A2 students engaged with Black History month in a few different celebratory ways this year. 

One was tapping into the creativity and joy African American/Black folks demonstrate in our world by creating a song playlist with justification of why these songs resonate with our students.
Another, was taking the theme set forth by the ASALH (Association for the Study of African American Life & History) which was African Americans during Times of War.

10th grade History students practiced historical inquiry and chronological reasoning by sorting primary sources throughout history to hear the African American/black perspective, synthesizing the information for moments of change or periods of continuity.

(written by A2 Social Studies guide, Alexis Dickey) 

AuthorCharlie Zieke


Join us for the 2018 Stars Ultimate Frisbee Season kickoff meeting on Thursday, March 8 from 6:00 - 7:30pm in Maria's Cafe (GRS cafeteria).

Come learn about the 2018 season of Great River Stars Ultimate Frisbee! This will be both an informational meeting and a season kickoff, so all prospective players and their parents/guardians should try to attend. Great River has teams for students in 5th-12th grades. Anyone is welcome to play, regardless of experience.

Email: email address you have any questions!


Who: Attention GRS 5th through 8th grade Great River students! Did you know that we have a co-ed volleyball team? That’s right a volleyball team that is made up of all genders. We are looking to recruit some more players for this team.

When: The volleyball season will be starting the week of February 26th. The first game will be on March 2nd. The season will be going until the first week of May. The season will consist of weekly games on Fridays at 4:30pm with practice held once a week after school at Hancock Recreation Center. The day of practice is still to be determined.

Where: Games will be held at other schools around the metro area each Friday. Practices will be held at Hancock Recreation Center.

How: To sign up please click the following link

If you have any questions, please send an email to Michael Rausch at

We have some amazing coaches that will be spending time with your students as well.

We are happy to have Great River School guides Alexis Dickey and Kayla Kronfeld as our coaches this year.

Below are some of the amazing benefits to playing an organized sport:

·       Burns calories and fat: One of the primary benefits of volleyball is that it helps you burn calories. Harvard Medical School reports a person can burn between 90 to 133 calories during a half-hour game of volleyball.

·       Tones and shapes the body: The physical activities involved in playing volleyball will strengthen the upper body, arms and shoulders as well as the muscles of the lower body. Playing volleyball also improves the cardiovascular and respiratory systems.

·       Increases metabolic rate: Playing volleyball enhances your energy level and improves your overall performance in other sports and workouts.

·       Improves hand-eye coordination: Volleyball is all about hand-eye coordination. When you serve, you must follow the ball with your eyes, and strike the ball at the right point. On defense, you must react to where the ball is going and get in position to make a play.

·       Builds agility, coordination, speed, and balance: Due to its quick changes of pace and direction, volleyball places a large number of demands on the technical and physical skills of a player.

·       Heart healthy: By getting your heart rate up, your body will circulate more blood and nutrients throughout your body, which improves your overall health.

·       Builds muscular strength: Volleyball requires strong core muscles for nearly every play.

·       Increases aerobic ability: You expend the same amount of energy playing an easy, slow-paced game of volleyball for 20 minutes as you would jogging one mile.

·       Improves interpersonal skills: Volleyball requires that teammates work cooperatively, and at a fast pace. A June 2008 study of individuals who engage in regular team sports found that team members developed better networking skills than those who were less involved in team sports. Leadership and cooperation skills as well as practice handling wins and losses appropriately provide valuable characteristics that transfer to dealing with others in many other situations.

·       Boosts mood and increases drive to succeed: Your involvement in volleyball can improve your mood, reduce stress and encourage pride in your accomplishments as a team member. The activity can also improve your self-confidence, self-esteem, your body image and make you feel happier about life in general.

Come on out for volleyball. Have some fun, get some exercise, and come burn up some of that energy that has been bottled up during the long Winter months. To sign up, please click the following link:

AuthorCharlie Zieke

The Urban Farm Store, which is located by the main entrance to the school, is selling some organic goat milk whey. The way was made by GRS students while making cheese. Jars are for sale for $4.00 and can be found in the black fridge. A lot of people use whey as a way to build muscle because it has very concentrated protein. You can put it in a smoothie and drink it after a workout to build up your muscles. We also sell eggs ($6, organic) and vermicompost ($5/lb). We hope to see you at our store.


             - The Urban Farm Managers

AuthorCharlie Zieke

Two 4-person teams of A3 GRS students tested their knowledge of international affairs as they joined almost 40 Minnesota schools competing at Global Minnesota's Academic WorldQuest competition on Feb. 7, 2018. The event, held at the University of Minnesota's Coffman Union Great Hall, was emceed by Karla Hult of KARE 11 News. Students answered ten rounds of 5 questions about the following topics: NAFTA, ASEAN at 50, India's Bid for Global Power, Combating Climate Change, Cybersecurity, Saudi Arabia, The Peacebuilding Toolkit, America's Diplomats, * Great Decisions (2017 study guide), Current Events. 

The study guide students could use to learn about all of these topics is attached, as is a list of practice questions, if you'd like to try your hand at global trivia!

Great River A -1.jpg

Interested in Global Affairs? Global Minnesota hosts many free events at Minneapolis Central Library at which former ambassadors, business leaders, professors, journalists, etc. present about current global trends. Their next free event is Wed, Feb. 21 -- a talk by former US ambassador to Turkey discussing US-Turkey relations. Minneapolis Public Library, 6pm, free! See more events at the Global Minnesota website.

AuthorCharlie Zieke

(This is a recap coauthored by two students, Elias O'Brien (6th grade, Crow Wing) and Sahara Peters (5th grade, Crow Wing).

We just got back from a trip to New York City representing Cameroon and Australia in the Montessori Model United Nations.  Our trip to MMUN was a great experience. We got to explore New York and meet people from around the world.  We used our ideas to help solve real-world problems.  We had a great time, and we all learned a lot!  Here are two students’ perspectives on the experience.


Elias O’Brien, Delegate for the Republic of Cameroon:

When we first arrived in New York we checked into the conference hotel right on Times Square and then walked around Central Park. It was 70 degrees out!

At the opening ceremony the main speaker said that to make a difference in the world, find what breaks your heart and act on it. I thought this made a lot of sense. And while I haven’t found what breaks my heart yet, I will keep looking. As she said at her closing speech, “There are a lot of problems in the world and one will find you!”

I spent the next two days in committee meetings representing Cameroon where we drafted resolutions to solve two problems: natural disaster risk reduction and poverty eradication (other committees handled other issues). In my committee, there were 34 countries represented, each with two delegates, one for each topic. We made speeches proposing our solutions to these problems and then combined our solutions to make resolutions. What I liked about this process was getting to know a lot of the kids from around the world really well and gathering co-sponsors for the resolutions. It was a lot of fun persuading people to co-sponsor our resolutions!

In case you’re wondering, one of the natural disaster risk reduction resolutions was to educate youth on how to survive natural disasters. One of the poverty eradication resolutions was to provide better education for children so that they have the skills needed for good-paying jobs.

On the final day, we went to the United Nations building where we heard lots of speeches and did the final voting on our resolutions. It was cool to sit in the seats of actual UN delegates!

Sahara Peters, Delegate for the Commonwealth of Australia:

I represented the Commonwealth of Australia.  I personally thought it was a lot of fun debating, writing resolutions, and everything else we did.  We had to wear super nice, formal clothes!  My topic was raising more money for UNICEF (United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund), which promotes the well being of children.  Our resolution was focused on fundraising more money by means of the internet.

Even though most of us were sad to leave, we are all glad to be back and know that we can share our experiences with others.  Montessori Model United Nations was very fun, and I hope we get to go next year!



AuthorCharlie Zieke

Great River parents, students and community neighbors gathered last week on Tuesday evening to watch the documentary, Screenagers.  There were over 100 attendees to view this award winning documentary, that looks into the realities and challenges of raising children in a digital era and the impacts that the digital era has on our children.  Then, all 6th through 10th grade students watched this documentary in smaller groups on Wednesday, January 31, followed by facilitated dialogues in each of these groups (it was optional for A3 students to view).  Feelings, thoughts and opinions in response to the film varied.   Talk with your student(s) about their impressions.  This is a great opportunity to take a collaborative approach with your child to discuss shared expectations and healthy habits around screens, technology and social media.  

AuthorCharlie Zieke

What is a story about you that has been told by someone else?  Has anyone ever tried to define you or make assumptions about you based on your appearance, race, skin color, or stereotypes from the media?  The iRACE planning team would like to showcase members of the GRS community on iRACE day (3/28) by giving them a chance to tell their personal stories.  In particular, if you have a story to tell related to your own race/ethnicity, please consider telling that story during our day.  These sessions are shorter, with 15-20 min. to tell your story, then 10-15 min. for questions from the audience. We will be offering two half-hour sessions back-to-back in the afternoon, and would love to hear your voice!  If interested, please email ACZ by Friday 2/9(

AuthorCharlie Zieke

Christian Fetsch (Henry, 4) came in to Little Elk River to share his expertise in Chinese medicine and acupuncture. At the time we were studying different cultures in Asia.

 Photo credit: John Albright.

Photo credit: John Albright.

AuthorCharlie Zieke

GRS students brought the house down at the Spring Instrumental Music Concert, held January 19th in Maria's dining hall. Zack Scott guides seventeen dedicated A2 & A3 musicians this year, in everything from upright bass to saxophone to guitar shredding. Musicianship, Performance Ensemble, and IB Music are offered as electives for A2 & A3 students. 

 Senior Sophie Dahl plays guitar during the January 19th concert 

Senior Sophie Dahl plays guitar during the January 19th concert 

AuthorCharlie Zieke

A2 had a successful Winter Retreat at the end of Semester 1. Our aims of the retreat are to promote community building across our level, healthy self care for stress management, physical activity in the outdoors, and to celebrate a successful semester of Great River adolescent learning! On Thursday, we explored Minneapolis: Minneapolis City Library, the Weisman and Walker Museums and bowling at Coffman Union on the University of Minnesota Campus. Great art and competition! On Friday, we traveled to Franconia Sculpture Park and Interstate Park for outdoor activity. All of the sculptures were climbed and all of the glacier potholes were explored. Great fun was had by all!

AuthorCharlie Zieke


Hairspray, Jr. & MacBeth rocked the Wellstone theater in St. Paul with three performances put on by the A1 classes. See here for a collection of academic J-Term work. 

 photo by Leda Zych

photo by Leda Zych


Soledad Atchinson shone as Tracy Turnblad, a Baltimore teenager with a passion for dancing and desegregation. Along with her best friend Penny (Shannon Sykes), Tracy achieves her dream of dancing on the Corny Collins (Henrich Michlitsch) Show, but isn't satisfied until she can dance on television with all of her friends, white and non-white alike.  

Tracy befriends Motormouth Maybelle (Feneti Mohamed) and her children, Little Inez (Nafnati Mohamed) & Seaweed (Cassus Moua), through their mutual love of dancing. Together with Tracy's parents, they crash the segregated show and show that people can dance together across difference. 




There were standout performances by George Galle (playing the heartthrob Link Larkin), Susannah Sisk (playing Tracy's spirited mother, Edna), and Anika Hanson (playing the cruel Amber Von Tussle). The Hairspray ensemble brought the house down with numbers like "You Can't Stop the Beat" and "Mama, I'm a Big Girl Now." 







As for our second performance, Ryland Kranz played a dramatic Macbeth, a power-hungry tyrant who loses it all. 









Macbeth's spouse, played by Forest Sarver, encouraged their husband's rise to power.









The student-created set was a hit (who knew cardboard boulders took so long to make?) as was the standout performance from the three witches, Ari Shapiro, Adham Bauhaddin, & Anthony Wilson-Theroff. Louisa Weston played a convincing MacDuff, the leader who eventually brings an end to Macbeth's bloody rule. The Macbeth ensemble marched and fought to victory! 




Appreciation to our amazing pit band and lights crew, as well as all the faculty & parents who contributed time, energy, and emotional support. We are grateful for you! 

AuthorCharlie Zieke

GRS has two lost and founds located in each building. You can find the adolescent and elementary lost and founds just inside the south door of their respective buildings. 

The lost & found piles are gone through and donated on a rotating basis. Check in before or after school to collect your child's lost items! 

AuthorCharlie Zieke

This photo reflects our semester-long partnership with Terryann Nash (a veteran iRACE presenter and local activist) through her internship with the Ramsey Cty Commissioner's Office.  She presented on equity topics related to financial literacy, networking, city resources, and exploring our working definition of equity itself.

AuthorCharlie Zieke

Congratulations to GRS senior Noah Hanson! 

Our Boys' Basketball player Noah Hanson has just been awarded an incredible honor. He has been named the Section 4A Triple A Winner of the MSHSL AAA award. This means that Noah has excelled in Academics, Athletics, and the Arts during his high school career. He will be honored at the Triple “A” Award On-Court Recognition Ceremony held in conjunction with the Boys' State Basketball Tournament in March. 


As a top award recipient from Region 4A , he is invited to the MSHSL AAA awards banquet. League officials will announce the four Triple “A” Award recipients at the banquet. Award recipients—a girl and a boy from both a Class A and a Class AA school—will receive a four-year $1,000 scholarship.


Charter Stars athletics is getting ready for Basketball conference tournament play! 

  • Girls' Basketball has a 9-4 record overall, with a conference record of 4-2. The team is currently in 3rd place in Division 1.
  • Boys' Basketball has a 12-4 record overall, with a conference record of 5-1. 
  • The Charter Stars cheerleaders are performing their half-time dance in February. Come get your groove on at a home game!

Come see our teams play at one of these upcoming games:

  • Friday, Feb. 9 - Girls' JV & Varsity Basketball - Senior Night - games at 5 and 6:30pm at Twin Cities Academy
  • Monday, Feb. 12 - 1st game of Girls' Varsity conference tournament - game time and location TBD
  • Thursday, Feb. 15 - Boys' JV & Varsity Basketball - Senior Night - games at 4:30 and 6pm at Twin Cities Academy
  • Friday, Feb. 16 - Girls' Varsity final conference tournament game at Cristo Rey Jesuit (2924 S 4th Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55408)
  • Thursday, Feb. 22 - Boys' JV & Varsity Basketball - games at 5:30 and 7pm at Twin Cities Academy
  • Monday, Feb. 26 - 1st game of Boys' Varsity conference tournament - game time and location TBD

** **

Final call for these Charter Stars spring sports - Baseball, Softball, Track!

All athletes need a valid Sports Physical on file, it should be dated more recently than May 31, 2015. Sports Physical form:

AuthorCharlie Zieke

Bring your sleds and join your GRS buddies at this sledding party. If you have questions, please email We will meet at the main building near the ski rental shop. If you cannot find the group once you arrive, or if you arrive late, please call David Martinez at 612-860-9536.

AuthorCharlie Zieke

Great River Community - a message below from Sam O'Brien, Head of School: 

January 5th, 2018


First, the obvious accomplishments: our new walls are up! The concrete foundation is literally poured for the facility expansion that will connect our two campus buildings into a unified 3.5 acre site. Exterior walls of the new facility are erected, the full west campus building remodel is underway to hold our fully realized elementary program.  

January 2018 marks the start of a culminating year for Great River School. Currently in our 14th school year, we will be celebrating our 15th anniversary starting in September. Also, as we are sure you've noticed, the construction of our unified 3.5 acre campus is fully underway. 2018 is also the closing year of a strategic planning cycle for the school.

We made an ambitious 3 year plan in 2014, and we are seeing the fruition of our work. What was clear in 2014 was that our innovative upstart school had become a promising institution serving families and children for 12 years of education. Our 2015-2018 strategic plan emphasized addressing immediate challenges to the school - facility, finances, and defining the overarching and long-term outcomes for our program. Our first elementary classroom opened in 2012, and we are now one of three Montessori programs nationally serving students age 6-18. As we look at the successes of our work these past three years, it is clear that we can achieve our goals and execute well on plans. The opportunity that lies before us now is to endeavor upon plans that serve the deepening roots and clarity of purpose that our students and family community seek.

Our current state as a school is one of success - we are a model for stable and transparent operation within the Charter School community. We operate an innovative educational program with a stable financial outlook. Our current firm foundation is the result of immense work and action over the past three years at every level of the school - from classrooms to the school board.

And yet, I will be the first to invite us to look critically at the ways we are responsible to address the challenges of the culture and society we live within. Adults in society (especially in the news these past two years) repeatedly demonstrate an inability to act with grace and courtesy. Social inequities - economic and political - are a pervasive challenge for schools to address, as we work to build fair and just relationships among students.

Great River faces these pervasive challenges with an opportunity to make actionable progress, but only if we are able to develop tools within our own school and community that are uncommon. An uncommon approach to resolving conflict with respect. An uncommon approach to addressing inequity with generosity, letting go, and offering of partnership. An uncommon understanding of how we will raise children with the tools to have integrity in their relationships, and that their success will not be at the cost of their peers or neighbors. I say these are uncommon because they are not simple, but they are possible. Inequity, social aggresssion, and status-caused problems among adults are pervasive challenges. I believe our next strategic plan as a school will need to articulate the concrete tools our school will use to address those challenges. 

Now that we have succeeded in addressing our immediate challenges, we aim to look toward the next 5 school years with a critical question: 'How do we take responsibility to model grace, courtesy, and high standards of responsibility and freedom for students

The class of 2029 is in first grade at Great River School. As we look at our foundations built over the first 14 years of the school, I'll be encouraging families and staff - new and old - to see the deeply successful program that has developed, found a niche, and thrived at Great River. The exceptional program we are all a part of is a result of persistence, humane relationships, and a dedication to our mission. We aim to prepare each student for their unique role and contributions in the world. In future newsletters this spring, you'll see school founders and contributors through the last 14 years deliver their thoughts and reflections on the school's purpose and role in the world now.

Thank you for being a part of this foundational time in the history and future of the school. Thank your child for the work they are doing to build a more peaceful society within the walls of the school, and thank yourself and your peer parents for proceeding in this endeavor to support whole children and a humane world. I look forward to seeing the fruits of our investment arise and show up between now and 2029 in the walls and on the ground of the campus we are seeing built today! 


AuthorSam O'Brien

Hello, Great River Students, Faculty, and Families,

The Urban Farming Occupation created a farm goods mini shop located in the front entryway of the main campus. Families are free to stop by and buy student made and farm goods. All products are made with care.

We are selling:

A Dozen Eggs……………………………….$5.00

Half a Dozen Eggs………………………….$2.50



Vermicompost per pound …………………..$2.50

Vermicompost 5 pounds…………………...$10.00

There is a mini fridge located in the front entryway with some products inside it and other products nearby. Pricing will be on the board above, and you can pay in the black money box. Please note that our supply fluctuates based on what our farm produces, so availability fluctuates . Please support our Urban Farm and stop by when you can!  Suggestions are welcome!

                        Thanks, A1 Urban Farming Occupation

AuthorCharlie Zieke

Our goats are so appreciative of the Christmas tree donations that have been rolling in. If you have an extra tree lying around, bring it to the GRS garden and the goats will happily recycle/munch it for you! 

Please, no trees that have been treated with fire retardants - we want to keep Lucy, Oz, & Rue safe and healthy in the new year! 

AuthorCharlie Zieke

The J-term marketing team is looking for local businesses to buy ad space in our programs, which will be given out at our three j-term performances.  Buy a full page for $50, a ½ page for $25 or a ¼ page for $10.  Please submit a pdf of your ad and your payment by January 15th to have your ad included in the program. Email us at for more information.  Thanks!

AuthorCharlie Zieke