Emphasis: Where Learning Comes Alive for All Ages
Collaborative Learning and Presenting to Peers in K/1

Schools often aspire to being "communities of learners," where everyone--adults and children alike--engage the process of discovery. This is a powerful concept; it demonstrates to students that lifelong learning is real and alive, that learning is a joyful process that never ends.

Of all that is special about High Meadows, Emphasis, a two-week period during which everyone of all ages studies the same unit, is one of the most special. Though difficult to put into words, I like to think of Emphasis as a time when academic study meets imagination and creativity.

Read on and learn all about the wonder of Emphasis. The experience is dramatic and exciting, offering a dynamic demonstration of what makes High Meadows School such an extraordinary educational environment.

Take care,
Jay's signature
Jay Underwood
Head of School
"Emphasis": A Unique High Meadows Tradition

By  Lee Hunter, Front Office Manager and parent to Will Bruggeman (2012)

One of the most beloved traditions of High Meadows School is Emphasis,  a period of time when the entire school, Preschool through Eighth Grade, studies one topic in developmentally appropriate and multifaceted ways. Beginning in 1989 (when the topic was Weather), Emphasis has offered an opportunity for the entire community (parents, teachers, students) to learn together and to support one another in their exploration. The broad topics (see previous years topics) allow students and classrooms to interpret the topic in their own ways, guided by their interests and inquiries. Working individually or in groups, students work toward a final project to share what they have learned; however, the emphasis remains on the learning process rather than a final project that is graded or judged. 

Emphasis is perhaps the quintessential example of a High Meadows learning experience: child-driven and developmentally appropriate, with teacher guidance and input, emphasizing the learning process over the final product. Read further for examples of students' work from this year's Emphasis with the topic Cleopatra. I think you will be amazed at the curiosity, creativity, and intellect of our students!
Unpacking a Broad Topic
Different classrooms approach the broad topic of Cleopatra in a variety of ways. Working together as a class, students and teachers share ideas, brainstorming what they already know about the topic as well as what they would like to learn.

Lower grades use images, as well as words to "unpack" or discover narrower topics of interest. 

A PreK Class Documents Their Opening Discussion on "Cleopatra"

Middle Years students created a large timeline as a context for their individual areas of interest. The timeline enabled students to share ideas with one another and provided an overall context for the historical period and Cleopatra.

A Middle Years Student Notes an Ancient Numerical System on the Class Timeline

Focusing on Process over Product

Inquiry, discovery, critical thinking, and communication are all at the heart of Emphasis. The focus is on how we learn rather than what our final project will look like.

4/5 Students Collaborate to Create a Model of an Egyptian Home

At High Meadows, the process of learning is fun! And that's especially true d uring the weeks of Emphasis.

K/1 Students Work in Teams to Transform a Peer into an Egyptian Mummy

Our PreK Classes Learn First-hand How Ancient Egyptians Used Make-Up

Using Technology to Explore the Emphasis Topic

Emphasis Night

Emphasis culminates with a single evening during which students, parents and community members are invited to see how each class and grade level approached the topic. Students use a wide variety of creative methods to share what they have learned in their Emphasis studies, including artwork, games, performance and replicas of historic artifacts.

PreK Students Learned About Ancient Pottery by Creating Their Own Works of Art

A K/1 Student Shares His Research on Egyptian Burial, Specifically Canopic Jars

A 4/5 Student Devised a Game to Present His Research on Mummies

A Middle Years Student Created a Replica of The Hanging Gardens of Babylon

To see more photos from the weeks leading up to Emphasis Night, check out our Facebook Album here
Day-By-Day: How A Kindergarten-First Grade Class Approached "Cleopatra"

The Kleinberg/Swern K-1 Class Documented Their Emphasis Journey


The High Meadows community celebrates and perpetuates each individual's quest for knowledge and skill, sense of wonder, and connection to the natural environment. We empower each to be a compassionate, responsible, and active global citizen.

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