarkable. Kids performed solo, in duos, and in small ensembles. Many played different instruments for different pieces, exploring and expanding their musical horizons.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Morning warm-up: set a fairy tale in the modern day

Today's warm-up is a writing prompt: "Pick a classic fairy tale, and set it in your modern-day hometown."

Lee shared a portion of his, in which one of the Three Little Pigs opts to live in a motel, rather than renting an apartment or buying a condo or a house. This led to an impromptu math exercise, during which we calculated how much he was spending at the motel, versus renting (or buying) a place. We decided that the pig was basically throwing his money away. Economics!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Block printing workshop with Gregg Perez

Guest Artist Gregg Perez was back today to help us create our own block prints today. Each student selected a drawing of their own (mostly line drawings of things we've studied at County Farm Park), then set to the task of carving their block. The results were impressive... 

The Blue Fugates, Mendel, and Punnett squares

As part of our study of Identity, we've been learning about traits, inheritance, and genes. Today, we learned about the strange case of the "Blue Fugats" of Kentucky, Gregor Mendel and his studies of pea plants, and how to create and read Punnett squares. 

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Guest Artist: Gregg Perez

We have a guest artist in Art today! We're learning about block printing today from artist Gregg Perez. Tomorrow, he'll help us create prints from our own artwork!

Check out his work here and here

Math group: bar graphs

It's a whole-middle school lesson in Math today, focused on creating useful graphs to present data. (Ask the kids about the clowns...)

Monday, November 11, 2013

Friday County Farm Project time

Last Friday, we spent most of the afternoon in County Farm Park collecting data for our projects. Jules, one of our advisors from the University of Michigan joined us to help out. 

In the field, exploring Fox Prairie. 

Writer's Workshop: Thinking about setting

In Writer's Workshop today, we focused on setting, and how it can influence a story.

We started out with some characters in need of settings.

We brainstormed some scenes where these characters might reasonably be found. 

Our cowboy was placed in a saloon, our mermaid on the ocean floor, and our robot was stationed on Mars. 

Details suggested for our saloon: A desert outside, a table with a drink on it, a bartender, a chandelier, and a bar fight in progress (this might be a good time to mention that these were 100% student suggested). 
Details suggested for our mermaid's world: An octopus, a dolphin (with two fins, as I got the placement of the first one wrong), a crab, some fish, an old can, and a treasure chest. 

Our robot was placed on the surface of Mars, complete with dormant volcanos, a gleaming rocket ship, a broken time machine, and a hovering alien. 

After we created rich environments for these characters, the kids spent some time coming up with stories inspired by their settings. 

After sharing our ideas, I threw a curveball: We shuffled each character from the setting that we created for them, and placed them into an unexpected scenario: 

Our cowboy suddenly finds himself on the surface of Mars. 

Our robot wanders a busy sea floor. 

A Snowy Egret wanders into a chaotic saloon. 
Our mermaid finds a way to beat a traffic jam. 

Inspired by these improbable scenarios, students were tasked with coming up with stories that made some kind of internal sense. After some writing time, I asked for volunteers to read what they had come up with: 

(This is one of my favorite sights as a teacher.) 

Everyone is working on a draft of a story that features at least one of our settings, and at least one of our characters. They are, as you might imagine, wildly imaginative. 

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Thursday lunch clean up

Our class has lunch clean-up duty every Thursday. It's a small, but important responsibility shared by the 3/4, 5/6, and 7/8 homerooms. At the beginning of the year, it was often a chaotic, inefficient process. A surprising number of kids clearly had no idea how a broom actually works. More recently, the class has gelled into a (usually)effective and efficient team, and they even seem to enjoy the work. This photo was taken immediately following an impromptu broom dance by Gabe, who is probably thrilled and relieved that I'm not posting video of it here. On Fridays, the lunch room is cleaned by an assortment of volunteers from all of the homerooms, and I'm proud to say that there are always at least a few representatives from our class who help out.

Beginning our study of Identity

Our theme for the months of November and December is Identity. It's a rich, wide-open topic that we're eager to dig into. This morning, we started that by conducting a class inventory of traits. 

Students answered a series of (mostly) yes or no questions: 

  1. I have detached earlobes.
  2. I can roll my tongue. 
  3. I have dimples. 
  4. I am right-handed.
  5. I have freckles. 
  6. I have naturally curly hair.
  7. I have a cleft chin. 
  8. I have allergies.
  9. I cross my left thumb over my right when I clasp my hands together. 
  10. I can see the colors red and green. (I am not color blind.) 
  11. The hairline on my forehead is straight. 
  12. Are you male or female? 

They then polled their classmates on their responses, generating a set of data on the entire class. We'll be using this data next week in Math, and in STEM as we begin to explore the idea of heredity and genetics. We'll also be tying it back into the dichotomous keys we made earlier this year. 

It was a fun morning, watching kids trying to roll their tongues, asking each other if they had detached earlobes or not, and examining each others' hairlines (very carefully, of course, for fear of inviting the return of the scourge of lie...). 

Today, I learned that it's really, really difficult to convincingly draw someone rolling their tongue. 

EB: Imaginary Worlds

In our Imaginary Worlds EB recently, we've partnered to create elaborate stories about images of fantastic cities, drawn pictures and comics based on readings of original fairy tales by the Brothers Grimm, and revisited the dystopian future envisioned by John Wyndham in his short story The Wheel. 


Kaeli and Christopher populate a city in the stars with robots with the downloaded personalities of human refugees. 

Elliot and Adi share a bizarre world that really defies simple description here. 

Sydney seems to feel that I've been overdoing it with class photos lately...

Art Class

In Art, we've been working on glazing our coil pots, working on drawing selections from a still life, and developing line drawings in preparation for a block printing workshop by a guest artist next week. Art is always a busy, buzzing, and productive hour of the day! 

Monday, November 4, 2013

A quick peek into Math class

A quick glimpse into the Math room. This morning, they were working on percentages. When I popped my head in, they were discussing how to calculate sales tax and sale prices. 

County Farm Park projects with City of Ann Arbor Naturalists

We spent this afternoon tromping through Britton Woods in County Farm Park with two guest speakers from the City of Ann Arbor. 

The kids explained their various projects to our guest speakers, then set off to data collection and discussion with our experts. Questions were asked and advice was sought. Some students were able to refine their studies a bit, setting the stage for a full afternoon in the park this Friday afternoon. 

Malletts Creek

Music with Josh

Harp and laptops: Music Class at Summers-Knoll

Planning time is absolutely crucial to a teacher, especially in an environment as responsive and organic as Summers-Knoll. Much of my planning time happens while the kids are at Music, which is unfortunate, as anytime I happen to poke my head into Josh's room, I'm drawn in by what the kids are doing. It's invariably engaging, compelling, and FUN. 

Ask your child about their work in Music! Josh is doing wonderful things in class! 

Friday, November 1, 2013

County Farm Park project research

We spent part of the afternoon in County Farm Park again, planning our projects. Today's focus was on trying out some of our data collection ideas, and preparing questions for our naturalist guest experts on Monday afternoon.

World Percussion Music clinic

The whole school is gathered in the atrium for a world percussion clinic and performance, organized by Josh. 

Here's a quick video snippet: