Adolescent 1

Adolescent 1 (grades 7 and 8) Program

Great River School’s Adolescent 1 program consists of 7th and 8th grades. Each year of the two year cycle includes specific work, study, and educational experiences.

Montessori for the Early Adolescent

Great River’s A1 Montessori program is rooted in field studies and humanities, core disciplines that focus on experiential and project based learning.  A connection to an urban garden and earth centered experiences lend depth to the program.  This reflects Maria Montessori’s vision of the proper learning environment for the adolescent.  Students use a large time block to explore the interconnectedness of math and science in Field Studies where hands-on activities yield real life results.  During Humanities, students experience the interdisciplinary nature of English and Social Studies.  Projects resulting from these disciplines enable students to delve deeply into areas of personal interest.  Plans are underway to develop a garden area on our urban campus.

Key Experiences

Odyssey Trip

The year begins with an Odyssey, a multiple day adventure learning trip, where students and staff camp and cook together while traveling as a group. The Odyssey has a two year cycle, going east one year and west the next.

Working together to camp, cook and strengthen their ties to each other and community, students will travel east one year and west the next.  These trips become an odyssey as they depend upon student leadership, community building, overcoming challenges, and intense academic studies.

  • EAST:  students head to Michigan, stopping at the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, Deerfield Village, The Ford Museum and Mackinaw Island in Michigan as well as other sites along the way.  They can compare the effects of the Industrial Period on this part of Michigan with that of its effect on Minneapolis and St. Paul. Students will also be exposed to different ecological aspects of the area.
  • WEST: students head to South Dakota to focus on westward expansion, Native American history and culture and ecology. The focus is the ecology, geology, and history of the American West.


During January the A1 community becomes a theater troupe.  This is a high-quality theater program, led by an experienced actor and director with many crews focusing on music, marketing, props, costumes  to  support the whole production.  Because the GRS performance space is limited, the final performances will take place off site at the Paul and Sheila Wellstone Theater in West St. Paul.  Included in the month’s study are mathematics and writing.

Bike Trip

The year ends with a 4-day bike and camping trip through rural Minnesota or Wisconsin. The trip challenges students physically while providing opportunities for leadership and community building.  Together, students and teachers celebrate the community and the year as the main focus for this trip.

Core Curriculum

The curriculum is structured around two types of interdisciplinary classes, Field Studies and Humanities. Humanities (Language Arts and Social Studies) and Field Studies (Math and Science) will be connected through a central theme for each unit of study. For example, the first theme of the year will be industrial development.  This theme is drawn out of our Odyssey east trip. During each unit of study students will be completing one large research project that will connect to most of the core subjects as well as including visual and musical arts as much as possible. Students will also have large and small group lessons and presentations focusing on key concepts and skills, which relate to the central theme. There will also be weekly seminars and labs as well as quizzes, tests, individual and group presentations.

Besides the Field Studies and Humanities Projects students take classes in philosophy, music and art, and occupations (practical work).

Adolescent 1 Weekly Schedule

Students meet in advisory groups for the first 15 minutes of each day before moving to a long work period until lunch (12:25) during which they will be in either Humanities (history and English) or Field Studies (math and science) for core lessons and independent work.   Following the lunch and recess period (45 minutes), the afternoons of each day (except Wednesday) focus on microeconomics, creative expressions and Spanish.   The extended time in core classes gives students the opportunity to go deeper into their studies.

Wednesday afternoons, all students participate in creative expressions and community service activities.  These afternoons are designed to help students focus on creative, physical or service oriented activities, often times out of the building.

2013-2014 Schedule


Each student is assigned an advisor for the two years they are in A1.  This person is the first point of contact for any issues, academic or social, students or parents/guardians might have.  To identify the advisor for your student, please go to Power School and find the teacher assignment under the Advisory Class period on their Bell schedule.

Teacher emails: For individual teacher’s emails, please refer to the Faculty Directory to the right on this website.

Evaluation of Student Work and Skills

Students will be given feedback based on more narrative descriptions and focusing more on key standards and competencies.  Some assignments and work will be directly tied to demonstrating learning of these standards or competencies and will then be placed into students’ portfolios. One of the consistent concerns incoming parents and Adolescent 1 teachers have is the negative effects letter grades have on students. Instead, we would like to focus on a student’s work and talk about how they are progressing and achieving with specific skills, concepts, and habits in a more meaningful way then just letter grades.  Parents/guardians and students will still use Power School as a portal to view progress, but they will not see letter grades, rather numbers that give feedback on progress and achievement.