Thursday, December 18, 2014


We had a couple of special guests today: 

Kermit the Frog (and nephew Robin) visit French class. 

This isn't a photo from last year. Summers-Knoll alum Adi's school is off today, so she elected to come visit for the day! 

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Separating iron, salt, and sand

As part of an ongoing study of water, filtration, compounds, and mixtures, students are currently working in small groups to design a procedure to separate this:

A mixture of sand, salt, and iron

Into this: 
Separated samples of iron, salt, and sand

It requires a deepening understanding of many of the concepts we've been working with this year, including filtration, mixtures, and evaporation. It also requires brainstorming a plan with their partners, as well as crafting a detailed procedure to follow. 

Checking out the magnified structures of iron, salt, and sand 

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Scenes from the final week of 2014

Now that the energy and excitement of the play has crested, we have a week left before a well-earned break. The final week in December can often be a tricky one, as people are starting to burst at the seams, but we're still getting a lot done! 

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Grandfriends Day!

We had a number of special visitors to our school today! Students invited grandparents (and other grand friends) to spend the morning in our class, getting a taste of what we do in school each day.


Sometimes you just have to abandon the pretense of productivity and surrender to the allure of watching workers servicing the power lines outside the window...

Monday, November 24, 2014

Stream table workshop at the University of Michigan Museum of Natural History

On Thursday, we visited the University of Michigan Museum of Natural History for a stream table workshop. We built and tested filters in small groups (and using different materials than our classroom filters), and spent time exploring a large stream table. We used it to observe water flow and erosion, and experimented with methods of curbing it.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Magic act run throughs

As part of our exploration of the theme of Magic, we've been developing acts in small groups. It will culminate with a series of performances this Friday afternoon, when we'll be performing for other a few of the other classes (and any family members who would like to drop in!). 

We've spent this week putting the finishing touches on our acts, and performing them for each other for peer review. They're really coming together! Ask your child about how their act is going!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Design, Build, Test: "Filtration Investigation"

In stage one of the investigation the class was given a list of materials, their costs and their maximum budget to build a system to filter "muddy" water with the goal of collecting water as pure as possible.

Stage 2: Evan going over some ideas for 
improving the filter design of another group. 

Stage two of the investigation was previewing, discussing, and giving feedback on the designs in small groups.
Stage three was actually collecting the materials and attempting to implement the design.
For the climax of the activity we poured "muddy water" through each of the student's filters.
The final takeaway from the lesson is a reflection sheet (what worked, what didn't and what would I do differently next time) that the kids are completing for this checkout.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Book groups

Joanna talks about A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula LaGuin.

Starting next Monday, we'll begin our new book groups. Each group of four-to-five students will be reading one of five different books:

Not pictured: Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli. (Our copies are on order...)

Rachel Goldberg, our resident librarian, came in and gave inspiring book talks about each novel on Monday. We then asked each student to rank them in the order of greatest-to-least interest. We'll be announcing the groups soon, but everyone seems likely to get their first or second choice.

Each group will be led by an adult, who will be reading the novel along with the students and guiding discussions. Everyone seems very excited about it!

Science: Filtration investigation

Various filter designs

As part of our ongoing study of water, watersheds, and water quality, we began a discussion today about water filtration.

Writing prompts: Taking the ridiculous seriously

We generally have one writing prompt a week. They cover a range of different types of writing, but occasionally I'll give kids something patently absurd to see what they come up with. For example:

I'm always surprised (and delighted) when a writing prompt resonates with a student and they run with it. For example, though this is a particularly silly one, it clearly inspired Eleanor, who crafted a tale of medical mishap, pre-teen angst, and heroic deeds.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Prepping Our Magic Acts

We're all super excited about Magic Show on November 21st in the afternoon. The kids have been refining their acts, working out the kinks in tricks and rehearsing. 

Adri and Kit do a run through so Jason can give feedback.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Eco Fair!

Today was many things to different people. Some call it October 31. Others might say that it's Halloween. Still others simply call it Friday, or perhaps Dan Rather's birthday.... but for all of us at Summers-Knoll, today was ECO FAIR!

Each year, students and staff craft costumes out of reused or recycled materials and parade around the building (and beyond) showing off their creativity. Today was particularly chilly, and ever-so-slightly wet, but we all had great fun regardless.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

About the sticky notes for Singapore Math

What does this Sticky Note mean?

Common Abbreviations and Phrases Used By Sam:
wkbk = workbook
txtbk = textbook
pg. = page number
ex. = exercise number
rev. = review
fix = previous work needs to be corrected, look for which problems are marked for fixing
correctly = indicated problems need to be done correctly for check out
"then get a packet" = finish the work in the books, show it to Sam AND then get a handout
Khan = there is something on Khan Academy you are supposed to do

So my assignment is:
“txtbk pg 37-47, wkbk ex 10-12 correctly, rev 2, then get packet on decimals”

This means to read and do all the problems on pages 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47 in the textbook. Then to do exercises 10, 11 and 12 in the workbook, AND to do review 2 in the workbook.

Additionally, exercises 10,11, and 12 need to be corrected in order for you to check out. If you see “correctly” you should try to finish your math before Friday so you can fix it if something wasn’t correct before checkout.
After you finished the book work, you should give it to Sam and ask for the packet.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Developing magic acts

We're working on our magic acts for the big magic show next month (Friday, November 21, during the afternoon! Mark your calendars!)... 

They're.... works in progress. 

Niko has apparently hit quite a growth spurt...

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Soccer with Friends School

We had an exciting morning today. First, we held auditions for our upcoming school play Alice in Wonderland

Immediately afterward, we hosted the Friends School In Detroit for a cordial soccer match in County Farm Park. It's part of our burgeoning interscholastic athletic organization, which our own Karl Sikkenga has been masterminding. Read more about the schedule on Karl's blog

It was a lovely way to spend the morning, and everyone had a great time! Ask your child about the game! 

Nik takes a shot.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Recess - Rain or Shine!

In general, our guideline for recess is "if it's safe to be outside, we're going outside." Consequently, we'll occasionally find ourselves outside in light rain. Our kids generally make the best of it: 
This is Keira's initial idea. By the end of recess, she had built a contraption of leaves and twigs that could be suspended above her head. 

Maddy was determined to read at recess without damaging her book. She found a way!

Investigating Water

Water, Water, Everywhere

Last Thursday, as part of ongoing science unit on water use and water quality, the 5-6s collected samples from various locations in and around SK.

Eva and Niko make observations of their water sample.

Then, on Tuesday, we had a class discussion about the kinds of observations they made and whether or not those observations were objective or subjective.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Magic Realism: 'Loser' by Aimee Bender

There are many facets to all of our themes, and Magic is no exception. Yesterday, we spent some time learning about the literary genre magic realism, in which magical or unreal elements accent stories that are otherwise grounded in reality (as opposed to books like the Harry Potter series, which are straight fantasy.) 

We read a short story by Aimee Bender, in which a young boy develops the peculiar power to sense the location of misplaced objects; car keys, hairbrushes, and... other things. 

The full text of Bender's story is below, along with a link to an episode of the radio program This American Life, where it was once read aloud in an episode. 

It's a short story that yielded some very insightful conversations: 
- Why is it called Loser?
- Who is the young man talking to at the end? 
- What would it be like to have this power? 
- What do people think of him? 
- What does he think of himself? 
- Is he a happy character? 

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Field Trip: Mary Beth Doyle

We took a field trip this afternoon to Mary Beth Doyle Park, the location of the capstone of the Malletts Creek restoration project. We'll be doing a lot of work with watersheds this year, visiting key locations along Washtenaw County waterways. 

Read more about Mary Beth Doyle Park here

Math: Factor Tag

We're trying to get outside as often as possible before the changing seasons chase us indoors. One favorite way to get outdoors and active is "factor tag."

Magic: The Gathering

Greetings parents and families, 

As you have probably heard, our mini-theme for the last week and a half has been Magic: The Gathering (often abbreviated as M:TG). To say that it's been a popular area of study would be an understatement. We wanted to take a few moments to give you an idea of how the last few days have played out, and talk a little bit about what the kids are getting out of the experience. 

At the beginning of last week, most of the members of our class fell pretty squarely into one of two groups: People who were M:TG aficionados and knew all about it, and people who were only dimly aware of "Magic" as "that weird card game that a bunch of boys play at lunch every day." There were some fairly clear dividing lines on this: Most (but not all) of the girls in class didn't know much about it, and most (but not all) of the boys decidedly did. There was even a 50-50 split among the teachers: Sam has been playing for decades, and I (Jason) knew next to nothing about the game. 

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Beginning our study of Magic: The Gathering

Our mini-theme this week is Magic: The Gathering. Of our 23 kids, we have 9 Magic aficionados and 14 novices. We're spending the morning with the masters coaching the newbies in our first games.

Monday, September 22, 2014

TESTING.... TESTING.... Is this thing on....?

Greetings! The purpose of this post is to ask: If you are a parent or guardian, are you on our email list? We sent out a message recently with the subject heading "Jason & Sam's Class: What We Missed at Curriculum Night." 

If you received it, great! You're on our distribution list!

If you haven't received it, or you would rather that it was sent to a different email address, please let us know by emailing us. 

Also, don't forget that you can subscribe to this blog and receive updates by email by using the form on the right side of this post. (But make sure you check your spam folder after subscribing!) 

Thank you!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Crafting magic tricks

We're learning some simple sleight of hand magic tricks this week. Here's a peek at some of the tools of the trade. Each kid should be able to impress you with a trick by dinner on Friday night!

Friday, September 5, 2014

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Watersheds, Wet Meadows, and Long Walks

Today the fifth and sixth graders started work on watersheds. They started by making models and looking at rain flow and point source pollution. We ended the day with a walk to the wet meadow and food forest at Buhr Park.



Thursday, June 12, 2014

Flashback! Ad project videos

You may recall our studies of the tools of persuasion earlier in the year. For a refresher, visit these two blog entries: 

While sifting through materials for the year, I realized that we hadn't actually posted our commercials online. Here are two for your enjoyment: 

Spring Trip 2014: Fun with static electricity!

As part of our tour of the Niagara Power Project, we had a hands-on experience with a Van de Graff generator

Lee and Karenna

Student Blogs: Christopher writes about our Bigfoot films

During the Mythology theme, our class made videos about Bigfoot. The videos were Bigfoot because Bigfoot is a myth. We made them to demonstrate good and bad science. Almost everyone had some bad science in their videos. A lot of us made people faking Bigfoot. 

In the video by Eleanor, Emma, and Margaret, Bigfoot specialist Pearl Green is hunting for Bigfoot. In Christopher, Gabe, and David’s, two normal people trying to fake Bigfoot. In Adi, KK, and Keira’s video, Adi is a reporter and Keira keeps faking Bigfoot. In Matthew, Lee, and Evan’s, Matthew was a stupid scientist who was trying to find Bigfoot. Lee is a faker and Evan is a hunter. 

Quotes about Bigfoot: 

Lee “I had an awesome costume.” 

Matthew “It was fun demonstrating bad science” 

Marcel “My costume was kind of embarrassing.”

During math, Sam had us dip our feet in paint to measure foot length and gait. Using that data, we made scatter plots and histograms.

Monday, June 9, 2014

The last (full) day!!

Eighth grade graduation is at 2:00 this afternoon. Until then, we are playing board games as an important end-of-the-year team building exercise.

Spring Trip 2014: Matthew recounts the Hornblower boat tour

Note the rainbow on the left! 

Of the many spectacular things we did on our class trip to Niagara falls and back, the boat trip directly up to the falls might have been the most amazing.

Student blogs: Lee tells us about the Humanities projects

Immigrants to Detroit

Hi!  I’m Lee, and I’m writing the blog today!  Today’s blog entry is about our humanities projects.  Here it goes!

Friday, June 6, 2014

Spring Trip 2014: Karenna writes about Old Fort Niagara

Our first stop on Jason and Sam’s ⅚ class Spring trip was Old Fort Niagara, in the state of New York. On the outside you couldn’t tell how many traps were lying in wait for the British, there were deep ditches, stake walls, and cannons hiding behind the small round hills. At first glance, it looks like some kind of moat, but if you take a closer look, steep ditches create numerous hills, high walls, and the tight fences prevent people who don’t know where the entrance, is from coming in.

Spring Trip: Adi on the butterfly conservatory

When the 5th and 6th graders went on their Spring Trip, their first stop in Canada was a very magical place, the Butterfly Conservatory. The Conservatory was an awesome sight. We saw many different species of butterfly everywhere. There were blue butterflies, orange butterflies, tiger striped butterflies, red butterflies, purple butterflies, black butterflies, yellow, black, and red butterflies, and many, many more butterflies.

Spring Trip: Gabe writes about the Journey Behind the Falls

Gabe points out the viewing platforms.

Spring Trip: Kaeli on "Niagara's Fury"

Kaeli and Nik on a Ferris wheel in Niagara Falls

Hey people! As you know, we went to Niagara falls. Or did you? Anyways, We went to a 4-D movie called “Niagara’s Fury” It’s about the history of Niagara’s history. It was about half an hour. It really fun. Sydney and I were freaking out half the time. “I got wet.” Said Sydney. That’s what she liked about it. I liked that half the time you were screaming and the other half you are in awe. Marcellin said “I liked the 4-d part.” As you can see it was really fun. “It was AWESOME!” Said Karenna. And it was. We got soaked, and had a ton of fun. We also did a lot of other stuff, but you’ll hear about them in other blogs.


Tuesday, June 3, 2014

The end is near...

As we near the end of the year, a (partial) group portrait. (Blog posts about the Spring trip coming soon!)

Monday, June 2, 2014

3/4 dress rehearsal

Joanna's class has been working on staging two short plays. This afternoon, we took a break from writing reflections on the year to provide an audience for one of the dress rehearsals.

2014 Spring Trip: The Niagara Power Project

NOTE: Whoops! Here's a brief blog post from our 2014 Spring Trip that apparently never got posted. I'm publishing it one year late partially so that there's a more complete record of that amazing trip, and partially because it's a cool photo of Sydney that might otherwise go to waste.

You may remember that we spent some time learning about dams earlier in the year. Our studies then included students role playing a character with a specific vested interest in building or opposing a dam near the town. Each student wrote a persuasive essay articulating their position.

Our simulation was about a small, rural town that was about sixty miles from the next nearest city. While touring the massive Niagara Power Project, we found that though the scales were radically different, the issues were very similar, including the controversial acquisition of tribal lands to make way for construction.

You can read a little more about the history of the site here.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014