The depth and joy of learning in elementary specials classes at Summit School of Ahwatukee

There is nothing ELEMENTARY about Learning in Art, Music, Science, Spanish and Technology in kindergarten – fourth Grades

 April 2015

ART ~ Kathleen Kupper & Selene Kupper


Transportation designs evolved from sketches to final models as students explored the career of industrial design. Printmaking studies invite students to create linear etchings and images that overlay a colored painting. Vocabulary and printmaking processes provide the working techniques to make multiple images. The framed prints are ready for student portfolios. The classroom theme of Growing Things unfolds in the studio with a series of projects. Our first project begins with the story of a student’s science experiment that rains oversized vegetables across the world! We discuss Cezanne’s still life paintings. Students develop drawing skills by realistically depicting a still life of fruits and vegetables. Observational skills are sharpened.

First Grade

First Grade art students researched, sketched, and illustrated depictions of animals and habitats. Realistic drawing, wettodry glazes, and wetonwet watercolor techniques were learned as students produced works for the culminating event. Props for stages sets were constructed to add texture and depth. In addition to producing a glass bowl for the Summit Auction, students learned the working techniques and vocabulary for fused glass art. Using skill and imagination, each first grade student has created their own glass art to take home.

Second Grade

Second Grade constructed handmade pamphlet bound books with waxed linen and beaded spines. The books become part of a classroom writing project. Using fusible millefiori, glass flowers, students created an enchanting vase for the Summit Auction. In addition, the students used millefiori to make their own fused glass surprises! We are studying the artworks of Georgia O’Keeffe and exploring watercolor glaze techniques and compositional devices. As students become immersed in the new classroom theme, we will begin looking at industrial and graphic design through a series of new design projects.

Third Grade

Third Grade was introduced to batik designs from African, Indian, and Indonesian cultures as we celebrate Summit’s Global Awareness Day. Research and sketches evolved into final resist drawings on fabric. Textile paint glazes activate the symbolic drawings with vibrant color stories. Removing the resist added another dimension to our excitement and discovery. Crisp white line drawings emerged and activated the fabric surface. Hand stitches of colored floss complete the works. We completed a collaborative glass platter for the upcoming Summit Auction. In addition, we are exploring new directions in fused glass art. Each student is creating multiple glass components that will form their own complex glass art.

Fourth Grade

Fourth grade studied batik designs from African, Indian, and Indonesian cultures as we celebrate Summit’s Global Awareness Day. Research and sketches evolved into final resist drawings on fabric. Textile paint glazes activate the symbolic drawings with vibrant color stories. Removing the resist added another dimension to our excitement and discovery. Crisp white line drawings emerged and activated the fabric surface. In preparation for the Taliesin West fieldtrip, we are learning about Wright’s architecture and contributions to twentieth century culture. Imagining we are apprentices in the Fellowship, students design and model their own desert shelters. We are looking forward to the tour of Taliesin West.

MUSIC ~ Jennifer Horne


We created music that was inspired by various photos of nature. We enjoyed listening to our creations and having our classmates try and figure out which photo the music was based on. We are also being introduced to how the steady beat in music can be shown with green magnets placed on the board. These magnets can also be arranged to show a song’s melody, how it goes up and down in pitch.

First Grade

We have been creating music to represent the animal and/or habitat we are studying in the home classroom. We are also developing our singing skills through the Habitat Song.

Second Grade

Our focus has been tempo—or the perceived speed of the music. Using a song from American musical heroine Ella Fitzgerald (“ATisket ATasket”), we first passed a ball around the circle on the steady beat at various speeds—slow, fast, medium, getting faster, getting slower, etc. We showed the tempos we used with pictures that look like sine waves – big waves spaced out for slower music and waves closer together for faster music. We have also created our own music and identified the tempo of our music or how it changes tempo.

Third Grade

Coinciding with their study of sound in Science class, we are exploring how to make a variety of sounds with just one object. We recorded these sounds and then listened to them not knowing which object we were hearing. We were challenged to identify the object and more importantly describe the sound’s tone color with apt adjectives, such as “crackling,” “squeaky,” etc. We also started to explore various ways of categorizing these objects and their sounds – based on material, the quality of the tone color, etc. Finally, we are in the stage of inventing and making our own instruments using recycled materials. We will also learn about the HornbostelSachs system of classifying musical instruments.

Fourth Grade

Our focus has been texture in music. We are learning how songs can be put together with various parts—such as a bass line, an ostinato (a repeated pattern), a melody, chords, a rhythmic part, and perhaps another melody. Using the song “I Love the Mountains,” we learn the various parts and decide which part should begin the song, which should come in next, third, etc. We make a texture chart to show when each part plays—kind of like a musical score. Eventually, we will examine a score that uses traditional musical notation. We are also or will be creating our own music in small music and making a texture chart that shows each part and when it plays.

SCIENCE ~ Lori Phillips


The kindergartners are strengthening their observation skills while learning about trees. So far the students have learned the functions of the main parts of a tree (roots, trunk, branches, and leaves), participated in several activities (discussions, puzzles, games, and observations of real trees) to identify properties of conifer and broadleaf trees, and compared and contrasted a variety of leaves. Their favorite activity by far, however, has been the tree scavenger hunt! In teams of two, the kindergartners ventured outside using their observation skills to locate a tree based on the properties they were given in a picture of just a small part of a tree.

First graders

The first graders have begun to study the moon. The unit began with a discussion of what objects are in the “sky”. The brainstorming list contained everything from an insect to a satellite.  As the students shared their thoughts, the list was separated into two categories. After some more discussion and thinking, the students were able to figure out that the list had been sorted into a category of objects that are always in the “sky” (celestial) and others that come and go (transient). We then discussed the night sky vs. the day sky and received confirmation that the moon can sometimes be seen during the day. The first graders were also introduced to model making as they made scale models to represent the size of Earth and our moon. First grade students will also be discovering what causes the moon to appear to change shape (phases).

Second grade

The second graders have finished up their Science / Technology unit. After gaining an understanding that technology is not just electronics and computers, students researched one technology that used science to solve a problem, including clothing, eyeglasses, and baskets. We have also focused on a few scientists that have made contributions to society through their discoveries and inventions. Students have been exposed to Isaac Newton and his Three Laws of Motion, Alexander G. Bell and his telephone, Thomas Edison and his kinetoscope, and Dorothy Hodgkins and her study of crystals. While learning about these scientists, the second graders have also seen inertia in action as they tried to get a hex nut into a bottle, learned how sound travels as they made cup phones, reviewed how the eye sees as they made thaumatropes, and observed properties of salt crystals.

Third graders

The third graders learned a variety of properties of light and sound. They discovered that there are different types of sources (luminescent, and non luminescent), the path light takes, what causes different reflections (regular, diffused), why a pencil appears to bend in water (refraction), and that visible light is actually a spectrum of colors. While exploring sound, it was confirmed that sound is caused by vibrations and that sound can be used to send messages such as a fire alarm. Third graders worked with a variety of instruments (tongue depressor, sound generator, kalimba, xylophone, waterphone, and string beam) in which they discovered that the strength of a vibration changes the volume of sound and that pitch is affected by both the speed (frequency) of a vibration as well as the length of the object that is vibrating.

Fourth grade

Fourth graders have been exploring electricity and circuits this quarter. Working together they were able to figure out how to get a light bulb to light up with a Dcell and two wires, and then with one wire. They were then given additional components to make a circuit that they did not have to hold together. While exploring their completed circuits, the fourth graders came to understand concepts such a series and parallel circuits, short circuits, open and closed circuits, and conductors and insulators.

SPANISH ~ Elsa Conti

Kindergarten amigos

Kindergarten amigos began to practice terminology from “los sentimientos” (feelings) unit. The kindergarteners practiced the expressions: “me siento feliz” (I feel happy) “me siento triste” (I feel sad), “me siento sorprendido” (I feel surprised), “me siento enojado” (I feel angry.) Also, students began to study “ Transportes” (Transportation) unit. Students practiced the words: “el carro” (car), “el taxi” (taxi), “el carro de policía” (police car), “el avión” (plane), “el tren” (train), “el bote” (boat), “el autobús” (bus), and “la bicicleta” (bicycle).

First grade

First grade amigos reviewed vocabulary and songs from last quarter’s curriculum and began to practice terminology from “criaturas del mar” (ocean creatures) unit. The first graders practiced the words: “el delfín” (dolphin) “el pez” (fish), “el pulpo” (octopus), “la tortuga del mar” (seaturtle), “el tiburón” (shark), “la estrella del mar” (starfish), “la medusa” (jellyfish), and “la ballena” (whale.) Also, students reviewed animal’s vocabulary from The Polar region, The African savannah and The rainforest as they played an interactive game on the smartboard.

Second grade

Second grade amigos reviewed vocabulary and songs from last quarter’s curriculum and began to practice terminology from: “El alfabeto en español” (Spanish alphabet.) The second graders compared and contrasted the English and Spanish alphabets and reviewed the letters “ch” “ll” “ñ” and “rr”. Also, students researched words that start with letters “a” (agua, azul, amigo, arriba) and “e” (elefante, estrella, excelente, escuela) and played “lotería del alfabeto en español” (Spanish alphabet bingo.) Also, students took turns presenting their “Ocupaciones” (Occupations) power point presentations.

Third grade

Third grade amigos reviewed vocabulary and songs from last quarter’s curriculum and began to study “Los Países de Latinomérica” (Latin American Countries.) Students brainstormed different countries where Spanish is the official language. They began a powerpoint; which included countries, capitals and flags of Latin American countries. They learned different facts about Argentina. Also, the third graders wrapped up last quarter’s unit by finishing “Mis favoritos” (My favorites) and “Los Animales” (Animals) powerpoint presentations.

Fourth grade amigos

Fourth grade amigos learned how to describe their favorites by using the expression: “Me gusta” (I like). “Me gusta jugar el fútbol Americano” (I like to play football,) “Me gusta leer el libro Sobrevivi” (I like to read the book Survival) “Me gusta comer la pizza” (I like to eat pizza,) “Me gusta cantar Blank Space” (I like to sing Blank Space,) etc. Students reviewed basic Spanish dialogues and began to practice terminology from “El Sistema Solar” (The Solar System) unit. Also, the Fourth graders continued to present their weather projects. I am very impressed with the students’ ability to read their scripts in Spanish and their unique and creative ways to display their movie. Parents, thank you so much for your support!

TECHNOLOGY ~ Gail Soderquist


Students continue to practice their keyboarding skills in Dance Mat. We have a poster in the lab where they can record their name when they finish a level during class. Students also practiced typing a document recently about the Statue of Liberty and a spring poem. We also reviewed some computer vocabulary and talked about how we get the Internet in the lab. Satellites and how they help us with communication on earth was also a topic of discussion during class.

 First grade

Students have been creating some items for the upcoming culminating event about animals and habitats. One class session they edited headings for their posters by changing fonts and colors. These were then saved to their folder on the network. They also imported a photo of their animal and typed captions underneath, which was a several step process. They did a wonderful job doing these tasks in class!

Second grade

Students have been practicing their keyboarding skills and also doing some activities that tie in with their theme of business and economy. One of those activities was a virtual lemonade stand where they had to choose different options in order to end up with a profit for their business. Another activity was called Coffee Shop where they had similar choices and one where they had to keep track of their spending and debt. Last week students created flyers for their class snack business.

 Third grade

The environment and endangered animals has been the theme that we have been tying lab activities into lately during class. There are a number of interesting web resources where students have learned about these issues. Currently they are working on a PowerPoint presentation about a particular endangered animal, which includes descriptions and reasons why they are threatened. Next week we will be working on a word processing activity about recycling.

 Fourth grade

Students have been doing keyboarding practice in during class, and also learning about Mythology on various web resources. Recently they began working on a presentation on this topic, and will learn how to add music to it. The next presentation program we will learn about is Prezi, which is a web based tool with so many exciting options.

Four Summit School of Ahwatukee Alumni Qualify as 2013 National Merit Semifinalist

Summit School of Ahwatukee congratulates 2010 graduates Marissa Patel, Kelsey Harrison, Nora Mencinger, and Bomi Johnson who are now part of the prestigious and elite group of 2013 National Merit Semifinalists.

“Often high schools of 2,000 to 3,000 students have at most only a handful students earn this distinction. For Summit to have four students in a graduating class of 29 is exemplary,” exclaims Head of School, Patrick O’Brien. “We are clearly proud of these graduates, and of the caliber of our teachers and curriculum.”

Marissa Patel - resized for Facebook

Marissa Patel, a Summit valedictorian, attends Xavier Preparatory High School. She aspires to attend an Ivy League school and becoming a doctor. Her weighted GPA of 4.5 indicates that her dream will likely become reality.

 “At Summit I discovered my love for learning,” exclaims Patel. “The middle-school years really helped to prepare me for my high school experience. Through the broad curriculum and engaging teachers, I was able to create a strong foundation for the wide-range of subjects taught in high school. The close-knit bonds made during my eight years at Summit allowed me to have the confidence to face the larger environment of high school. I am incredibly thankful for the liberal arts education as it has shaped who I am today!”

 Who Patel is today is a very busy and accomplished leader. She is a member of Xavier’s Key Club, Mu Alpha Theta Math Honors Society, National Spanish Honors Society, National Honors Society, Quill and Scroll Honors Society, Unity in Diversity Club, a Student Ambassador, a sprinter on Xavier’s track team, and the current Editor-in-Chief of the school yearbook. Additionally, this year Patel and sister Monika created the first Xavier / Brophy Hope-a-Thon event: a cancer fundraiser walk for the City of Hope, to benefit cancer research and patient treatment.

Kelsey HarrisonKelsey Harrison, also a senior at Xavier, received Summit’s 2010 Sabre Cat Award which recognizes enthusiasm, service, attitude and academic excellence. The award proved to be given to the right person as Harrison still volunteers in Summit’s preschool summer camps. Also an accomplished guitarist, she began taking lessons with Summit’s middle school music teacher Dr. Chris Dorsey, when she was 5, and remains a student of his today.

At Xavier, Harrison continues her legacy of service as the Spanish Club president, and an active member of The National Honor Society, Key club, Spanish National Honor Society, the Diversity Committee, Leadership Council, and the Academic Decathlon team.  Additionally, she is a teacher’s assistant for AP biology and AP chemistry. She is an AP scholar with distinction and has won awards related to the National Spanish Exam.  She began Spanish as a student in Summit’s preschool. Amidst all this Harrison has earned a 4.5 weighted grade point.  Harrison exclaims, “Summit is a great community and the teachers are amazing.  Because of Summit I was well prepared for advanced classes at Xavier.” 

Nora MencingerNora Mencinger, who will graduate from Mountain Pointe High School, hopes to attend MIT, combining her passion and abilities in science and math.  “I’m interested in going out of state as it will be a rich and hopefully rewarding new experience,” explains Mencinger. Her weighted grade point of 4.83 will likely have MIT anxious to have her enroll. When asked what influence Summit had on her education she shared, “Summit teachers provided a culture of encouragement and of always trying your best that prepared me very well for my successes in high school and beyond.”

Bomi Johnson Bomi Johnson, who will graduate from Desert Vista High School, is an accomplished musician on the piano and flute. She has won many awards for both instruments and has performed with numerous groups, including the Phoenix Youth Symphony, the American String Teachers Association National High School Honors Orchestra, the Arizona All State Band, and North Central Region Orchestra, and the National Honor Band of America. Johnson also runs with the Desert Vista Cross Country team and has leadership positions with the Desert Vista National Honors Society, Desert Vista STAND Club and is a member of the Model United Nations, Desert Vista Symphony Orchestra.

Giving her time and talent to the community is also important to Johnson, who volunteers at the Desert Botanical Garden, as a docent, camp counselor, and special events. She is also the president of the Melodic Minors, a charitable organization which consists of high school musicians in the Phoenix area, who play for various events, including musical fundraising for the Phoenix Youth Symphony.

 This is the fifth Summit graduate to earn this distinction.  2008 Summit graduate Brett Reardon was a National Merit Finalist. He was co-salutatorian of his 8th grade class at Summit. Brett Reardon