Upper School

Upper School Food Project with Young Fives and Kindergarteners

What to expect from Upper School

At Summers-Knoll, our 5th through 8th grade students can do the work of most high school students.  

The Upper School Experience

Upper School teachers go even deeper with the complexity and creativity of the projects and core academic work while never losing sight of the student’s social and emotional needs. Our goal is to prepare Upper School students to be successful in whatever future endeavors they choose. As in the Lower School, master classes with experts from various disciplines are regular, and field trips that bring to life what children are learning are essential. As the oldest group of students, each middle schooler supports their younger peers by teaching common subjects, mentorship, and simply being a friend who can be counted on. 


While the complexity, student autonomy, and duration of the Upper School projects differ based on the ages of the students, projects motivate students. As a result of meaningful inquiry-based learning that relates to and/or addresses real-world issues, each student’s sense of responsibility to their community grows and deepens throughout the Upper School years. The Upper School student experience is exemplified by the application and transfer of knowledge into action. Whether they are participating in a state-wide writing competition or engaging in web-based dialogues with college-age students about perennial philosophical and ethical issues, Upper School students use a range of communicative tools to express their ideas as well as grapple with and appreciate other people’s perspectives. Through their efforts and risk-taking, as well as many opportunities to engage publicly with community members outside of Summers-Knoll, they develop self-efficacy as well as an understanding of how their actions – individually and collectively – can impact the people and environment around them.

Place Out of Time

In 5th through 8th grades, participation in programs such as the University of Michigan’s Place Out of Time simulation, which require grounding in historical eras and players, provides opportunities for interdisciplinary learning and authentic purposes for applying new knowledge. In this multidimensional, multimodal project, students learn about history, politics, ethics, and themselves. Driven by the question of what would happen if the greatest minds of history came together, Upper School students conduct historical research, write biographies of their chosen historical figure, engage in online Place Out of Time discussion forums with the University of Michigan undergraduates who are engaged in the same inquiry, and write and perform a monologue or a dialogue with another character for the school community and parents.

Museum of Science

In their Museum of Science project, the 7th and 8th graders learn about diverse physical science concepts as well as how to teach others about science with effective exhibit design. After choosing a concept for a demonstration, they engage in an iterative process of design, practice, troubleshooting, and giving and receiving feedback. They research their chosen science topics and develop critical thinking skills through their evaluation and critiquing of peers’ exhibit designs. After much preparation and rehearsal, they are given multiple opportunities to perform their demonstrations for different audiences. Their individual projects are complemented by the class’s team creation of an interactive science exhibit, which was informed by their visits to local science museums. Through multiple lenses of an exhibit designer, a teacher, and a learner, they experience and analyze of a wide range of exhibits. This “on the ground” research teaches students how to use the world around them to inform a design of their own creations.

Meet Our Upper 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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