Friday, December 23, 2016

Week 16 -- Writing stories, making art, bowling, and sledding

The week before a big break is one that always threatens to descend into chaos. Happily, we have a few projects that have kept us busy and engaged in these last days of 2016.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Week 15 -- The Nutcracker and fiascos

It’s difficult to top the excitement of an unexpected snow day, but we did our best with the rest of our week. On Tuesday, we began reading When You Reach Me, by Rebecca Stead. It’s a difficult book to talk about without giving away its secrets, so suffice to say that it begins in the late 1970s in New York City, and a mystery quickly develops. We also continued group peer review sessions of our Summers-Knoll myths, practicing active listening and giving constructive feedback to one another.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Week 14 -- Peer review, myth, and multiplication

Scenes from the Stratford workshop
The week of the school play is almost always wholly consumed by rehearsal and prep, and this year is no different. We’ve spent much of our homeroom time running our lines, practicing the staging, and trying to hone our performances to make sure that we put on a good show. Meanwhile, the students who don’t have roles in the play have been working to design and construct the props needed for the show. We hope to see you at one of the performances of the show!

Friday, December 2, 2016

Weeks 12 & 13 -- Time for school, biomes, and grandfriends

We only had two days of school before the Thanksgiving break last week, and we used part of them to begin watching the documentary Time for School. This fascinating film is a longitudinal look at five children from around the world as they progress through some form of schooling system. The filmmakers first visited them in 2003, and have followed up with films every few years ever since. We made note of many things as we watched, such as the amount of family and/or cultural support for school each student experienced. We compared and contrasted the experiences of these kids with each other and with ourselves.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Week 8 -- Myth and culture

Juna, a Summers-Knoll alum, visited us recently. She was part of the class that started our monarch and milkweed project, so we ceremonially tagged her with a monarch sticker before sending off on her way. 

Friday, October 21, 2016

Week 7 - Where we've been, where we're going

We go outside unless the weather is truly dangerous, which means we endure the occasional rain shower. This inspired some kids to come up with a hands-free way to hold umbrellas. 

Friday, October 7, 2016

Week 5 -- Monarch release!

This week saw a grand finale of sorts as we assembled the combined 5/6 classes on the playground to do a mass release of the many monarchs that we have shepherded from caterpillar to butterfly. This is the generation of monarchs who will work their way all the way down to Northern Mexico, where they will spend the winter. When spring arrives, their offspring will begin working their way north again. All of the monarchs released from Summers-Knoll have been tagged by students, so our fingers are crossed that we may one day get word of where they end up.

Friday, September 30, 2016


Cleaning the bus after the 2015-2016 Spring Trip

Greetings friends, families, and well-wishers! This is a quick post to let you know how I plan to use the blog this year. It's a little different than in previous years. 

If you are a current Summers-Knoll family, you are hopefully receiving a weekly email from the school with a letter from the Head of School, important dates and information, and brief curriculum updates from each of the faculty. Our hope is that the updates in that weekly email will give you a glimpse into our classroom, as well as a peek into your child's previous and future classrooms. (Also, a lot of cool things happen here, so we're hoping you'll take a look and spread the word.) 

Those updates, however, don't include the many photos and videos that are taken all week. So I plan to use the blog to repost those weekly updates, accompanied by photos (and occasionally videos, relevant links, etc). 

In addition to that, I plan on posting a more in-depth entry about what we're up to about once a month. My hope is to give you some insight into not only what we do, but why. 

Please feel free to comment or email whenever the mood strikes you. Thanks for reading about our class! 

(NOTE: If you subscribe to this blog by email, you've likely noticed that this is the fifth post I've made today. Sorry about that! In the future, they'll be paced in a much more reasonable manner.) 

A panorama of our classroom on the first day of school 

Week Four: POP X, magical items, masters and beginners, and hand feeding butterflies

This week we took an impromptu field trip this week, traveling to downtown Ann Arbor’s Liberty Plaza to visit POP X, an art installation. Students explored the exhibits in trios, making note of what intrigued them, then returned to school and designed their own exhibits in the spirit of what they saw.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Week Three -- Tigers, monarchs, ethnography, and Farkle

A monarch emerges during Math class. 

Our third week of school has been regularly punctuated by excited cries as caterpillars began pupating (ask your child), and later as butterflies emerged. With Lisa’s guidance, we’ve begun tagging our monarchs with tracking stickers, then releasing them back into the wild. If all goes well, we should be releasing several more in the next week or two. We also began reading a book together as a class called The Tiger Rising by Kate DiCamillo. We’re doing a close read of this novel, taking time to think and talk about the craft of the writing and the intent of the author. We’ve also continued learning about the Yanomami tribe of South America, and got to have a lively conversation with an actual ethnographer who came to speak to the entire 5/6 about her work. In our writing journals, we explored the question, "What is the best way to talk to someone with different political beliefs?” It’s a question that I’m sure we’ll be coming back to regularly in the weeks leading up to Election Day.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Week Two -- Monarchs and the adventure park

This week, we continued a project set in motion by last year’s class. Last spring, we began construction of a milkweed garden, hoping to attract the increasingly endangered monarch butterfly to our school. Our work is is paying off, and we have found several monarch caterpillars among the milkweed. With Lisa’s guidance, we have taken them indoors, where we’ve been taking measurements, making observations, tending to their needs, and doing all that we can to increase their likelihood of survival.

We also began using our writing journals (first prompt: “Why do people write?”), learned more about the Yanomami, played some board games, and spent all of Thursday climbing, balancing, and zip lining through the Adventure Park at West Bloomfield.

(Click through for photos)

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Week One -- Yanomami, magic, milkweed, and monarchs

We began our year by exploring the difficulty in remaining objective when learning about something new. To illustrate this, we delved into Napoleon Chagnon’s infamous field work with the Yanomami tribes of the Amazon rainforest. How can one accurately study a culture that is entirely different than the one that they were raised in? Was his study ethical? Are his findings biased? Closer to home, what biases do we bring to our current political debate?

Friday, June 3, 2016

The Spring Trip: Philadelphia!

Did you hear the news? We went on quite a field trip recently. Indulge us by take a look through our vacation photos in this post! 
Our first museum stop was one that we just happened upon: The Ohio Turnpike Museum, located in one of the travel centers. Presumably, this was a creative way to use the space when a Sbarro or a Panera lost their lease. It was my fondest hope that this would be the least interesting museum on our trip, and I believe it was. 

Friday, May 27, 2016

Jason's Class: The Trailer

It is astonishingly difficult to get ten different kids to 1.) smile, 2.) keep their eyes open, and 3.) look at a camera at the same time.  

In this blog post, enjoy the many attempts that I made, along with a smattering of various happenings from the last few weeks. 

Friday, May 13, 2016

Monarchs & monarchs

The last several weeks have been informed by learning about two types of monarch, both of which have been cast aside by Americans. One was intentional (King George III, during the American Revolution), the other has been an unintended consequence of the rise of industrialized farming in the United States (the migrating monarch butterfly). 

Friday, April 8, 2016

Guest Speaker: Sam French, writer and director of Buzkashi Boys

On Wednesday, March 30, we welcomed Academy Award nominated director Sam French to our school. Sam was in Ann Arbor speaking at the University of Michigan, and we were lucky enough to have him address the Summers-Knoll middle schoolers for an engaging question and answer session about his work. 

Friday, April 1, 2016

Friday, March 11, 2016


In homeroom, we've continued looking into the complicated consequences of human beings affecting the fates of other species. This week, we looked at habitat fragmentation. 

Friday, February 26, 2016

Hawk Island Snow Tubing!

It has long been a Summers-Knoll tradition that the entire school goes ice skating together on the Friday before mid-winter break. Our tiny school, however, has grown into a small school, and we're now large enough that having all of us on an ice rink at once is a bit unwieldy. Last year, the middle schoolers inaugurated a new tradition: While the lower schoolers went ice skating, we traveled to Lansing to Hawk Island Park to go snow tubing

Here's a sampling of the photos (and a couple of videos at the end) that I was able to snap before a blizzard moved in and jeopardized the survival of my camera. 

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Week 19: Hodge Podge

We kicked off the week with some highly anticipated news: We received our Place Out of Time character assignments from our friends at the University of Michigan. In our class, we'll be spending the next couple of months getting to know Pelé, Millard Fillmore, Rachel Carson, Henry Clay Frick, Raina Telgemeier, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, Elon Musk, Richard Nixon, and Manfred con Richthofen (also known as "the Red Baron"). 

Friday, January 22, 2016

Last Chance to See

The Aye-Aye. Not all lemurs are adorable. 

Douglas Adams is best known as the author of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, which is a series of books (and many other media) that had a profound influence on my developing sense of humor as a goofy sixth grader. The idea that you could blend science fiction with Monty Python-esque humor blew my mind, particularly because I realized that a lot of it was clearly going right over my head. For example, as a twelve year old, I had no idea what bureaucracy was, nor how absurd and maddening it can be to navigate. But because it was a favorite topic of satire for Adams, it gave me an intriguing glimpse of my own future of tax returns, mortgage applications, and endless visits to the DMV. 

Friday, January 8, 2016

Math: assorted recent topics

As discussed in a previous post, the Singapore Math books serve as a backbone of our math curriculum. It is largely an individually-paced program (though small cohorts often form and work together), allowing students to progress at a rate that makes sense for each topic. We have Math class four times a week, and we generally devote one or two sessions to Singapore work, which allows for questions, small group break-out sessions, and targeted group lessons. 

With the rest of our class time, we do a variety of activities that benefit the entire group, regardless of where they happen to be in their particular math books. In this post, I wanted to share a few of the things we've done in recent weeks apart from Singapore work.