Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Project Colloquium

Jonathan set up in our southern-exposure room. It's a room with a view, and not just any view: below it lies the garden for which he has big plans. On Friday this meant a diorama and a budget proposal. He welcomed visitors into his proposal lair and shared that work.

Evan and Taylor showed off a video they had made illustrating Worst Technology Practices. This was a big hit, especially the gale of Laptop Frisbee. I believe this work may enter the realm of SK lore. One visitor also pointed out that they projected the sequence illustrating 'Do Not Leave Computer on the Floor' from a computer that was sitting on the floor.

Jianmarco and Mike had two presentations, one covering the rationale, process, and progress of our student government. Last week's meeting began the process of matching the SK Bill of Rights with the SK Bill of Responsibilities. The other piece included an animated model of the bridge they propose to build over the gully on the southern border of the playground.

Ryan and Lev created a book exchange. They were set up in the corner office, an airy space which we have already begun using as a reading room. Ryan made an inventory form listing all Summers-Knoll families, so that members of our community can lend, borrow, and buy books from the collection. Look for this on display in the school's common spaces in the weeks to come.

Aristea and Isobel put together an iMovie showing some of the time we've spent with Val's kindergarteners and Mrs. Carpenter's first and second grade class. We've had project time with both groups, as well as weekly common time with the younger ones. Saul complemented this with a chart planning out work crews for SK, a program loosely modelled on our observations of Scattergood Friends School in September.

Trent was seated atop the joint of two gigantic boards attached at a precisely calculated angle. He is assisting George in the construction of a Gaga Pit--a vaguely chaotic playground ball game played in an octagon. (For more on octagons, link to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_7jpz_55EdM.) Danny helped with this project early on; at the colloquium he was showing off a YouTube channel he had created featuring SK Exhibitions, including textual information, video, and links to the school's Facebook and Twitter pages.

Lily and Denali set up together, Denali to explain plans for a mural in one of the stairwells, Lily to share her process and progress in creating a student band at Summers-Knoll. The two of them borrowed some PA equipment and instruments to show off. Denali's idea is that people who come upstairs to the new MS world should realize that they are entering a different kind of space.

And the fifth graders were able to join us at the last minute. Led by parent Mark Maynard and their teacher, Jason dePasquale, they are preparing seed bombs to scatter over an empty lot in downtown Ypsilanti. They showed off the seeds, wrapped in soil and looking like chocolates, as well as signage showing what the program is about and where the planting will occur.

Monday, April 22, 2013

The List of Sixty-Four

The list of sixty-four.

Angry Mob
Chocolate Covered Ninja Pickles
Fighting Hares
Flash Mob
Fusion Reactors
Giant Squids
Question Marks
Redstone Bugs
Sea Lions
Sneaky Ninjas
Snow Angels
Snow Leopards
Spiked Lizards
Tree Frogs

Mascot Democracy

As Summers-Knoll re-expands, and our middle school grows, we are making plans to set up some modest levels of competition with other schools of similar scale. In the years to come, some of these will be athletic contests. Taylor and Evan have been working on a proposal for interscholastic competition in 2013-2014.

Looking ahead, we thought it would be fun to adopt a mascot for SK. Michigan has the Wolverines, Huron has the River Rats; who are we? 

We've been taking suggestions from SK kids since the fall, and have thrown in a few faculty ideas. The field is now narrowed to 64 possible nicknames. Over the next two months, we will reduce the field to the one and only Summers-Knoll mascot. Because there is no one like us, our nickname should not be like anyone else's. That is reflected in the list. 

The options will be reduced from 64 to 32 to 16 to 8 to 4 to 1. That's five rounds of reductions, one per week. Each round will be conducted differently, as outlined below. The list of sixty-four is fabulous; see the next post for that.

ROUND I : 64 to 32
April 22-26
Every person in each of the following nine groups fills out a bracket. Each of the nine groups then tallies the brackets to come up with a final 32 for that group. These nine are then tallied to provide the school-wide selections for the round of 32.
{groups: Val’s class; Mrs Carpenter’s; Elaine’s; Chris’; Ms Strickler’s; Jason’s; Karl’s; faculty; parents}

ROUND II: 32 to 16
April 30-May 3
A 32-nickname bracket is posted by Karen’s office. Anyone in the SK community can vote. Each voter signs off publicly, next to the bracket. Votes are tallied and each matchup is settled via pure vote count.

ROUND III: 16 to 8
May 7-10
Each of the seven homeroom classes narrows the field from 16 to 8 through means of their own invention.
The seven homeroom ballots are then tallied. Only students may vote.

ROUND IV: 8 to 4
May 14-17
Faculty and administrators narrow the field from eight to four through means of their own invention.
Grown-ups only.

late May & early June
At a public session, advocates for each of the four finalists have five to ten minutes to present their case. The final decision, to be made within a week of the session, rests with the Head of School and Athletic Director, subject to the approval of the Board of Trustees.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Student Government

Our student government, which Mike and Jianmarco are calling SKSG (with lots of fiery graphics), has met three times. I posted a quick outline before spring break of our brief conversation about legislative, judicial, and executive responsibilities. In the second session, the kids hammered out a pithy Bill of Rights--only five items:

Freedom of Expression
Personal Safety
Personal Worth
Protection of Property
Fair Hearing

These items are being considered, discussed, annotated and detailed by all of our middle schoolers.

Last week, we discussed plans for a contest, generated by Evan and Taylor's plans for an SK interscholastic athletic program, to name a mascot for Summers-Knoll sports teams. More details on this exciting development to come early this week. Please watch for this.

Speaking of athletics, Elaine posted this unbelievably great portrait of a football coach in the Pacific Northwest called Frosty Westering. Please do yourself the favor of reading about this remarkable man and the work he did with young men at his university.


Representatives: Alexandra, Jianmarco, Lily, Melissa, Mike, \Saul, and Taylor.

A Long Way Gone

We just finished reading Educating Esme, a teacher's memoir about her first year teaching fifth grade in a Chicago school. I'm conscious of showing our middle schoolers what their peers are experiencing in very different environments. What do they have in common? And what is taken for granted?

To that end, with an eye toward both Global Citizenship and Cycle of Life, we have just begun reading A Long Way Gone, another memoir. The author, Ishmael Beah, was twelve years old when the civil war of his native country, Sierra Leone, reached the small central village that was his home.

The story is heartbreaking, over and over again. It is also gruesome at times. I am treading lightly over those passages. Since I am reading the book aloud to the students, I have not hesitated to edit for violent content now and then, and I will continue to do so throughout the book.


On a related note, having learned little about the continent of Africa prior to my teaching career, and then spending two years living and teaching in Kenya, I'm sensitive to the portrayals of Africa as (a) benighted, (b) violent beyond reason, and (3) romantic. You don't have to look too hard lately to find subtler and more balanced reportage. The least romantic newsmagazine in the world, The Economist, just published a sixteen-page special report on Africa's increasingly rosy political and economic outlook.

Here's another example.


Thursday, April 18, 2013


There are always new games at recess. At the beginning of the year it was Hot Potato, which achieved celebrity status. Then they just dropped the game, like a...... like a......

Anyway, then it was Ripstiks, then Zombie Tag, then Ice Crackers; lately Sharks and Minnows.

Another recent game involves a designated show-runner throwing a ball into (or over) a crowd of bated-breath children and calling out a number and either 'Dead' or 'Alive'. Everyone runs after the ball and the person who manages to seize it gets the points and, well, I don't know what 'Dead' and 'Alive' mean in this context.

Taylor hurled a high throw on Tuesday that lodged the ball in the crook of a branch a solid twenty feet off the ground. Gabe and Evan were throwing footballs at it. Someone was shaking the tree. Isobel kept walking over to the tree with progressively longer branches gathered from the forest floor. Finally she found a huge misshapen one that looked to be long enough, but she was not steady on her feet, tottering around at first like a Scotsman with a caber.

No fewer than six other kids joined her at the base of the tree, all crowded around and hanging onto that unwieldy branch: Jonathan, Jianmarco, Trent, Lev, Saul, Evan and Taylor, who served as crew chief. They poked at the ball, making contact several times to no avail, until they finally popped it out of the tree. A roaring cheer arose. Then it was time to go inside.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Place Out of Time Banquet

Our middle school students have been participating in a U of M School of Education program called Place Out of Time. Jason DePasquale wrote a terrific account of their experiences this past Monday, April 15, at the culminating event for the program, held over at the School of Ed on East U. Here is a link to Jason's piece.


Monday, April 15, 2013

Exhibitions Are Coming

The third and final round of 2012-2103 Exhibitions will take place during the week of May 13-17.

This set of lessons will differ slightly from the previous two in that each will have a reflective component, in which the students give some review of the year's work. They will dip into their electronic portfolios, still in progress, in order to do that. In addition to the reflective lesson, each of the Magic Fourteen will teach a lesson on a subject near and/or dear to his or her heart: YouTube, the Korean War, nuclear fusion . . . . .

The list is growing.

Projects Colloquium April 26

As noted in earlier blog entries, the students in our class have been intermittently working on SK service projects since early in the school year. The two girls and two boys who've joined the group since--Lily, Aristea, Lev and Ryan--have added their own ideas, or pitched in on projects already underway, or both.

On the afternoon of Friday, April 26, we will set up in the middle school commons to show off some of the plans and achievements of this aspect of this year's schoolwork. Please join us from 3:00 to 3:30 to tour our displays and to pepper all fourteen of our sixth, seventh and eight graders with questions about their work.

Projects include.......

  • Student Government
  • Band
  • Book Fair
  • Gaga Pit
  • Technology Best Practices
  • Interscholastic Athletics
  • Buddies
  • Work Crews
  • Mural
  • Gardens
  • Playground Bridge
Snacks, of course, will be served.