Carrie Symons, PhD

Education, Literacy, and Language in Multilingual Contexts

Just One Small Part of a Much Bigger Picture

With the emergence of spring, now in full swing, I am witnessing teachers’ and students’ exploration of the natural world in and outside of the classroom. From deconstructing flowers and observing caterpillars in the early stages of forming their chrysalids in preschool to habitat exploration in young 5/kindergarten, gardening and soil testing in 1st/2nd grade, and finding salamanders under logs at Black Pond in 3rd/4th grade, the richness of life in all its forms – microorganisms, plants, insects, and animals – surrounds us.

At the main entrance of Summers-Knoll, atop the light fixture on the beam to the left of the door (as you enter), a mother Robin made her nest, laid her eggs, and her baby chicks have hatched. Just this morning, she was feeding her babies, their little hungry open beaks popping up, visible just over the edge of the nest. Nature is so close, all the time. Entire cycles of life are beginning and ending around us in the nooks and crannies of our everyday comings and goings, literally just outside our front door…

Appreciation for SK Teachers Abounds – Thank You, Parents

It’s National Teacher Appreciation Week, and Summers-Knoll parents and families did not hold back. SK’s Parent School Network (PSN) recruited volunteers and solicited donations, which yielded an abundant outpouring of appreciation.

The week began with the PSN’s personal delivery of cases of Waterloo sparkling water and three plates of home-baked chocolate chip cookies, accompanied by milk and a sweet note card thanking our teachers for all they do. On Tuesday, the parents provided a Teacher Appreciation breakfast. The tables in the atrium were draped in black tablecloths and adorned with fresh, bright floral bouquets. The buffet of culinary delights included four different kinds of quiche, two kinds of egg bites, fruit salads, vegetables, bagels, breads, spreads, pastries, yogurt, granola, cheeses, crackers, cold cut meats, chickpea salad, olives, grape leaves, coffee and two different kinds of juice. Parents stepped in to cover teachers’ classrooms so that all of the teachers could gather together, eat, and bask in the appreciation. And the appreciation kept on coming…

On Wednesday, Morgan (kindergarten) brought in chocolate covered strawberries that she had made for the teachers; in fact, the gift was entirely her idea and execution (with a little help from Mom and Dad when heating the chocolate).

When I arrived on Friday morning, I noticed a banner had been mounted in front of the school. I walked closer to investigate the mystery (see pic above). The banner read:

“Young or small, you make their world big. SK Educators, thank you for making our kids feel as important as the world around them. Love, Your Summers-Knoll Parents”

Then after our whole school Friday morning meeting (Dragon Time), the counter in the atrium was covered in a decadent array of Socotra pastries.

Throughout my years in education, I have never witnessed an outpouring of appreciation from parents like this one. SK teachers are truly deserving of this appreciation; they love children. They love nurturing children’s growth, and they are unwaveringly devoted to the art and craft of teaching.

SK Parents, we are so grateful for all you did to make this week so special for our teachers. Your appreciation means the world to us, and it is mutual. From our hearts to yours: thank you, thank you, thank you!

Intergenerational Relationships

On the afternoon of Friday, April 26th, Summers-Knoll School hosted their annual Grand Friends Day. The classrooms were a-buzz with that special Grand Friend energy. It was beautiful to see students and Grand Friends working together side-by-side: planting flowers, enjoying books, making scribble bots, doing a scientific investigation, and sharing highlights from the school year thus far. Thank you to the parents in the Parent School Network for all of your support with this event.

Intergenerational relationships are essential for our well-being: older and younger generations benefit mutually from being in relationship with one another. In his article “What Happens When Old and Young Connect” published in The Greater Good Science Magazine (by The Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley), Marc Freedman writes:

“In a single century, we have gone from one of the most age-integrated nations on earth to its mirror opposite. So how can we turn things around? How can we find new ways to do old things, to rediscover the joys of intergenerational connection?”

In the article linked above, Freedman offers some suggestions for how to rediscover the joys of intergenerational connection. To complement Freedman’s research-based suggestions, I interviewed some SK students and asked why their relationships with their grandparents/friends were special and important.

Nora (5th): You learn from them. You learn how different their lives were from ours.

Naomi (6th): They are your loved ones.

Hasan (6th): When I was pretty young, I used to be pretty untrusting with my [paternal] grandma, but as I got older, I could start telling that she definitely cared about me. She made my breakfast, folded my clothes. If I ever did something I shouldn’t have, she told me nicely. I think that relationship is really important, for me at least. I can see how somebody like her could end up raising somebody like my father. He does the same thing – if I ever do anything bad, he tells me politely to not do it again. He is trustworthy and honest. And my grandma has played a part in it.

Maya (6th): They can give you guidance because they’ve been through more in their life, so they can help you along the way.

Blu (3rd): Because they give the best presents, and they are really, really nice.

Isobel (3rd): I know they can always be there to help me and do stuff with me and play with me.

Gem (3rd): They can help out with my parents if they need to go do something; they can watch me. They take me places, and we can do fun stuff.

Niam (3rd): They always let me do stuff and they fix stuff for me and they come over for every holiday and they support me.

Jason (4th): They teach you stuff, and I like when they read you books. Also I like watching movies with my grandpa because it’s fun and relaxing. And they listen to you; if you have a problem, they listen to you.

Clearly, the young folks I interviewed were primarily focused on what they gain from these relationships. But I’m sure they also give a lot. I would love to ask the grandparents/friends of SK students this same question: What makes your relationships with your grandchildren special to you? I have a feeling the grandparents/friends would also talk about what they gain from these relationships, how much their lives are enriched by their grandchildren, watching them grow, seeing the world through a young person’s eyes. But do grandparents/friends realize how important they are to the young people in their lives?

Grandparents/friends, you are teachers, supporters, creators of fun, and relaxing companions who bring so much light to everyone’s lives by simply being, lending a listening ear and a wise heart.

In his podcast 70 over 70, “Max Linsky talks to 70 remarkable people, all over the age of 70, not just about their past but their lives right now. These are conversations about the big questions we all ask ourselves, no matter how old we are. What does it mean to live well? What are we still searching for? And how do we learn to let go?” I highly recommend this podcast. I started listening to it in the summer of 2021, shortly after the first episode aired.

I also recommend Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge by Mem Fox to read with kids of any age, and Childtimes: A Three-Generation Memoir by Eloise Greenfield and Lessie Jones Little for readers in middle school and up.

The Value of Winning & Losing

In my role as Executive Director of Teaching and Learning at Summers-Knoll, I work on curriculum and instruction at the whole-school level, the classroom level, and the individual teacher/student level. This year and last, I collaborated with the 3rd/4th grade and Upper School teachers on planning and enacting short story writing projects. Recognizing the pedagogical value of writing for a purpose and audience outside of school, 3rd – 8th graders entered a state-wide youth writing contest sponsored by the Ann Arbor District Library (AADL) to which students could submit short stories. The “Write On” contest submission deadline for third, fourth, and fifth grade writers was February 5th, 2024. The submission deadline for the “It’s All Write” contest for 6th – 12th graders was March 3rd, 2024. 

While all SK 3rd – 8th grade students wrote short stories, submitting a piece to the contest was optional. Winners of the “Write On” contest were announced at the AADL Awards Celebration held on Saturday, April 20. SK’s fourth grader, Tej Parikh won 2nd place! Congrats, Tej! The winners of the “Let’s Write” contest for 6th – 12th graders will be announced on May 24, 2024. Thus far, we know that 6th grader, Maya Romero is a finalist. Go, Maya!

Regardless of the contest’s outcomes, the students who choose to enter the contest become better writers by going through this process, a process that, in some ways, mimics the reality of the work of professional writers: they work on pieces for days, weeks, months, sometimes years; they submit their work to various publishers, experience a lot of rejection, and persist until someone agrees to publish their work.

The SK students who submit their work to the AADL writing contest get to feel the satisfaction of producing and submitting an original piece of writing for an audience external to SK. It takes persistence to stick with the writing process from start to finish, and it takes courage to share one’s own writing, receive feedback from fellow writers, and enter a piece into a contest for public consumption.

If students don’t “win” this year, they will have to weather disappointment, but that, too, is a reward—learning how to “lose” is just as important as learning how to “win.”

In the domain of science, this past weekend on Saturday, April 20th, several of SK’s 2nd and 3rd graders competed in the Washtenaw County Elementary Science Olympiad (WESO). SK was one of 33 schools and our 9 students who competed were among over 1,700 students in grades 2 through 5 who participated across 15 events. SK brought six teams for six different events: iRobot, Map Reading, Mystery Architecture, OnTarget, Pentathlon, and Read It/Build it. During the tournament, spectators and coaches are not permitted in the competition events – students get checked-in to their event at their assigned time, and then they go off by themselves to compete against all of the other schools’ teams.

After months of weekly practices and preparation, coached by a team of parent volunteers, all of the SK students rose to the occasion. They worked with their teammates, completed their events, and did so with a unanimous sense of success. Two of the SK teams won medals: our Pentathlon team won Honorable Mention and our Read It/ Build It team won 4th place!

Similar to the writing contest, competing in science olympiad is not just about winning. At our Dragon Time WESO celebration this morning, many of the students spoke about the value of participating even if you don’t win a medal. As Jack said, “It doesn’t matter if you win as long as you have fun.” It’s precisely that spirit that engenders success in the long run.

Competitors want to win, and they should – it’s a competition after all, and ambition is important when competing. But it’s the “having fun” part that will draw them back to competitions in the future, and the more they compete, the stronger they will become in their perseverance, cooperation, sense of accomplishment, familiarity with failure, and moving through feelings of disappointment – this is what truly matters. This is success.


Lessons Learned From Geese

Support Each Other – Geese fly in a “V” formation, providing lift for those in the rear.

Understand Your Role – When the lead goose gets tired, it falls to the back and another takes over.

Protect Each Other – If a goose gets sick or wounded, 2 others follow it to the ground and stay with it until it can fly again.

You Can’t Succeed Alone – If a goose falls out of formation, it works hard to get back into position.

Provide Encouragement – The geese at the back honk to encourage those up front to keep going.

When I was an elementary classroom teacher, I had the “Lessons of the Geese” typed, laminated, and posted on my wall. I can’t recall where I first came across this text, and I don’t know if it’s scientifically accurate, but it was a central part of my classroom community building process.

On Monday, April 15th, SK students in grades 1 through 8 spent the day at Ann Arbor’s Leslie Science and Nature Center for a day of service. Students pulled weeds, filled seed packets for Earth Day, and created materials the center uses for its educational programming. Toward the end of the day, students enjoyed the slippery tunnel slide. Barbara, SK’s 1st/2nd grade teacher, and I were watching the kids as they came whizzing out of the slide, laughing as they hopped onto their feet at the bottom.

When it was time to go, Jackie, one of Barbara’s second graders, gleefully explained the system she and her classmates had developed at the top of the slide: Of their own volition, they had come up with specific roles that each student played in the act of sending one person down the slide. A seemingly solitary activity, this class of 1st and 2nd graders had made the act of sliding down the slide a collaborative endeavor. Everyone had a purpose and played an important role. Whereas some groups of kids may have competed for the next turn on the slide, this group of children cooperated in such a way that sliding down the slide was not the only fun thing to do. They invented many different ways to be a part of a team so that everyone could play together

What a wonderful reminder: play is important. Kids nurture each other’s imaginations. They teach one another how to cooperate and solve problems. They learn how to create systems and organize themselves in meaningful ways. They laugh, run, climb, breathe, shout, slide, and cheer each other on. They have fun and genuinely enjoy one another.

The way in which Barbara’s class played together reminded me of the Lessons of the Geese. Adults, sometimes we just need to get out of the way so that kids can find (and celebrate) their own ways of being together. Adults, maybe we need to play together more often too.

Solar Eclipse: Be Here Now

A whale spouting on the water’s surface.

A double rainbow after a storm.

A flower bearing fruit.

Dramatic natural events – like the Solar Eclipse on Monday, April 8th, which was visible for folks across a swath of Central and North America – remind us of Mother Earth’s awe-inspiring power.

Thanks to SK’s 1st/2nd grade teacher, Barbara, who tracked down several pair of ISO-certified eclipse viewing glasses, some students, teachers, admin, and parents at Summers-Knoll School were able to experience and witness the eclipse together.

During the eclipse, we imagined how people thousands of years ago perceived solar eclipses. It turns out there’s an entire field of study, archeoastronomy, devoted to such questions:

“We must be very careful about treating all cultures that came before us as capital-O ‘Other,’” says Anthony Aveni, a pioneer of archeoastronomy and professor emeritus at Colgate University. “They traveled a totally different road from Western eclipse science. Sometimes our questions can be misguided. Did they know the Earth was round? Did they know about the galaxy?” Those aren’t the right questions to ask, he says. “They didn’t live in our world.”

And we don’t live in theirs. With our ultraprecise clocks and compasses, we can often choose to forget the sky altogether—something unthinkable for many peoples of the past. “When it comes down to it, other cultures didn’t do things the way we do them,” Aveni says. “And that’s what makes studying them so fascinating” (Deluca, April 5, 2024,

But we need not wait for extraordinary natural events to appreciate the beauty all around us every day. The solar eclipse reminds us that, sometimes, we need to simply pause to remember that our life on planet Earth is small but precious, fleeting but significant, if for no other reason, simply because humanity is part of this natural world that engenders such awe. We can be reminded of this when we look into the eyes of a loved one or a stranger, when we feel the sun on our skin, or when we take a breath – we are here now. Simply being is worthy of celebration.

The Paradox of Spring

“Flowers unfold slowly and gently, bit by bit in the sunshine, and a soul too must never be punished or driven, but unfolds in its own perfect timing to reveal its true wonder and beauty.” The Findhorn Garden, from The Findhorn Community

April in Michigan hints of spring. On the backdrop of an ominous sky, daffodils withstand wind and rain, new buds emerge on branches of trees, and patches of green grass cover the soaked ground – a preface to the story of longer, lighter, warmer days ahead.

In schools, the paradox of spring is reflected in how teachers and students experience the final quarter of the school year amidst the anticipation of summer. On one hand, there’s a recognition and celebration of how much students have grown throughout the year. On the other hand, the year is not over yet – we want to make the most out of the time remaining. While growth cannot be forced, the conditions for growth can be optimized, and one key ingredient in such conditions is clarity relative to our destination: goal setting.

At Summers-Knoll, our spring professional development session on Friday, March 22nd focused on goal setting for individual students. Due to SK’s small class sizes, teachers are able to attend to each individual child’s growth and development. As a result of their ongoing (formative) assessments of each student across content areas, including social-emotional development, teachers can formulate SMART goals (goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely) for each student. Parents can also participate in setting SMART goals for their children, and ultimately, children can set SMART goals for themselves.

At SK’s parent-teacher-student conferences held next week (April 10 – 12th), the co-constructed action plans can leverage SMART goals as beacons that focus students’ efforts as they stride toward the 2023 – 2024 school year’s finish line. Informed by SMART goals, action plans provide a three-pronged approach to reaching those goals: what is the teacher going to do, what are the parents going to do, and what is the child going to do. The onus is on the whole team surrounding, and including, the child.

Understandably, our desired projections for students’ growth extends beyond this school year. We want to ensure they are well prepared for what awaits them in fall (and beyond) as well. Is it beneficial to look this far ahead? Absolutely. Long-term goals should inform the short-term goals. Preparing for 2024 Fall readiness should include a plan for continued summer learning and enrichment, as well as the 4th quarter action plan. So parents, as partners, teachers count on you to bring this longer-term visioning into the conversations about your children; together, we co-create the conditions for optimal growth that allows each child – each flower – to blossom, in their own time, to their full potential.

Knowledge is the Foundation of Higher Order Thinking

Higher order thinking (HOT) – yes, it’s a buzz word in education but that does not warrant disregarding its importance. Higher order thinking is akin to what we (at Summers-Knoll) have been referring to as “deep” and “transfer” levels of learning in rigorous project-based learning (McDowell & Miller, 2022), when our minds are engaged in applying, analyzing, and synthesizing.

In educational circles, the turn of the century (from the 20th to the 21st century) brought on conversations about the importance of schools fostering students’ 21st century skills in the “Information Age.” With technological innovations, increased dependency on digital devices and platforms, dramatic changes in the natural world, along with the globalization of commerce, people and industries, there has been a pronounced recognition of the need to prepare young people for a dynamic, rapidly changing world. They’ll need to be flexible problem solvers who can collaborate with super-diverse groups of people to address novel political, social, and environmental issues.

Much of what’s emphasized in discussions about 21st century skills is reminiscent of those cognitive domains in the upper part of Bloom’s Taxonomy: application, analysis, synthesis. And while it’s important to create opportunities for learners to develop higher order thinking skills, it’s equally important to remember that the foundation of higher order thinking is knowledge.

A set of false assumptions about the role of knowledge surfaces occasionally: students don’t need to learn content or develop content knowledge any more; if they want to learn about some topic in particular, they can do so on their own; they can read about any area of interest online; teachers don’t need to focus on the teaching and learning of discrete knowledge. Not true. Without knowledge, what will a learner analyze, apply, or synthesize? Without foundational reading skills, how will learners know how to decode and comprehend text and print information.

One of the potential pitfalls in project-based learning is a lack of attention to building domain knowledge. If we want kids to ask meaningful questions that drive and sustain inquiry, they need fodder for those questions. To get to deep and transfer levels of learning, they need to develop surface-level knowledge.

“To develop the application of knowledge and skills to new situations, students must possess a thorough knowledge base within and across academic domains,” (McDowell, 2017, p. 14).

Fortunately, some 21st century skill frameworks continue to amplify the importance of knowledge, such as the Partnership for 21st Century Skills, which includes core subject area knowledge alongside 21st century themes. Knowledge begets knowledge. The more you know, the easier it is to learn new knowledge and the deeper that well of knowledge becomes if…if the learner has opportunities to analyze, apply, and synthesize that knowledge.

So yes, kids need to learn how to persevere, be flexible, communicate, solve problems, collaborate – these are essential skills in the 21st century, and I would argue they have been essential for many centuries prior. Yes, let’s keep working on how to get better at these critical skills, not just for purposes of continual advancement but perhaps, more importantly, for the sake of the planet and for humanity as a whole. And yes, let’s keep building knowledge about history, mathematics, art, music, language, science, technology, civics, and economics and applying, analyzing and synthesizing that knowledge for meaningful purposes.

Learning and the search for meaning is a lifelong endeavor. May the quest never end!

Math, Math Everywhere!

“You know, you can think of almost everything as a math problem.” ~ Mrs. Fibonacci, The Math Curse, by Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith

There is so much math happening every day at Summers-Knoll. As I was compiling the photos for this week’s SK newsletter, I was struck by the many ways students are engaging with math. With the Singapore Math program as the backbone of the mathematics instruction at SK, students learn math using concrete, pictorial, and abstract approaches to “actively think, understand and communicate to solve math problems.” Like all curricula, the Singapore Math program provides the “what,” but it doesn’t prescribe “how” teachers meet the needs of each individual student, hence, the art and craft of the instructional cycle: creating an environment conducive to learning, deliberate planning, responsive instructional practices, formative assessment (repeat).

Then there are the Common Core State Standards for math, which provide a recommended set of content- and concept-specific skills and sets of knowledge for each grade level, kindergarten through 12th. The Math CCSS are a combination of practices (inherent in the discipline of mathematics) and content (a balance of procedure and understanding). The practices are: 1) Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them, 2) Reason abstractly and quantitatively, 3) Construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others, 4) Model with mathematics, 5) Use appropriate tools strategically, 6) Attend to precision, 7) Look for and make use of structure, and 8) Look for and express regularity in repeated reasoning. The overarching K – 8 Math CCSS content categories are: counting and cardinality, operations and algebraic thinking, number and operations in base ten, fractions, measurement and data, geometry, expressions and equations, statistics and probability, ratios and proportional relationships, and functions.

At SK, teachers draw upon the Math CCSS and use the Singapore Math program to inform their instruction. In addition to the data provided on Singapore unit tests and the NWEA MAP Growth assessment in math, teachers check for students’ understanding of math concepts on a daily basis as an integral part of their teaching so they can meet each child where they are while supporting them in their growth toward meeting grade level (or above grade level) standards.

Students are encouraged to move at their own pace with no imposed limits to their progress. Although our highest grade level at SK is 8th, a number of Upper School students are already doing Algebra and Algebra 2, so we use high school-level curricula and standards in our advanced Upper School math class. Some 3rd and 4th graders go to the Upper School for their math instruction.

Summers-Knoll teachers also incorporate math into project-based learning and other content areas. For example, in the Young 5/Kindergarten and first/second grade classes, students are currently studying shapes in their projects through a lens of visual art and art history. In the 3rd/4th grade class’s current project, students are exploring “how they can transfer the energy around us to do things in a new way,” and in their construction of water wheels and wind turbines, they are using mathematical principles in conjunction with scientific reasoning to design and test ways to transfer energy. In the upper school, they are engaged in a collaboration with the University of Michigan, Place Out of Time (POOT), which provides students with opportunities to research historical and contemporary figures whose perspectives they adopt in a simulation trial. As part of their POOT project this year, they are constructing timelines of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and identifying which groups of people were affected by the various laws and how.

In Art class, students have begun constructing luminaries for Ann Arbor’s annual FestiFools and FoolMoon Parade. This requires applying mathematical computation, spatial reasoning, and problem solving to create three-dimensional, wire-structure shapes. In Music, the concepts are inherently mathematical: rhythm, musical notes and rests (whole, half, quarter), time signatures. You can’t escape math when learning how to read sheet music and play an instrument or sing a choral piece. In Languages with Madame Imogen, students learn how to count and do simple arithmetic in French and Latin. They learn Greek and Latin roots for geometric terminology (e.g., angles, sides) as well as Roman Numerals. Much of the Latin and French content is framed within historical time periods, so mathematical vocabulary (e.g., years, numeric designations) is woven throughout. Even the date on white board is written in both French and Latin with Roman Numerals.

Going well beyond rote memorization of math facts (although this is necessary), opportunities for applying mathematical reasoning and problem solving abound in our daily lives. And at SK, it’s everywhere!

Deep Learning: It’s Not Just an AI Phenomenon

Photo: Greek Temple of Segesta, Sicily (Oct 19, 2018)

At Summers-Knoll’s Friday morning meeting (aka Dragon Time) this week, the Preschool class shared what they’ve been working on in their classroom during their third quarter project: Traveling from Ancient to Modern Greece. The project revolves around three main pillars: Inventions and Inventors, The Olympics, and Gods, Goddesses & Myths. As with the preschoolers’ preceding study of Ancient Egypt, SK’s youngest explorers are introduced to the study of these ancient civilizations through stories, art, and games. This foundation is built upon throughout the grades at SK in a thoughtful and deliberate way.

In SK’s Latin program, Magistra Imogen teaches students about Latin and Greek cultures and languages in their historic context through the use of classical stories, fables, myths, and plays. In preschool, they are introduced to Aesop’s Fables and Ovid’s Metamorphoses. In Kindergarten, they continue with Ovid’s Metamorphoses and are introduced to the Greek Gods as well as ancient explanations for natural phenomena. In the 1st/2nd grade, students study the Twelve Labors of Hercules and what each Labor shows us about the character of the hero. In 3rd/4th grade, they focus on the seven kings of ancient Rome followed by the heroes of the early republic, which is partly mythological. In 5th/6th grade, they study one of the books of the Odyssey to appreciate the inherent messages in both Greek and Latin, and then in 7th/8th grade, they compare and contrast two ancient Greek sources, The Iliad and Odyssey, with one Roman source, The Aeneid, to analyze the characters and themes of the Trojan War.

The Latin curriculum across the grades illustrates how, as students progress during their time at SK, the content and curricula become increasingly more complex; at every stage of learning, teachers provide multiple entry points with which students can access the content and construct new knowledge as they progressively build upon their prior knowledge. Depth of understanding is cumulative; it grows over time as students make connections across contexts and as a result of having opportunities for application and transfer.

For example, in the 5th/6th grade, students study astronomy and mythology. In their Myths and Stars 2022-2023 project, the 5/6s learned about stars, the universe, scientific notation, origins of scientific reasoning, mythological vs. scientific explanations for phenomena, locating stars and navigating by them, and writing mythology as a genre. The project’s driving question was “How has looking at the sky and stars influenced culture?” Students created their own constellations and wrote their own etiological myths, two of which were entered into the Ann Arbor District Library young writer’s short story contest and one of which (a 5th grade student) won 3rd place. The 5th and 6th graders also taught interactive, small group lessons on the solar system to the 1st/2nd graders.

Students in the 5th/6th grade example above were able to apply and transfer knowledge through the process of writing of their myths and teaching science lessons to their younger peers, but they weren’t merely transferring knowledge that had been constructed during the 8-week project – they were drawing upon years of learning experiences at SK that involved Latin and Greek languages and cultures, myths, fables, cross-grade collaborations, the Singapore mathematics program, and scientific inquiry. The upper school (5th – 8th grade) is where the depth of learners’ syntheses becomes most apparent.

In rigorous project-based learning, rigor is conceptualized as an integration of learning at surface, deep, and transfer levels (McDowell, 2017). While this occurs within a single project, it is perhaps even more profound when viewed across the trajectory of students’ learning in a school where all the teachers work together to create curricula that coheres vertically.

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