Thank you so much to all of our volunteers and staff that made iRace 2018 such an incredibly smashing success! With this year’s inclusion of new “Storytelling” sessions, engaging workshops, and a scrumptiously large pot-luck, iRace 2018 was definitely a meaningful and memorable event for all students. iRace sets out to break down boundaries and allow for conversations to happen between students and people of all backgrounds, and this year the iRace team believes that we successfully accomplished our goal, and created a wonderful and engaging experience. We hope to see you all next year! 

-iRace student team

 iRace student organizers Jack Spicer, Estefany Enriquez, and Britney Thao

iRace student organizers Jack Spicer, Estefany Enriquez, and Britney Thao

 Keynote speaker Hanadi Chehabeddine speaks to a group of students about fighting fear and ignorance. 

Keynote speaker Hanadi Chehabeddine speaks to a group of students about fighting fear and ignorance. 

 Workshop facilitator Noel Gordon speaks to a room of GRS students

Workshop facilitator Noel Gordon speaks to a room of GRS students

AuthorCharlie Zieke

written by Adam Koehler, A2 English teacher and Poetry Out Loud fan

The first week of March saw two of Great River’s own participating in the state semi-finals of the Poetry Out Loud recitation competition. A2 students, Val Heideman and Vasyl Shevstov, shared the stage with several other metro area students. Competitors performed recitations from two different poets to a panel of local literary judges. Each participant shared eloquent and insightful interpretations of poems from writers such as Dickenson, Hughes, Wittman, and Wheatley. It was a supportive and energetic event that shown brightly on talents of our youth.

AuthorCharlie Zieke

Junior Avery Reyes Beattie has been awarded a Silver Key for Excellence in Visual Arts from The Alliance for Young Artists & Writers.

The Scholastic Art & Writing Awards are presented by the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers. The Alliance is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization whose mission is to identify students with exceptional artistic and literary talent and present their remarkable work to the world through the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. Through the Awards, students receive opportunities for recognition, exhibition, publication, and scholarships.

Each year, the Alliance partners with more than 100 visual arts and literary arts organizations across the country to bring the Scholastic Awards to local communities. Teens in grades 7–12 apply in 29 categories of art and writing. In 2018, students submitted nearly 350,000 works of art and writing to the Scholastic Awards.


Avery is pictured above with her award in front of two examples of her artistic work.

AuthorCharlie Zieke

written by Alexis Dickey, volleyball coach

GRS Volleyball is coming along! 

5th-8th years have worked hard practicing their serves, and the 3 hits of bump, set, spike!
We are hearing them call out "Mine!" and "Got It" while digging for the balls.
Most impressive is the joy shared by the teams and the willingness to practice skills and learn while playing:)

Go, team, go!

AuthorCharlie Zieke

written by Mary Hunn, nutrition consultant

Bean Counts are Here! 


Thanks to all of you that shared what you think regarding the important values to address for our upcoming New Food and Nutrition Programs. At two tables at the Parent conferences, people took three beans and dropped them into the different jars that listed eight different topics. And here are the results --- in order of importance by building!


1. Healthy Food

2. Good quality of food

3. Reducing food waste

4. Variety on menu 

5. Good value for meals 

6. Sustainable sources

7. Convenient 

8. Popular menu items


1. Healthy food

2. Good quality of food

3. Sustainable sources 

4. Good value of meals

5. Enough variety on menu 

6. Popular menu items

7. Reducing food waste

8. Convenient

In the School Food and Nutrition Programs surveys sent out awhile ago, these same eight topics were included and our summaries so far show the same top two values — Healthy food and Good quality of food.

If you would still like to complete a survey, feel free to log into and/or send an email to We are very happy to listen to more GREAT thoughts and ideas from everyone! 


AuthorCharlie Zieke
 Students participating in a walkout organized by SfSC (March 14th, 2018). Students who chose to participate in the walkout left school and gathered by Energy Park Drive for seventeen minutes to honor those killed in Parkland, Florida. 

Students participating in a walkout organized by SfSC (March 14th, 2018). Students who chose to participate in the walkout left school and gathered by Energy Park Drive for seventeen minutes to honor those killed in Parkland, Florida. 

written by Shoshana Schmit and Ryland Kranz

Students for Social Change (SFSC) is an organization of students who want to make a difference in today's society. We believe that us as adolescents deserve a voice in social issues which could help prepare us for controversial conversations and political decisions later in life. Lately we have been focusing on gun reform laws by leading the walk out on March 14th at our school. We also helped raise awareness for the March For Our Lives and we are currently working on a walk out on April 20th that will head to the Minnesota Capitol. We will also focus on other major issues such as Climate Change, Animal Abuse, Body Acceptance and much more. We work towards a better future for us and our children through non-violent protesting and raising awareness for movements we believe in.

Shoshana Schmit, President of Students For Social Change

Ryland Kranz, Vice President of Students For Social Change

AuthorCharlie Zieke

written by Erik Akre, Minnesota River LE Guide  

Screen Shot 2018-03-29 at 1.20.29 PM.png

When her daughter was entering Kindergarten, my sister visited several schools to see what might be the best environment for her child.  She related to me that one Kindergarten classroom had purchased an iPad for each child. The teacher handed them out to the children during the school day for academic purposes.  I tried to imagine a room full of five-year-olds hunched over little machines, the environment around them left untouched, unnoticed, and effectively non-existent.

  At our faculty retreat in 2013, with such educational situations on our minds, our lower elementary team broke out to discuss the use of technology in our budding program.  How might technology fit into our work with children of this age?

  We all agreed on the first and most important point in our discussion: the nature of child development at these ages.  When children enter first grade, they are just entering Montessori’s second plane of development--a time when abstract thinking and reasoning are only beginning to manifest, and concrete learning is still prevalent.  Most children of this age interact with the world by manipulating objects with their senses, and in three dimensions. The use of iPads in our classroom environments is thus unthinkable; this learning object is a flat screen, with all of its distractions and entertainments included.

  As children move into the middle of this second plane, around age nine, they become more able to process abstractly, yet three-dimensional, sensory learning remains beneficial as a base from which to work.  At all elementary ages, using concrete materials also gives them a chance to work together with peers and develop their social nature--a crucial aspect of development for the entire second plane, ages 6-12.

  After our discussion at the retreat, we made a decision that technology--iPads, laptops, or computers--would hold no place in the lower elementary curriculum.  In the upper elementary the students use computers, but this is restricted to certain purposes, especially extending research opportunities.

  Leaving technology out of the lower elementary, we determined, makes room for other life-long skills.  Children learn to sew, knit, write in cursive, develop the strength and versatility of their hands, or organize and sort objects in three-dimensional space.  These skills cannot be learned--or learned with any degree of meaning--on an iPad. In a Montessori environment, a child can live life with a more varied skill set while developing along the lines appropriate for their age.

  In part, we made our decision based on the fact that students use technology ubiquitously in other areas of their lives.  In my experience with children, I have found that video games, television, and movies are among the most discussed topics among the students at school.  They are clearly very important. At the retreat, we talked about the need for a “haven” from screen time, providing a place where children could take a break from the experience of two-dimensional entertainment.  We want to give them a place to slow down, to center themselves, to be in their bodies. Keeping technology out of the classroom intentionally addresses this issue.

  I do not intend here to vilify technology in general.  It is an incredibly important aspect of life in our time, and children must have experience with it to prepare for their lives in this world.  But in the elementary years, they need a good portion of each day to touch their world, to manipulate it with their hands, to play outside, and to experience the three-dimensionality of their lives as humans beings.

  The Montessori environment is a place where children can work to develop themselves along the lines that nature and evolution have provided.  Given real objects and real materials with which to learn, elementary children can experience the world in harmony with their developmental stage.  And the money that might have been used to buy 30 iPads can be channeled to the purchase of good books, geometric solids, bead chains, grammar boxes, or bus trips to the farm.

AuthorCharlie Zieke

by Murphy Galvin, Crow Wing 6th Grader

The sixth graders in Crow Wing chose to plan a dogsledding trip at the end of October. We decided on this option because all of us like the snow and LOVE dogs. We were in the fundraising stage for about 4 months, from the start of October to the start of March. We made a lot of the money from events and sales that Everett and his family set up. We left on March 7th and returned on the 8th.

During the trip we went dogsledding, fed and watered the dogs, and snowshoed. The owner, Kathleen made food for us the entire time (everybody loved it). Kathleen’s place is completely off the grid and is heated with wood and powered by solar panels. They have 37 dogs in all in a range from 9 weeks old to 14 years old. Every sixth grader would agree that they had an awesome time and would definitely go back again.

AuthorCharlie Zieke

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