Nutrition Update: October 2019

written by Jenny Breen, School Nutrition Educator

Lunch this year started with a bang! In addition to a slew of new menu items, this year the elementary students are going through the lunch line and bringing their food back to the classrooms. This involves daily decision making at the salad bar-an experience that has been both exciting and overwhelming!

The lunch team including Chef Leah, Mel and Julie and Rita are putting out a stellar mixture of whole foods including choices like macaroni and cheese, barbeque sauce smothered chicken and cheesy grits with local kale, a wide variety of scratch-made soups (like Thai coconut sweet potato) and are making all of the incredible salad dressing choices in house!

The lunch line continues to grow, which is a sign of a successful lunch program! It also leads to challenges like those faced by many other schools, so we're exploring solutions to keep things moving while minimizing the wait. We are considering adding another hot and cold line (a significant cost to the school) or pre-plating certain items to help with the flow. Additionally, we're thinking about permanent volunteer jobs that, if filled by parents, could make a huge difference in the efficient flow of lunch (email if you’re interested!)

An important thing parents can do to help is to make sure you pre-order your child's lunch. The less guessing the lunch staff has to do, the more efficient we can be. Also, parents don't forget to pick up your own to-go lunch at our cafe station. We have pre-made lunches all packed and ready to take with you when you drop your child off.

Last, but not least, please consider our Community Lunch Program-it is a way for folks in the community who are able, to support those who have fewer resources so that everyone can have access to our delicious lunches, and also to help grow the capacity of the kitchen to produce delicious food. Learn more here.

Jenny, our nutrition educator, continues to explore ways to bring more education into the kitchen. We are purchasing induction burners so we can have multiple cooking stations in the kitchen, and will begin piloting classes with Big Canoe students. Jenny is working with Big Canoe staff to develop a cooking class series that, if successful, can be replicated for other students and families. Additionally, lower adolescent guide Cate Williams is putting together a folk school curriculum, which will include cooking and other food classes.

Finally, we are beginning to narrow down some areas of focus for the school wellness team. We are hoping to have our first meetings on Weds October 23 at 11 AM, and Thursday November 7 at 4 PM. We're focusing on setting some goals for wellness based education (including, but not limited to nutrition and healthy eating) that will hopefully take place later in the fall and spring.

There is so much going on, it is hard to remember, but also important to acknowledge. Next time you're in school, stop by the kitchen and say hello-let the team know how much you appreciate what they're doing, and remind your kids to do the same.

We look forward to seeing you in the kitchen or cafe soon!

Fall Coffeehouse 2019

Greetings GRS students, families, and friends!

We are excited to announce the first Coffee House of the school year on Friday Nov 8, 2019 at 6:30 in the Performance Space! Coffee House is an opportunity for GRS community to come together to celebrate our talented students. In the past we have had lots of music, stand up comedy, dancing, poetry, and juggling. If you know your student has a special talent, please encourage them to sign up! And if you love to bake and are interested in making a donation to our concessions, please contact me by email ( We are always looking for homemade treats, and gluten/dairy free options are appreciated. Admission to Coffee House is free, but we will be accepting donations toward a new monitor system which will allow our singers to hear themselves on stage. Hope to see you all there!

Zack Scott
Music Guide

Lower Adolescent Key Experiences 2019

6B Farm Trip

The farm trip just returned home last week and will have a full report in next month’s newsletter! As Dexter said in his 6B update email this week, “If you don't have a good time, at least you had a time." These are the words of a parent that were shared by one of our students during our community meeting at the farm. It's as if those words buoyed our students through the trying circumstances! They all survived the cold, wet and rough elements of the farm! We are happy that we were able to answer Maria Montessori's call for us to tap into the courage that "lies dormant in the soul of each child."

7/8 Odyssey North

written by Kayla Kronfeld, LA Social Studies guide and co-trip lead

With the school year well on its way, it is so wonderful to see the connections that students are making to their time on the Odyssey! Though an annual experience for the guides (some of us have been on 12!), the students get just a few times to experience the magic of the Odyssey.

When Great River does the Odyssey, we go all in (minus the boats, though we do attempt at least one boat tour for our two-year loop!). We do the Odyssey to create a sense of community--the students learn to support their fellows and thus they feel supported individually, too. It is a time where an adolescent ends the journey of “I cannot, I am not” to “I can and I am”. They learn how to set-up tents and feed fires, they learn how to persevere during rain storms and heat, they learn how to handle being with strangers who become fast friends, and they learn that if they work together, the world truly can be a wonderful place.

The curriculum for this year’s Odyssey set the tone for the school year: Economic Inequality (visiting various cities and experiences), Environmental Concerns (Listening Point and the Duluth Aquarium), and Human Rights (Clayton Jackson McGee Memorial (a memorial to three black men who were falsley accused of rape and thus tortured and murdered in the streets of Duluth) and the Hibbing Mine (where the first legal grounds were set against workplace sexual harrassment). 

These are big things for any human to understand, but it is important for folks to know what happens in the world around them. To keep them from these happenings would be to turn a blind eye to the injustices that happen in our cities and schools. Introducing students to materials and supports does, indeed, allow them to make the world a better place. And with a bit of food and maybe one shower, we do just that on the GRS Odyssey!

9th Grade Farm Trip

Written by Danny Ross, 9th grade SpEd guide and co-trip lead

Following the vision of Montessori's "Erdkinder" (earth-child), 9th-grade students stayed at Great River's partner farm, Buttermilk Falls Farm, in Osceola, WI during the second week of school. Students stretched their physical and intellectual capacities learning various trades, conducting academic seminars on biodynamic agriculture and the psychological principle of "flow," and being general stewards to the land and farm facilities. From building birdhouses and picnic tables, making homemade soap, preserving late summer crops, and rebuilding fences, students gained a variety of practical experiences on this trip and will continue to grow their sense of economic independence as they prepare to sell their goods at the upcoming Harvest Festival.

UE Update: Big Work

Hello and welcome to the 2019-2020 school year.  It is so exciting to walk through the halls of the elementary wing and see so much ‘big’ work happening.  The halls are filled with projects that are too large to do in the classroom, students playing music and the smell of delicious baking projects.  At this stage of development, the classroom is not contained inside four walls, their work is big and can often overflow into the hallways and outside of the building.  We want students going out into the community, whether it be a trip to the library or the grocery store, or to interview a pastry chef or go to the train museum to learn more about the history of trains in Minnesota.  We call these trips a Going Out. We are still looking for volunteers to chaperone these trips, if you are interested please come to orientation on Wednesday October 9th at 5:00 in Zumbro River classroom.

We are so excited to be offering evening events for parents this year.  Our first event was Montessori 101 on September 26th. If you were not able to attend, but would like some basic information, here is an article.   We will continue to offer more parent education events throughout the year, including Healthy Relationships, Practical Life and the work of the home, and Montessori math.

We look forward to parent observation starting for Lower Elementary on October 15th, and Upper Elementary November 7th. Click here to read the full communication on our announcement blog. If you need an alternate time, please reach out directly to me or Derek and we will try to accommodate your schedule.

Upper Adolescent Key Experiences 2019

Tenth Grade Red Lake Trip

written by Sarah Garton, UA Social Studies guide and trip lead

Boozhoo! This year the tenth graders were invited to visit Red Lake Tribal Nation as part of their unit on "Indigenous Histories and Futures." Students were asked to consider tribal history, food sovereignty and their role as guests on the reservation. We camped on the powwow grounds, visited the Red Lake Nation Tribal College, and observed Wasabiik Ojibwemotaadiwin, an Ojibwe language immersion preschool. We also spent one day harvesting at the Four Directions Development Garden and toured the Red Lake Nation Foods warehouse as well as the Fishery. We heard from noted scholars Anton Treuer, Brenda Childs and Winona LaDuke, as well as local Constitutional Reform Initiative Project and their Economic Development office, learning about their recent groundbreaking for new housing in South Minneapolis. Students also had the option to stay an extra day and experience hands-on food demonstrations as part of the Red Lake Nation Food Summit.

We all came home with full bellies and new knowledge and are very grateful to our hosts at Four Directions for coordinating such an amazing trip! Please check out all the work linked above and talk to Sarah Garton, UA Guide, if you have any questions or ideas about how GRS can continue the work of centering Native voices + sovereignty in our curriculum.

Eleventh Grade Northstar Quest

written by Laura Machacek, Ceramics guide and trip lead

On the 11th-grade Key Experience, North Star Quest, we spent four days exploring and learning about different colleges. Each night we also camped out and cooked dinner together (sometimes in the rain). This second week of school key experience truly helped develop strong relationships within the students as well as with the guides. 

On Monday, our first stop was at the mid-sized public University of Minnesota Duluth where we attended a presentation by the admissions office then went on a self-guided tour of the campus. Along the tour we even sat in on a presentation at the Planetarium. That night, we camped out near the Boundary Waters and fell asleep to the sound of rain on our tent flys. 

Tuesday morning we woke early, packed up our wet tents, and boarded the buses to spend half a day at the Ely Folk School. Students had the opportunity to try out a few folk crafts such as wild rice processing, fire making, Huichol style beading, traditional pastie making, birch bark canoe building, and blacksmithing. A small group of students even helped install a window at a sustainably built home a few miles away from the folk school. After the folk school experience, we headed to Ashland, Wisconsin to spend the night camping (not in the rain) at Prentice Park. 

Wednesday morning, we packed up our tents again and boarded the buses to go on a beautiful morning hike to Houghton Falls with an outdoor education professor and current outdoor education students from Northland College. As a group, we paused at the end of the trail along the blustery, exhilarating shores of Lake Superior to reflect on the sounds and sights of the natural world. After the hike, we drove through the woods to Northland College for an admissions presentation, guided tour of the environmentally-friendly campus, and on-campus lunch. Afterward, we spent the night back in Minnesota at Nerstrand Big Woods State Park.

On the final day of the key experience, the 11th graders chose between touring Carleton College and St. Olaf College, both based in Northfield, Minnesota. Both groups experienced an extensive campus tour, admissions presentation, and on-campus lunch before returning back to Great River School. Overall, the students enjoyed the trip as a way to visit a variety of different colleges to not only jump-start the process of planning for post-secondary opportunities, but also for a way to build stronger relationships with other students (while trying to stay warm and dry in the rain).

-Laura Machacek, NSQ Trip Lead 2019

Senior Canoe Trip

Written by Caroline Miesle, Music & Theater guide and co-trip lead

During the second week of school, our senior class ventured into the north woods of Wisconsin to test their canoeing endurance on the Namekagon River. Over the course of 72 hours, students paddled 46.5 miles, cooked, and camped in the rain and shine. One of the highlights of this river trip is the “Senior Olympics,” which takes place in the middle of the week. Canoe groups compete against the staff in a series of events, ranging from artistic to minute-to-win-it to feats of strength. Taking them indoors this year (thanks to the rain) didn’t lessen the fun, and the competition was stiff! With days of paddling and nights of reflection around the campfire, the senior class is ready to tackle their final year at GRS.

Lower Elementary Update

Hello and Happy Fall, Lower Elementary Families!

Now that we’re past the initial start to the year, we wanted to take a moment to share some highlights from lower elementary...


Wow! What a delicious lunch we have the opportunity to enjoy from our lovely and competent nutrition team! From Mac n’ Cheese to Chana Masala, we are seeing a lot of enthusiasm for the delicious dishes coming for the kitchen. Thank you for helping your child have a healthy lunch each day, and if they bring it from home, think of giving them the opportunity and responsibility to prepare their own healthy lunch. Preparing food is a skill that we encourage the students to practice here at GRS.


For the first 15 minutes of recess, Brent Cummins, our Outdoor Education Guide, has been organizing fun activities for the students to enjoy together in small groups. These are cooperative games where the students have to learn each other’s names and work together to meet a common goal. The purpose of this big work is to help the students learn about their peers and to learn fun, collaborative games! Ask your child if they have a favorite game that they’ve learned so far.

Classroom Beliefs!

At this point, each of the elementary classrooms has had the chance to meet as a community and build their classroom beliefs. Each classroom had a discussion about what their ideal classroom would look like, sound like, feel like, and this discussion helped the students create beliefs about how their classroom should be run. You will notice common themes of peace, kindness to one another, working on big work together, and taking care of our environments in each classrooms’ beliefs. See if your child has a belief they feel strongly about or if there is a belief they might find challenging to follow. Throughout the year, we will use our beliefs as a way to reflect on what is important to our communities, and we will work together to make appropriate changes if the community asks for it.

Workshops – Art, Outdoor Education, and Physical Expression

As an elementary community, the students will have the opportunity to take classes in art, outdoor education, and physical expression once a week (on either Monday or Tuesday). In art with Amanda, your child might have the chance to create a zine! In Physical Expression with Eric, your child might navigate through an obstacle course or complete a quest…as an elf! In outdoor education with Brent, your child will get to go to the park and learn about different plants, animals, and learn tricks for surviving outdoors! We spend three weeks doing a specific workshop and then we rotate to the next workshop. We just completed our first round of workshops and have just started our second rotation and we are so grateful for our expert guides running these workshops.

“The Great Lessons”

Many of our classrooms are still in the thick of telling engaging and impressionistic stories about history that Dr. Maria Montessori coined, “The Great Lessons.” These lessons and stories explore:

  • The Story of the Universe

  • Life comes to Earth

  • The Story of Humans

  • The Story of Numbers

  • The Story of Language

Again, these are told in the form of a story to capture the students’ imagination, curiosity, and sense of wonder. They act as touchstones for the work we will do together in history, geography, science, math, and language. They’re a blast to tell and they spark a lot of incredible questions and fun work!

These are just a few of the highlights happening in lower elementary. Enjoy a few snapshots as well! Until next time!

In partnership,

Jessy Eaton Fabel
Lower Elementary Guide in Spring Brook

Spring Intensives 2019

Ten spring intensives were offered this year, as well as seniors having the option of proposing and organizing their own spring intensives. Below is a summary of some of the key experiences students participated in their last week of school!

Itasca State Park
written by rising 10th grader Lillian Adams

The Itasca group spent three days at Itasca State Park. The trip was through Wilderness Inquiry, and we had five W.I. guides with us. During our day there we canoed during the morning, and after lunch we visited the Mississippi headwaters. We spent a few hours swimming and fishing there. Later, we went to an old fire tower a few minutes away from camp, which was converted into a lookout. The main group stayed at the foot of the tower, while smaller groups went up to the top one at a time. When we were at camp, we spent time chatting, playing games, and relaxing while one of the tent groups worked with some of the guides to prepare dinner.

State Parks
written by State Parks lead guide, Melanie Peterson-Nafziger

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At Interstate State Park we explored epic potholes, igneous basalt cliffs, learned about lava flows and hiked along sandstone bluffs that were the bottom of an ancient sea. We enjoyed sweeping vistas of the St. Croix River, hauled buckets of basalt gravel to fill in the eroded trail after the snowy winter, and realized how fortunate we are to live in a state with such beautiful state parks!

Seed Savers
written by Seed Savers guide, Charlie Zieke

Students did incredible work at Seed Savers Exchange in Decorah, Iowa. We spent two full days volunteering, planting cover crops and straw-mulching in 80-degree weather. We camped right on the Iowa River at the beautiful Pulpit Rock Campground and spent a full day exploring Luther College and downtown Decorah in our passenger vans, Bluebell and Black Beauty. There might be some future SSE interns among us!

Hammock-Making: a summary in haiku

Day 1: Wednesday, June 5th

Patience was tested,

Wrestled with sewing machines,

Hammock making rocks.

Day 2: Thursday, June 6th

Finishing hammocks,

We’re all in this together,

Our stuff sacks have holes.

Day 3: Friday, June 7th

Walking to Como,

I’m sweaty in my hammock,

Freeze pops are awesome.

Buttermilk Falls Farm

Garage Band

Upper Elementary Work Share

By: Willa Henkemeyer (Crow Wing, 4th) and Beena Reiter (Crow Wing, 5th)    

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May 2019- All of the lower and the upper elementary classrooms did a workshare in the second half of May.  Different classes did different topics of projects, but the general focus for the upper elementary work share was history.  

The purpose of this workshare was to share with the rest of the community history about a lot of things. Such as identity, vikings, herbs and tea, video games, and a lot more!  Many of the workshare projects were organized by trifolds. They weren’t all trifolds though, in Blue Earth River there were posters with drawings and sculptures. In Crow Wing River there were trifolds and books. People even made tea and food to share.                 

The 6th years have a special project that they do each year. Instead of a history project, the 6th graders in Shingobee River and Crow Wing River did an Imaginary Island project. Imaginary Island is a geography project that puts together a lot of the learning that 6th years have done in elementary.  They had their projects displayed in Clear Lake River Classroom. They also made clay models of their Islands, which took a lot of concentration and time.

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Now we’re going to talk about the workshare in Crow Wing because we’re in that classroom. Our history project was focused on our own Identity and Culture background. There were many genre options for works, such as who I am essay, culture essay and fundamental human needs charts, to just name a few. Everyone enjoyed the final presentation, but the project took 2 months and sometimes was stressful to tackle something so large, but it all paid off. Our class had many visitors and we think that they enjoyed it. There were many different styles of the way people made their books and posters. 

6th Year Camping Trip

By: Viv Turbak and Maya Shapiro (Crow Wing 6th years)   

The sixth graders of Crow Wing and Shingobee organized a trip to Afton State Park to commemorate the last of the original sixth graders moving to the adolescent level.  This trip was held at the end of the year, giving the sixth years two months to plan.  

 Great River School students overcome real world challenges through travel, practical life skills, arts, and time management in order to enter the adult world with compassion and a sense of responsibility.  The sixth grade trip prepares us for skills that we will need in the adolescent community, like the odyssey, the bike trip, and the senior canoe trip.  

There were three committees who organized the trip; activities, food, and logistics.  We planned all of the meals, we organized group activities and hikes, and we ordered the tents and busses.  Planning this trip helped us practice time management, and organizational skills, which are two important skills students at Great River work on developing.

Afton state park is a state park with tent and cabin sites. There are many fun activities that Afton has, like geocaching, archery, hiking, swimming, canoeing, and backpacking. We went on an overnight trip while practicing skills like setting up tents and hiking.  This helped prepare us for the bike trip, odyssey, and other adolescent key experiences.

We did a bunch of activities on the trip. One of them was hiking. We hiked to the Saint Croix river and waded into the very flooded, and murky water. We saw a 3-4 ft. long snake by the river, which we think was either a bull snake or a gopher snake.  We had so much fun at the river, and even rescued a boat (or a log, but to a bunch of weird sixth graders, what’s the difference?), called the S.S Alistair. The process included lifting a heavy log, sending people to walk out on the log while others held it steady . . . . and lots of shouting at each other.

Other than the hike, our trip consisted mostly of hanging out around the campsite.  We did a lot of hammocking. Everyone did things like sleep, talk, read, or eat in the hammocks at one point or another.  Another thing that we did was slackline. It was set up, and we all got an orientation. Then, we just went for it! There was a spotter, of course, but also a rope.  It was so fun to watch people trying it for the first time.

We played a lot of Ultimate during our campsite freetime.  We were all barefoot, and it was so wonderful to have our feet pounding against the ground, trying to block the frisbee.  On the second day, Matt brought his three year old daughters, Keegan and Juniper. We played frisbee, and volleyball with them, some students read them books and made them dandelion chain crowns,  and also taught them how to hammock and slackline.  

On this trip, we learned that camping is a lot of work.  Everyone who went on the trip had two meal shifts; cooking, and cleaning.  We learned to set up and take down the tents, and took turns filling the water.  

Matt, Alaina, and Amanda helped us through so much.  They dealt with our stress from planning, they took time out of their days to work with committees, and found work and concentration spaces for us when we needed to meet with our group(s). We would also like to thank Donna for helping us get food to eat, mess kits, stoves, etc.  She also ordered the tents for us, and answered all of our emails promptly. All of these guides have been so patient and understanding with all of us, and the things that they have done to support us, are infinite.

Meet Chef Leah Korger

Each month, we’ll highlight a different member of the Nutrition team, starting with the onion-pickling, ranch-making, recipe-creator, Chef Leah Korger (they/them).

What’s your food background?
Growing up mealtime was very important. Every day my parents made sure we all sat down to eat a home cooked meal together. At that time, I had no interest in helping to cook or garden! Thank goodness we all continue to change as we grow! Those meals planted the "food" seed in me. In college I fell in love with anything to do with food (and the science behind it) and loved completing my degree in human biology with an emphasis on nutrition. 

Most of what I love about food is it's power to bring people together, physically nourish us, and to build community. After all, everyone has to eat!

What compelled you to do this work?
I'm not done learning yet! I feel with the breadth of career possibilities within our food systems I will never run out of things to master and skills to learn. 

What did you do in your previous work?
For the past 4 years I was managing the central kitchen for the Wedge and Linden Hills Coops. Think 200 pound batches of scratch macaroni and cheese! There I developed a new catering menu, organized menu turns for the organization, began a bulk deli salad wholesale program, and a heat and serve hot bar wholesale program. Previously I served as a member of the FoodCorps connecting kids to healthy food through school garden builds, engaging after school programs, and classroom studies. I've also apprenticed at a few organic farms. 

What interested you about working at GRS?
I really enjoy building things! The program as a blank canvas was very appealing to me. Setting up procedures, systems, menus, budgets, and figuring out the formula to make the program successful is exciting! More so, the GRS community values and my own values are aligned and that is important to me in my career! 

Chef Leah showing their knife skills while prepping three bean chili vegetables

Chef Leah showing their knife skills while prepping three bean chili vegetables

Describe what you've been doing at GRS since you started
Learning how to use the printer (haha)! I've been observing, learning, creating a lot of spreadsheets, setting up vendors, facilitating conversations, roasting chicken, dreaming about future projects, giving high fives, and teaching loads of folks how to use "Geraldine," our food processor.

 What is your philosophy around food and cooking?
Food is so many things to me. It is a way to show how much you appreciate, love, or care for others. Food can be a way to heal ourselves, others, and the planet. Healthy food access is a human right, and so is the accessibility of food education. Cooking is also an art and a form of communication - one that is so immersive! You can smell, taste, see, hear, and feel this art form! 

Which menu/day are you most excited about and why?
Chicken day is my favorite! I am also excited about our GRS ranch dressing. 

Share a favorite recipe and the story behind it:
The last couple years I've been honored to teach and demo at Chef Camp. Chef Camp is an outdoor cooking adventure where (adult) campers can take workshops from chefs and spend the weekend eating until they will pop! Last year I created this unstoppable sauce that I paired with rum barrel smoked chicken, spicy glazed peanuts, and lime zest. It was inspired by the pull of vacation and the feeling of wanting to get out of Dodge for a few days. It also illustrated many points I spoke about including smoke science, the Maillard browning process (my favorite chemical reaction), balancing flavors in a dish, and how to be confident stepping away from recipes and trusting yourself!  You'll notice this recipe doesn't have strict amounts listed - play with it! The sweetness of the fruit and richness of the coconut milk is balanced by the acidity in the vinegars, salt, and heat from the spices. This sauce recipe would do well as a tofu marinade, as the base for a vinaigrette, in a cocktail, over grilled chicken, pork, or wherever you could dream! 

1/2 a pineapple (cored and sliced into 1'' thick slices)
1 pint ground cherries (gooseberries, or golden berries)
Anchovy vinegar (to taste)
Rice Vinegar (to taste)
Coconut milk (full fat)
Cayenne or chili flake (to desired heat level)
Turmeric (for color)
Sea salt

Grill pineapple and half of the ground cherries. Puree grilled pineapple, grilled ground cherries, and fresh ground cherries using a blender or food processor. Puree in the remaining ingredients until a smooth texture is achieved. Taste and adjust vinegar and spice levels. 

What is your vision for GRS food program?
I see this program growing into whatever this community desires! I'd love to see lots of local and organic foods in lunches, a small catering business for meetings and events, a pizza oven for garden parties, and more crossover between classroom education and the food we're serving! I also think there is a serious opportunity to give students (and the community) a real look at what a career in the food industry is through internships or mentorships. The sky is the limit!

Tell us a fun fact about yourself:
I grew up dancing - ballet, pointe, tap, jazz, swing, Irish, modern, you name it! 

School Nutrition May Update

written by Jenny Breen, Nutrition Educator

Chicken Thursday!

Chicken Thursday!

Our hot lunch program has been going smoothly as more and more students are enjoying the delicious, beautiful and fresh foods Chef Leah and team are preparing.  As the school year winds down, we'll be planning and dreaming up next year’s expanded hot lunch menu.  Please let us know what you love about the food, and if your student has not tasted hot lunch yet, please try it!  The only way to make this program sustainable-both in terms of continuing to have hot lunches at GRS, and to utilize responsibly and sustainably produced ingredients, is to have community participation!

Chef Leah Korger (left), Sous Chef Mel Coombs (center), and Production Assistant Rita Siraj (right) share a joke while prepping vegetables for Friday’s homemade chili.

Chef Leah Korger (left), Sous Chef Mel Coombs (center), and Production Assistant Rita Siraj (right) share a joke while prepping vegetables for Friday’s homemade chili.

Taste Tests
We had a successful last week of taste-testing hot lunches with adolescent students.  Students enjoyed the samples and gave the wellness team feedback on flavor, ingredients, and presentation. This feedback is incredibly helpful in gauging what students think about the lunches, and opportunities for improvement.  We take this seriously, and incorporate it into our planning and preparation! 

Adolescent students in Laura Machacek’s Sculpture elective created hanging food decorations to help beautify our kitchen environment.

Adolescent students in Laura Machacek’s Sculpture elective created hanging food decorations to help beautify our kitchen environment.

School Garden Planning
Many of you know about the beautiful school garden we’ve had at the school for years.  What you may not know is that it has been expanded tremendously this year, and there is a giant new garden that will be designed and planted specifically to provide the lunch program with food for school lunches!  We are excited to be able to utilize hyper locally grown foods in our school lunches next fall, and will keep people posted about volunteer opportunities throughout the summer for maintaining, harvesting and possibly even preserving garden produce!  Watch for summer camps and potentially a family event or two over the summer.

Adolescent students eat outside the cafe on 5/2/19. Once sound abatement issues are resolved, levels will eat together in the gym.

Adolescent students eat outside the cafe on 5/2/19. Once sound abatement issues are resolved, levels will eat together in the gym.

Summer Camps
We have four summer cooking camps planned this summer!  Mel, our kitchen Sous Chef, and Jenny, our Nutrition Educator, will be teaching the camps, and are looking forward to some good times in the GRS kitchen!  See the summer camp brochure for details, but here are the dates.  They will all be morning classes, and will include a freshly prepared lunch (obviously).

"Who Kneads the Dough"  June 17-20, (7-12 yrs)

Learn to bake bread and other yummy items made from dough in this fun culinary camp led by GRS chefs.
"Vegetables Every Which Way" July 8-11, (7-12 yrs)
Do you want your camper to eat more veggies? Well, let our professional chef teach them how to create delicious vegetable dishes from farm to table.
"Family Food Traditions"  July 22-25, (12-16 yrs)
Explore a variety of foods that are important to so many people’s way of life in this culinary camp. Campers will learn how to cook a variety of dishes from around the world.
"Fabulously Fantastic Foods"  August 5-8, (12-16 yrs)
Come and create some new lunch items for the up and coming school year. Your camper will work with our chef in our commercial kitchen to see what it takes to make the menu at Great River School.

Lower Adolescent Interventionist K’rin Jacobsen orders a warm beverage from Cafe Coordinator Donna Goodlaxson. The Heron’s Nest Cafe is open to community members and students alike.

Lower Adolescent Interventionist K’rin Jacobsen orders a warm beverage from Cafe Coordinator Donna Goodlaxson. The Heron’s Nest Cafe is open to community members and students alike.

To contact the Nutrition team, please email us at Happy eating!

Forestry Occupation Practices Tree Ascension

written by Ava Van Brunt

The 7/8 Forestry Occupation went on an outing to Foresters Day at the University of MN on April, 19th 2019. Students started their day with a Pancake Breakfast at the Skok Hall with U of M Forestry students and faculty, then had the option to participate in tree ascension with the TAG (Tree Ascension Group).  

A note about tree climbing and forestry. In addition to being fun and contributing to physical fitness, elements of tree climbing include opportunities to develop analytical thinking, improve knowledge and appreciation for natural resources, as well as build self-esteem and a sense of accomplishment. Additionally, tree climbing introduces young people to skills and professional development opportunities in urban forestry and arboriculture.

Ascending a tree is no easy task, but the result is rewarding and the experience is overall pleasant!  In order to climb I needed the following, a foot and hand ascender, helmet, sturdy rope, and a harness.  Once I clipped myself I to my harness, I pulled my rope down through the ascender and thrusted my hips upward.  I repeated this until I reached my stopping point, then I relaxed my grip on the rope, allowing myself to descend.  Through this experience, I was able to gain knowledge on something I knew little about. As well as broaden my mindset on what it means to study a tree.  I would strongly recommend trying tree ascension to future students in the Forestry Occupation!

National Public Radio GRS Student Podcasts

IB Testing: Tips & Tricks

written by IB Coordinator, Melanie Peterson-Nafziger

IB exams begin May 7! Students' IB scores are a combination of internal assessments (e.g. presentations, portfolios, labs, interviews, research papers, performances, etc.) that students complete with their teachers during the school year and external assessments (e.g., May IB exams and some other presentations or papers) that are graded entirely by IB examiners from across the world. These are moments for students to showcase their content knowledge and critical thinking skills. 

IB students taking exams, what can you do to best prepare yourself for this exciting and sometimes nerve-wracking culminating experience? Read on for tips for the next month. 

1. Before Test Day

• Study more—a lot more. It may seem obvious, but insufficient study time is one of the biggest underlying problem for students who suffer from test anxiety. The more times you do something, the easier it will be to do.

• Practice positive thinking. The desire to avoid failure is a very poor motivator. To prime yourself for success, you must learn to banish negative thoughts. Think, “I will do well on this test because I have studied as much as I can and because I know what I need to do to be successful.”

• Sleep well and eat well. Few regular activities have as much of a bearing on stress and anxiety levels than resting your brain and eating well. Take care of yourself always, but pay extra close attention in the days leading up to the test. Exercise too! 

2. On Test Day

• Arrive at school a half hour early (or at home) and do some sitting meditation in the garden or elsewhere (optional). Listen to the meditation audio on your phone at! Breathe! Practicing some form of meditation or deliberate relaxation helps you to control your breathing, your heart rate and your thought processes. Focus your practice on calming yourself—by dismissing unwanted thoughts, refocusing your mind and controlling your breathing.

• Stand in the power stance in the hall before you enter the room! Hands on hips and feet spread apart, or feet spread apart and arms above head. Sounds silly yet research says it helps you perform better on the exam!

• Don’t study. If you’ve studied well beforehand, you shouldn’t need to study on test day. A nice review would be helpful to jog your memory, but you’re probably not going to learn a lot of new stuff on the day of an exam. You may make yourself anxious, however, by worrying that you’re not ready. 

• Prime your brain. Be very thoughtful about what you eat and drink, what medicines you take, etc. For example, if you eat too close to a test, your body may focus more energy on digestion than on thinking. But being hungry won’t help either. Eat something healthy one to two hours before your test. Think about words like "powerful," "competent," "organized," "prepared," "efficient," "ready," "resilient," "strong," and "intelligent" before you enter the room.

• Visualize success. Fill your mind with affirmation. Remind yourself that you have done everything within your power to be ready, and that you will be successful as a result. Picture yourself answering the test questions with ease. Accept that you will do well, and that you have nothing to worry about.

• Engage in a brief expressive writing activity immediately before taking an important test, which research shows significantly improves students’ exam scores, especially for students habitually anxious about test taking. Simply writing about one’s worries before a high-stakes exam can boost test scores. It does it by more than 10%, and it’s quick and free (Ramirez G, Beilock, SL., 2011).

3. During the Test

• Remind yourself that it’s only a game. Remember, tests don’t cause anxiety. The anxiety is your creation, and you can control it. Try regarding your test as a puzzle, there for your amusement only. Sure, you’re trying to score points—but it’s only because winning the game is more fun than losing.

• Begin with a short private affirmation—a kind word to yourself—and a few relaxing breaths. Remind yourself one last time that you have done everything you could to get ready, and now you’ll do all you can to succeed.

• Skim the test during the 5-minute reading time—but only if you think you can. Some people find skimming a test—to jog your memory and identify easier questions—is a helpful strategy. Others find that scanning a test makes them nervous. It’s a good idea, but it’s not for everyone. Decide whether this practice will help you.

• Don’t stay stuck in the mud. Don’t let yourself struggle with a question. Give yourself enough time on it to try to jog your memory, but then move on to the next one. Remind yourself that even as you answer other questions, your brain is still searching for the answer to the one you skipped. Answering other questions while waiting may just help jog that memory.

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Little Elk River Does Math!

written by Little Elk River students Azalea Eischen and Lilah Kottke

Yami, Walter and Audra find the square root of 5,929.

Yami, Walter and Audra find the square root of 5,929.

In Little Elk River, we currently have three different math groups: Hypatia, Pythagoras, and Lovelace. Next year we will have four. They are all named after mathematicians. We are in Lovelace. Every couple weeks or so we have a set of 10-15 “problems” to complete, for lack of a better word. Right now the problems include measuring the interior angles of different polygons, cubing binomials, finding equivalent fractions, and adding/subtracting fractions with unlike denominators, and division with decimal fractions. We just started learning how to add positive and negative integers. Today we are going to learn about probability by picking colored legos out of a mystery bag. We’re not sure yet what that’s about. Slowly but surely, we are also working on filling in our Math and Geometry dictionaries. John gives us terms in sets of five and we have to try to define them. We will be able to take our dictionaries with us to the adolescent community when we leave Upper Elementary. 

Though the Lovelace group meets once or twice a week for presentations, or correcting the problems that we worked on independently, we are expected to do some kind of math every day. Sometimes that means choosing and making our own problems. We can make problems for our each other, too. We think that this math group is good because it help us to do math on a regular basis.  

How We Reduce and Reuse in Lower Elementary

written by Rachel Cupps, Minnehaha Creek guide

In Minnehaha Creek, we try to get creative with unwanted materials. We often find used cardboard boxes, leftover tin foil and excess laminate around the school. Rather than letting these items go straight to the recycling bin or worse the landfill we give them a new purpose in our work

Most recently, Minnehaha students created a gallery walk of mammal habitats. Students used everything from cardboard and yarn to laminate sheets and popsicle sticks to create a home for their mammals. Here is how some of our students got creative:

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Wiley used laminate to enable the audience to see his clay model but make it so they could not touch it.

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Will and Rain construct their habitats out of small pieces so there is enough cardboard to share.

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Claire and Lucio use yarn to add texture and vines to their habitats.

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Vivian and Victoria add details with paint.

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Everyone shares their hard work at the gallery walk. We learned about mammals and their habitats as well as how we can work together to be more sustainable for our planet. Next time you are going to the recycling bin why don’t you think twice and get creative!

ACT & College News

written by Teresa Hichens-Olson, College Accessibility

The ACT will be held at Great River on April 24th. Students should be here and ready to test at 8:30 sharp, having had a good breakfast. They should bring a working calculator with them! Quiet snacks and a water bottle are also encouraged. GRS covers all costs of this ACT test but donations are welcome to continue this free service. All Juniors will be dismissed early on the 24th after the ACT is completed.

GRS will also be offering an ACT study sessions on April 17th from 1-2:30pm in the UA commons. All 11th graders are encouraged to attend. Note that 11th graders will be taking the tests on paper & not electronically so your student should practice with paper tests. These tests are available at your local library & GRS counseling office. Feel free to contact Teresa with any questions that you may have at