Portland Progressive Grade School 2nd and 3rd Graders | Sapphire Class

Portland independent school

Seven and Eight year-olds at Summa Academy

Come into the Sapphire classroom and you will see Mr. Peters and educating a group of engaged, energetic, and creative mixed-age students. In the bean bag corner, they gather in front of the bookcase to read and enjoy a story. On a more academic level, Mr. Peters is engaging them in a discussion about the motivations of the characters in a story, and introducing them to the concept of character development. Just before lunch, they sit at their desks for math, using many different modalities to explore mathematical concepts.

After recess you will find our curious students solving story problems about money, exploring fractions using clocks, building geometric designs with pattern blocks, or puzzling through equations using pencil and paper. Our first and second grade class is a diverse, well organized, and rich learning environment.

Founded in their comprehensive understanding of child development and brain research, the Sapphire educator employs developmentally appropriate curriculum based on their knowledge of the strengths and challenges of each student. They enjoy regular, meaningful communication with parents. The 11:1 student-to-educator ratio provides ample time to build trustworthy relationships with each student.

For more on Summa’s philosophy, click here.

Mr. Peters - Lead Educator

Mr. Peters

I am an educator. My lifelong commitment to education has finally found its proper home at Summa Academy. I hold dear that authentic education must include both Academic Excellence and Emotional Intelligence. This means that the relationship between student and teacher is placed at the center of the learning process. Only in a trusting environment can a student have the necessary safety and respect to actualize his or her inherent greatness.

Previous places of employment, while beneficial to my growth, did not embody the educational values I hold dear. For years I wondered how it might be done. Then I came upon Natural Learning Relationships and its astute appreciation of how children organize their world. I immediately recognized that at its core, Natural Learning Relationships describes how we develop Academic Excellence and Emotional Intelligence by relating to children within their developmental capacities.

I know that my Sapphire students are growing into new competencies. Often they’re hesitant to step into them as they feel unsure about how to deal with lack of success. I love to participate in the safety of the room so my students can see that it’s okay to keep trying. It is this process that allows each student access to their greatness.

Academic Excellence

Summa educators combine knowledge of a student’s academic and social capacities with a firm understanding of their learning style and brain development to achieve Academic Excellence and Emotional Intelligence. As students spend two years in the Sapphire classroom community relationships among students, parents, and educators flourish.

Educator and parent collaborate on the Personal Learning Plan at the beginning of the year to ensure strengths and challenges are well understood. The educators track progress with monthly student notes that are shared with parents. Three times a year, parent/educator conferences focus on a detailed summary assessment of the academic proficiencies accomplished that term. As the year progresses and a student grows personally, socially, and academically, parents see this progress as additional proficiencies are added to the assessment.

Sapphire reading cirle.

Emotional Intelligence

Sapphire students are starting a transition in Emotional Intelligence. Significant brain growth occurs through their two years as Sapphires. Summa educators are knowledgeable about child development, so they know successful transition requires trust.

Emotional needs developing during the first year in the Sapphire class must be nurtured while budding capacities of the forthcoming stage are cultivated. Each student’s “ownership” of their physical space and sense of belongingness must be kept safe and secure while educators mentor new depth to feelings of care for one another. Emotional Intelligence comes forward as students reflect on how their feelings influence their actions. Even conflicts become non-threatening opportunities for learning in a relational environment. Steadily, trust in self and in one another emerges and blossoms.

Sapphire students study the life cycle of the butterfly.

Using activities that invite self-reflection, such as journaling, conversation, and social games, they explore the world of Emotional Intelligence. The emotions and motivations of characters in books are examined and insights enthusiastically debated. Conflicts become learning opportunities to improve communication. Students develop the ability to recognize and respect another’s perspective. For example, discovering how to be friends even when frustrated can be the most important lesson of the day.

Experiential Learning

Second grade science fair.

Our Sapphire students love to learn through their experiences. This provides a practical, hands-on way for them to explore subjects. For example, students run through a large open space configured to represent the circulatory system, exchanging red and blue bean bags as they change from arterial to venous blood, learning how the heart brings oxygen to the body. The incorporation of traditional and experiential teaching methods increase children’s joy in learning and helps them retain information. Summa educators engage endless variations as they pair their profound knowledge of the students with the main focus subjects, thus bringing experiential learning alive.

Every day Sapphire students enjoy Sound to Symbol Praxis, which teaches students phonics in a relevant and memorable way. The genius of Sound to Symbol Praxis lies in creating music out of our everyday speech and then using the sounds to find the syllables, and then the written symbols of language. Reading ability soars, along with math, Emotional Intelligence, art, and movement during this fun-filled musical activity.

Sapphire students often present their work to their classmates when it is complete.

Physical Activity

Brain research shows that morning physical activity promotes cognitive and behavioral competence. The entire school does thirty minutes of physical exercise together each morning. Activities vary, and students usually have two activities to choose from. Some examples include Tae Kwon Do, dance, soccer and ball skills, relay races, and cooperative games. Sapphire students also enjoy extra outside time for either free play, or organized games when their educators see the need for body movement.
Sapphire students jump and run at least five times a day.


In art students study technique through the great artists of history.

Every week Sapphire students come together with Diamonds (this mixed-age group includes students from kindergarten to third grade) to participate in formal art class. Well-known and lesser-known artists are studied and their stylistic innovations sampled. Art projects vary, and technique and creativity are valued. In addition to formal art class once a week, the Sapphire students engage in artistic projects every day. Art projects often support theme-based learning.

A Day in the Life of a Sapphire Student

9:00-9:30 Welcome; Music; Review of the day’s planned learning
9:30-10:00 Physical Activity with the rest of the school
10:15 (MWF) Language Arts (such as parts of speech, using volume, pitch, phrasing, pace, modulation, gestures, and eye contact appropriately to enhance meaning, writing). (TTH) Spanish
11:00 Body Break, time to run outside
11:30-12:30 Read aloud, discussion, writing, journaling, classroom jobs
12:30-1:20 Lunch and Recess
1:30-2:15 Science & Math
2:15-3:15 Project Based Learning
3:15-3:30 Daily debrief; students reflect and exchange views about their experiences
Summa students work cooperatively to achieve goals.