Monday, June 20, 2016


We said good-bye to the seven members of SK's Class of 2016 in June.

Graduating students present or perform something at graduation. This year, Margaret & Karenna, with help from Kaeli & Lee, did an encore performance of their Founding Framers scene from our fall play, A Sort of Complete History of the United States of America (Abridged).

Lee offered advice for the returning SK students, pointing out, among other things, that teachers are allowed to make mistakes too, and that they deserved the benefit of the doubt from their students too.

Nik and Kaeli both gave impassioned, hilarious and tender speeches about their classmates and teachers.

Ada privately shared plans to add a corn snake to our menagerie of SK animals.

And Matthew tinkered with his valedictory soliloquy from the end of The Tempest to commemorate his departure from our particular island. It was a beautiful gesture of love and a poignant good-bye.

As is our tradition, the students each collected unique diplomas, each one featuring a different piece of artwork from a younger Summers-Knoll student. These diplomas are on display, framed and hung at the meeting point between the middle school commons and the atrium.

Each year, Joanna writes a poem for each graduate. Somehow, she managed a sonnet for each this year. She did this in honor of a sonnet the 7-8s wrote for her. As a last word on the 2015-2016 school year, here is that poem, our fondest of farewells for the great Joanna Hastings in her final year as Head of Summers-Knoll.

A SONNET by the 7-8s

The head of SK is named Joanna
She’s the best head of school we could ask for
She is pretty and strong like Diana
She will always be part of our school’s core
She likes to lead us through one hen two ducks
We all can recite it, even today
We know that her life is now in some flux
But she’ll still be home in hearts at SK
We hope that you like the sonnet we wrote
The 7-8s made this poem for you
We're trying to help you leave on the right note
We will all miss you that's certainly true
We all are very sad that you will leave
And we thank you for what we will achieve

The Big Chart

Here are the 180 boxes we said we'd fill this semester.

I am happy to report that we got through everything.

Science Projectsconductcomplete & exhibitstate fair------
Science Exhibitionsschedule; prepconduct--------
Polis ProjectsGreek poleisoriginal poleis--------
Einstein's Dreamsread----------
Innovation & Systemsbegin readingfinish reading--identitiesidentities--
Storm Projectbegin tendcomplete------
DetroitDIA----HeidelbergEarthworksCity FC
Lit Publicationrevise fall prompts4-6 prompts4-6 promptsbig paperfinal promptsrevise & publish
Athletics & PEwinter sportstournament?spring hikesMile WeekSK 5Kfield day
Student Governmentnew goalspursueHHF weeknew goalspursue--
High School 101shadow dayslotteries--adviceadvicegraduate
Our Whole Livesgenderrelationshipsmediabehaviordangerscommunication
Work Crewssecond rotationsecond rotationsecond rotationthird rotationthird rotationthird rotation
Monkey House----read------
AmericansslaveryreconstructionDouglassbig paper----
The Tempestrehearserehearseperform------
Civic Projectconceivenarrowselectconductexhibit--
Civic Exhibitions----schedulerehearseconduct--
Place out of Time--assignengagecomplete----
Assessmentportfoliosprepare goalsconferences--complete portfoliosreflect
Frederick Douglass----readfinish----
Retro Projects------planconductexhibit
Retro Exhibitions------schedulerehearseconduct
Whale & Shorts--------readfinish
Spring Tripplancommunicatepreparepacktravel--
Legacy Projectsdeterminepursuepursuepursuecompleteexhibit
Legacy Exhibitions------schedulerehearseconduct

Legacy Projects

By the end of every year, the eighth graders have completed Legacy Projects, which can take many forms: an event, a system, an installation; something that is left behind, or continues a tradition, at Summers-Knoll.

Margaret took on the Herculean task of clearing hundreds of costumes off the floor of the attic, organizing them by era and type, and hanging them up on spanking-new costume racks.

Kaeli followed on last year's community service project by setting up a relief effort for Syrian refugees. She contacted a local charity for advice on what was needed and then set up a middle school assembly line to make tote bags out of reused t-shirts and then fill them with a long list of useful sundries. These were then delivered to the charity's headquarters.

Nik built a spiral labyrinth out of inset stones in the little forest on the north side of our playground.

Matthew composed a Summers-Knoll anthem! Here it is:

Leander thought it would be fun if each homeroom decorated a ceiling tile. He scheduled meetings with each homeroom teacher, then with the classes; worked with each on design; gave them the supplies to carry them out; collected the completed tiles; and installed them in the art room.

Karenna met with Valerie Tibbs-Wynne to set up a Kinderbuddies program. She partnered each kindergartener with one of our 7-8 students and scheduled regular times from us to come down to Val's playground for spend time getting chased around by Summers-Knoll's littlest kids.

Retro Projects

At the end of every year, the seventh graders are tasked with revisiting a topic they encountered earlier in their academic career and then designing and executing a project that deepens and/or broadens their understanding of that topic. Once the project is completed, they conduct an Exhibition, which, as is conventional for that session, includes an explanation of the project and a lesson for attendees, adults and kids, that addresses the subject matter. Here is this year's crop.

Evan took a look back at Chinua Achebe's classic Nigerian novel, Things Fall Apart, by exploring three of that country's 521 different languages: Yoruba, Ibo, and Hausa. Evan taught us a few words in each language and then represented the difficulty of cross-communication by tasking partners with building a popsicle-stick house. The catch was that the partners had to work from vocabulary lists: one in Yoruba and one in Ibo.

Emma & Ellie followed up on their Civic Project on Little Free Libraries in Ypsilanti by working on a Summers-Knoll version. They whitewashed the little cabinet, attached the doors, put together a pile of books, and designed a final paint job featuring dragons and ivy. Our LFL will be installed outside the school in the fall.

Lindsay revisited her Fish Tank sessions by creating a document for future Fish Tankers giving clear, specific, and thorough step-by-step instructions on how to set up a tank. She showed us how to siphon water out of a tank, a crucial step in cleaning tanks, and we did so, not spilling too much water in the process.

Gabe looked back on his commercial shoot from fifth grade by showing and critiquing a series of short clips from Apple presentations in which the words amazing and incredible and such were repeated a hundred times or more. He then scripted and shot a parody iPhone commercial in which the features were greatly exaggerated in a technically honest fashion. Finally, Gabe invited us to invent a new product and concoct and advertising scheme to convince consumers that they desperately needed a product they had never heard of.

Marcellin revisited the days of Mars Out of Time by conceiving, designing, and building (in clay) a drone, or, in this case, Unmanned Aerial Vehicle, that could function as a photography satellite on the planet Mars. Marcellin gave us instructions on requirements for such a vehicle and invited his attendees to design their own versions of the aircraft.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Appalachia and Washington DC

At our first stop, we visited several Underground Railroad stops in Mt Pleasant, Ohio. Members of the local Historical Society opened our visit with a tour of the largest Quaker Meeting House I had ever seen. This building, roughly the size of a high school gymnasium, can seat 2,000 people.

This restored log cabin dates back to 1803, the year of Ohio's statehood. While we toured it and the other buildings in Mt Pleasant, we were serenaded by millions upon billions of cicadas, out for their 17-year joyride.

That evening, we reached our cabins, located in a campground on the Potomac River near Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. 

The next morning, we went river rafting on the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers; no photos of that, though--phones are not a good idea in Class III rapids. In the afternoon, we toured Harpers Ferry (above and below), including some information from a guide in 19th century garb and a tour of the outstanding little John Brown Museum.

John Brown is on the left.

Here we are atop Jefferson's Rock (above and below), with a view of Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia
at the convergence of the Potomac and the Shenandoah.

We closed the trip with a day in Washington, where we ate Native American food for lunch and Ethiopian food for dinner.
In between, we walked the length of the National Mall from the US Capitol to the Lincoln Memorial.

We visited the Museum of the American Indian, the Air & Space Museum, and the Vietnam Memorial,
with the Lincoln Memorial serving as a capstone to our study of abolition.

We read through the Gettysburg Address and the conclusion of the Second Inaugural Address, noting in particular Lincoln's generosity of spirit toward all of those, black and white, North and South, soldier and family, who suffered in the Civil War.