4th Grade

From a parent: “Our child is new to Summit School of Ahwatukee this year. The teachers have been so supportive in helping our child quickly acclimate to the new environment and thoroughly enjoy Summit School. Our child gives Summit 9.8 out of 10 (the .2 is “just to leave room for improvement”).

I was particularly pleased about the positive behavior program developed by Summit: “Character Education and Respect Education” (CARE) program.  We feel it is important for the students to know and uphold expectations. The positive recognition through the CARE tickets really helped our child quickly understand expectations and feel comfortable about fitting in at Summit.

We are extremely pleased with the teachers. Our child already has a love of learning but is a perfectionist so we are particularly focused on building our child’s confidence as a key to a successful AND a fulfilling life. The teachers have made every effort to help our child transition easily and are always pleased to address any questions or concerns.

It is clear that the teachers and staff passionately believe in the value of Summit School of Ahwatukee. Our child, along with all of the Summit students, will benefit greatly from the early education and thinking skills they are gaining, for the rest of their lives.”

~ Parent of a 4th grader

Language Arts

The goal of the Summit School of Ahwatukee language arts program is to help children see that writing doesn’t have to be a hard process and that is has real world application. Students will use a number of techniques through out the year to help them become better writers.


The goal of the Summit School of Ahwatukee literature program is to develop lifelong readers who read for a variety of purposes and to develop strategic readers who are able to employ a variety of techniques to understand what they are reading. To achieve this, we use a combination of daily mini-lessons in reading with time for individual reading, conferencing and small group skill work.


The Summit School of Ahwatukee elementary math program is based on Math Expressions by: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

This program offers students a broad background in math concepts, reinforced through a significant amount of dynamic, hands-on, interactive activities.

Children in first through sixth grades are pre-assessed before each new unit of study and are placed, for that unit, in either the grade-level or accelerated paced group. With ability grouping, hands-on learning, and small class sizes, our students successfully learn and retain math concepts at advanced levels.

Math Expressions is distinguished by a number of features which include:

Real-life Applications Throughout each unit, real-world situations are incorporated. Numbers, skills, and mathematical concepts are not presented in isolation, but are linked to contexts that are relevant to everyday lives. The curriculum also provides numerous suggestions for incorporating math into daily classroom routines and other subject areas.

Problem Solving A variety of problem-solving approaches are emphasized to allow students to investigate and understand mathematical concepts. Problems are formulated through everyday situations and are solved by interpreting results and applying learned strategies. As a result, confidence is acquired in using mathematics meaningfully.

Balanced Instruction Each lesson includes time for whole-group instruction as well as small group, partner, or individual activities. These activities balance teacher-directed instruction with more opportunities for open-ended, hands-on explorations, long-term projects, and ongoing practice.

Multiple Methods for Basic Skills Practice Numerous methods for basic skills practice and review are provided. Summit emphasizes learning through a wide variety of math games, written and choral fact drills, mental math, math boxes (daily sets of review problems), homework, and timed tests.

Emphasis on Communication Throughout the curriculum, students are encouraged to explain and discuss their mathematical thinking in their own words. Opportunities to verbalize their thoughts and strategies give children the chance to clarify their reasoning and gain insights from others.

Home / School Partnerships For grades first to third, daily home learning provides opportunities for family members to participate in students’ mathematical learning. Take-home packets are provided for most lessons in grades four to six.

Social Studies

Fourth grade students begin the transition into formal research projects by delving into the United States and in particular Arizona.

The first semester theme is Arizona. Our semester revolves around the big idea of, “Here Today, Gone Tomorrow.” Students explore the history, geography, people, and culture of our state. Learning incorporates fictional novels and close non-fiction reading on the topic. Students present group projects on this theme to expand the child’s learning. Students will understand that all subjects are intertwined in some form.

Each student chooses a specific topic to research related to Arizona (a ghost town, an important person or invention). They will then use this research to develop a report, display board, a multi-media presentation, a speech, and two visual supporting projects (such as a travel brochure, topographical maps, or other projects from a choice menu).

We culminate this semester with a “Here Today, Gone Tomorrow” parent event. The evening is designed to help students show off all their work while also learning the importance of preparation and prior knowledge. As parents, teachers, and visitors walk around, students talk with them about their report, multi-media project, and speech. Each student beams with pride and it’s another wonderful opportunity for students to develop their public speaking skills.

Students also take an educational and fun field trip to Kartchner Caverns, Tombstone, Arizona Historical Society, Junior Achievement’s Biz Town, Arizona State Capitol as well as Taliesin West.

The second semester theme focuses on the States and Regions. Students learn about the 50 states, their regions, climate, geography, commerce, and more.

Throughout the year students will also study current and world events, utilizing Time for Kids, a weekly classroom news magazine with issues covering a wide range of real-world topics. TIME For Kids builds reading and writing skills and is easily integrated across curriculum, including social studies, science and math, and strengthens reading of nonfiction text.

Art - Named Best in the United States

The Summit School of Ahwatukee art curriculum is based on the Vitruvius Program. This art, architecture and design program enables students to use their creative intelligence to express ideas and concepts in tangible forms. As students engage in work based on real and imagined projects, they deepen critical thinking, narrative problem solving, spatial reasoning, and visual perception.

Design and architecture projects bring an important dimension of thinking to the program. The students learn to find reasons for their work outside of artistic self-expression, becoming divergent thinkers, and gaining a foundation for understanding a changing world.

By studying works from history and the present, students understand how art and design have made significant contributions in the shaping of culture. Students see that their creative work is part of a continuum with other artists, architects, and designers. Critiques develop the ability to observe, discriminate, compare, and contrast creative works. Students learn how to use critical language to interpret work and explain their understanding of its purposes.

The Vitruvius Program curriculum was developed with grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Arizona Commission on the Arts.

In 2011, this exceptional program was named the best art and architecture school curriculum in the United States, by the Association of Architecture Organizations (AAO) and winner of the National School award. Summit represented the United States in the UIA Golden Cubes International Competition in Tokyo.

In 2009 Phoenix Magazine recognized the Vitruvius Program as one of the top five education programs in Metro-Phoenix.

The Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art invited the Vitruvius Program at Summit School to create two different exhibitions for their young@art Gallery.

The first exhibit, Bridges: Connecting Earth to Sky, displayed from October 2010 to January 2011, and included architecture and design work from each Summit student in kindergarten through sixth grade. The second exhibit, Cycles From Fields to Cities, displayed from February through April 2013, also includes student works from Finland, France, Russia and Sweden, features designs from third and fifth grade Summit students. The architectural project was co-created by Summit art instructor Kathleen Kupper. This project asks children from many countries to think reflectively about the current state of their city’s design, and challenges them to share how they would reconstruct and reconfigure old and new elements. Artworks range from architectural models and drawings to animations.


Music is an important cornerstone of the liberal arts program at Summit School of Ahwatukee. Students have the opportunity to play instruments, sing, and compose. The music department also orchestrates the Winter concert for the school.

The music curriculum involves participation in hands-on musical explorations that incorporate thinking musically, creatively, and critically. Students develop a comprehensive, basic foundation of musical understandings, skills, and experiences that will enable them to choose and pursue enriching musical experiences beyond elementary school.

Musical experiences, as recommended by state (AZ) and national (MENC) standards will include:

Performing: Singing, Playing Instruments, Improvising

Creating: Composing, Arranging, Improvising

Listening: Listening, Analyzing, Describing music, Evaluating music and music performances, Responding to music through Movement

Musical Context: Understanding music in relation to history and culture, Understanding relationships between music and other arts and disciplines outside the arts

Experiences will be structured as whole-class, small group, and individualized activities. Concepts explored will include: • Tone Color (timbre) • Duration (rhythm) • Musical Controls (volume, tempo, articulation) • Pitch (melody, harmony)


Spanish language experiences, as recommended by state (AZ) and national foreign language standards include:

Communication: Respond to simple commands, perform short plays, poems, and songs, and express and react to a variety of feelings.

Culture: Participate in age-appropriate cultural activities and recognize how the target language and its culture add to the richness of our own cultural diversity.

Connections: Discuss topics in other school subjects in the target language (e.g. math: “más-menos”, science: “los planetas”, etc.) and present reports in the target language orally and/or in writing on topics being studied in other classes.

Comparisons: Make basic comparisons between the celebrations of the target culture and their own culture (e.g. Halloween and “EL Día de los Muertos”) and compare and contrast a variety of art forms (e.g. music, dance, visual arts, and drama) with their own culture through oral and/or written descriptions and/or performances.


The Summit School of Ahwatukee science program is taught in a state of art science laboratory facility with science stations, microscopes and an abundance of hands-on learning materials; all necessary tools to make science engaging and fun.

Hands-on, experiment-based science begins in our kindergarten science class and continues through Chemistry and Physics in eighth grade.

Elementary students visit the science lab twice per week. Students’ analytical skills and critical thinking soar through experiential learning, as they develop a love of science.

The fourth grade science curriculum incorporates the following themes: Variables; Energy & Magnetism; Plants & Animals; Science Fair Projects

For example, in the Variables unit students will formulate predictions, plan an investigation that identifies the variable to be controlled, identify possible relationships between variables, conduct investigations, create bar graphs, line graphs, Venn Diagrams and models, analyze data to identify trends and form conclusions.

While studying energy fourth grade students are introduced to electrical circuitry by manipulating batteries, wires, and light bulbs, to gain an understanding of parallel circuits.


By fourth grade, students have become more skilled at keyboarding and word processing, and expand out into more “creative” types of projects. Programs such as Moviemaker and PhotoStory are used to create videos. Simple computer programming is done in Scratch. The study of states and Arizona is integrated into projects such as online publishing and web site creation.

Physical Education

Elementary Physical Education and Wellness at Summit follows closely with the Dynamic Physical Education Curriculum, created By Dr. Robert Pangrazi of Arizona State University, which is widely recognized throughout the world. The program has four distinct sections to each class: an instant/introductory activity followed by a fitness component and a sport and/or motor lesson that is then followed by a game. Other nationally-recognized components include AAHPERD’s Physical Best curriculum, the Cooper Institute’s Fitnessgram / Activitygram, and Project Adventure.

Thematic Learning

Thematic learning is an educational strength of Summit School. Throughout the year, each grade delves into many different topics of study that are reinforced through reading, writing, math, social studies, and whenever possible, include related projects within art, technology, music, library, Spanish, science, and even PE. Many of these projects have special “culminating events” allowing students to enhance public speaking skills as they present many facets of the project in group or individual presentations for parents and the school community.

Get to Know - 4th Grade Faculty

Ashley Burbach

Fourth Grade Teacher

Ashley Burbach has been teaching at Summit since 2009 and loves being a part of the Summit community. She grew up in Arizona and graduated from Arizona State University with a BA in Early Childhood Education. She also holds a Masters in Education with a specialization in reading and mathematics for grades Kindergarten through 6th. Ms. Burbach is passionate about continuing her own education and also enjoys taking on additional leadership roles at Summit. She recently became a Google Certified Educator (Level 1) and in 2014 completed The Intel Math training program for teachers.
In her classroom, Ms. Burbach incorporates hands-on learning and real-life connections while emphasizing respect and responsibility. She is very excited for another productive and fun school year!

Kyle Allen

Fourth Grade Teacher

Kyle Allen graduated from the University of New Mexico with a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Education. He majored in Elementary Education with a minor in Language Arts. He is a firm believer in continuing education and has presented and participated in numerous professional development seminars and conferences, including his most recent, learning and experiencing through the Intel Math Program. He is always anxious for new opportunities to learn.

 Mr. Allen’s teaching career began in 2002. Two years later he found his home in 4th grade, which he still enjoys teaching today, joining Summit in 2007. Additionally Mr. Allen coaches after school soccer at Summit. He thoroughly enjoys working with children, and seeing their faces light up with their accomplishments.

Molly Danforth

Math Specialist, Kindergarten through Fifth Grade

Molly Danforth has over twenty years of teaching first through third grades. She has also earned the prestigious National Board Certification. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Education from Gonzaga University, and a Masters in Education in 1997 from Northern Arizona University.  To expand her teaching skills Ms. Danforth has taken additional training in Cognitively Guided Instruction, Intel Math, as well as several other math courses, and has earned a Reading Endorsement in 2002 from Arizona State University. Ms. Danforth joined Summit in 2007 as a 2nd grade teacher and now serves as Summit’s Kindergarten – 2nd grade math coordinator, using her expertise to enhance classroom math instruction and assessments, and further Summit’s teachers’ professional development in mathematics.