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?