The Upper Elementary Program at Summit is comprised of fourth, fifth, and sixth grades, combined in a multiage classroom. As students progress, the most senior of them become classroom leaders, continuing a cycle of peer mentoring and cooperation. All Upper Elementary students are considered school leaders and stewards, routinely engaging in activities such as car line greeting and recycling collection that support the entire Summit community. Students on the Upper Elementary level engage in individual work as well as collaborative activity in both small and larger groups. Mathematics, Language Arts, and Cultural Studies (History, Geography, Botany, Zoology, and Physical Science) represent the major areas of study, with Music, Visual Arts, Spanish and Physical Education integrated as important areas of special interest.
The beauty of Summit’s Upper Elementary lies in our warm classroom environment, our personalized approach to education and our low student: teacher ratios. As with all class levels, students find inspiration and encouragement within our walls. The students receive a comprehensive, progressive education and are encouraged to embrace their strengths and areas of interest as well as to master key skills in all academic domains.
The sixth year in the Summit Elementary Program is considered to be each student’s capstone year. As such, it includes some special opportunities including participating in the Montessori Model United Nations in New York City. This initiative to illustrate conflict and promote world peace is an advanced and in-depth popular program that students usually do not participate in until secondary school. Summit sixth-graders attended for the first time in 2007, and this is now part of the Upper Elementary curriculum each year. In addition, each sixth grade student conducts a year-long research project (Senior Project) based on an area of interest; each student presents a summary of his or her project to the entire school community at year’s end.
The graduation of sixth grade students leads to continuation at public and private middle and secondary schools. In any case, these students are well prepared to think, to speak, to write, to respect each other and the environment. Each graduate offers a graduation speech to the community, reflecting on his or her time at Summit and the personal meaning gained from these years. We are proud that our alumni are indeed lifelong learners, for that is Summit’s core Mission.
“It is the spirit of the child that can determine the course of human progress and lead it perhaps even to a higher form of civilization.”
-Dr. Maria Montessori
Upper Elementary math lessons build on those of the Lower Elementary. Students continue to practice the four arithmetic operations leading to abstraction, and work with fractions, ratio and percents. A substantial portion of the curriculum involves working with data and graphs, giving students an introduction to statistics and probability. An emphasis on advanced geometry materials allows in-depth presentations of geometric statements. Fundamental concepts such as congruence/symmetry, the Pythagorean Theorem, and order of operations are introduced. By sixth grade, students have begun to work in greater depth on algebraic functions.
The language curriculum is composed of core reading and writing programs implemented in small groups. Literary genres from folk tales and fantasy to science and historical fiction are included, as well as reading and discussing newspapers and current event magazines. Students read and analyze works of fiction and non-fiction; they produce essays, research papers, and creative writing including poetry; they give oral presentations and participate in debates. Teachers build on the fundamentals with a focus on advanced vocabulary, grammar and sentence structure.
Subjects such as Geography, the Arts, Economics and Science are covered in a three-year cycle, so that each focus area is repeated every three years in greater depth and detail. Upper Elementary students conduct topic research and routinely give presentations to their class. The UE students hone their presentation skills using a variety of formats, for example conducting formal debates, sharing work at whole school community meetings, and presenting original research at the Science Fair, for which the UE students pursue an area of personal interest to research, learning to apply the scientific method to test a hypothesis. Students are supported throughout the process: they brainstorm the feasibility of their projects with classmates, set short term goals for various pieces of the project, then design and carry out an experiment. The work culminates when projects are presented to the school-wide community at the Science Fair, held each spring.
Geography and History studies are synchronized in three-year cycles with the Lower Elementary Program, the Upper El students extending their knowledge of a designated geographic area or time period through shared readings, research, projects and discussion. The Lower and Upper Elementary groups often share cultural experiences and field trips. Recent excursions have included the OceanQuest trip from the Wood’s Hole Oceanographic Institute, a visit to Plimoth Plantation and the Mayflower, and a trip to thePeabodyEssexMuseuminSalemto study the Yin Yu Tang house.
Nature’s Classroom is one of the exciting programs unique to our Upper Elementary level. Nature’s Classroom is a residential outdoor environmental education program. All Upper Elementary students and teachers spend three days living and working together at one of the program’s New England locations. Here, they develop a sense of community and appreciation for each other, confidence in themselves, and first-hand knowledge of the natural environment and the concept of sustainability.