Lower School

1st grader using power tool to build raised bed

What to expect from Lower School

Projects are a driving force in the Summers-Knoll 1st through the 4th grade curriculum.

The Lower School Experience

At Summers-Knoll, we foster meaningful learning that is both informed by and connected to the world outside the school walls, at Summers-Knoll, projects are a driving force in the 1st through the 4th-grade curriculum. Through project-based instruction, SK teachers foster engagement, deep learning, and critical thinking about issues in and beyond the classroom. As students progress through the grades, the complexity of the projects and the sophistication of thinking develops. 



SK teachers design and enact four main projects over the course of a four-quarter academic year. Teachers’ project design is informed by grade-level content standards, students’ background knowledge, and interests. With students’ vertical learning trajectories in mind, teachers decide which skills and core subjects will be integrated into the projects and what educational goals will be addressed separately.  



Master Classes from experts are an essential and regular part of our curriculum. Equipped with a sense of purpose, SK students take academic risks, persist when challenges arise, and try again when they fall short of meeting their goals. Recognizing the value of both the learning process and the product, students develop the ability to reflect upon and communicate not only what they are learning but also why they are learning. 



While projects provide an overarching, thematic structure and purpose for a class’s learning journey, teachers address individual student needs through one-on-one and small group instruction. Through ongoing, formal and informal assessments, teachers identify individual students’ strengths and areas for social, emotional, and academic growth. As a result of small class sizes, SK teachers really get to know and appreciate each student for who they are as an individual human beings, a learner, and a member of communities within and outside of the classroom. As each teacher gets to know each student, students also get to know themselves – intellectually, socially, emotionally, and physically – and appreciate their individuality as well as the diversity of perspectives represented among their peers and in the broader community.

Local and Global Neighborhood Learning Walks

Consistent with a place-based education approach, 3rd grade students explore the essential question: How does slowing down change the way we experience the world around us? Using the Out of Eden Learn curriculum, which is based upon journalist Paul Salopek’s slow walk across the world, students take neighborhood walks, noting what makes their neighborhood unique and documenting their findings in photo essays, creating neighborhood maps, and interviewing neighbors to learn more about how their neighborhood has changed over time. To expand their learning from “local” to “global,” 3rd graders connect with teachers and students from other parts of the country and globe as members of a “walking party” where they share their learning and gain insight into the lives of our peers from other parts of the world. They engage in dialogue about our shared and differing experiences as well as reflect on Paul Salopek’s journey so far.

Interconnectedness Among All Living Things

To cultivate a deep understanding of how we as humans are connected to other living things (e.g., plants, birds, insects), 1st and 2nd graders work together to build a school garden. While working to meet this goal, they explore Native American growing practices and the role of gardens in different communities. They use measuring and spatial reasoning skills to design a blueprint (to scale) of the garden space, and they collaborate with their peers in the other lower school classes to construct the beds, assemble the compost bin, and plant flowers and vegetables. They share the harvest with their families and the broader school community.

Meet Our Lower School Teachers

Explore our Signature Academic Programs

Preschool – Kindergarten
Through exploration, experimentation, and play, our preschool students find deep understanding in appropriate academic and social learning environments.

1st – 4th Grade
Our lower school students continue their interdisciplinary core subject discoveries with a focus on collaboration and independence.

5th – 8th Grade
Our Upper School students are prepared for success in high school, college, and life. Our program culminates in eight 21st century proficiencies by creating an instructional program so that students can apply what they have learned.

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