10th Grade Bdote Trip Reflection

written by Ellie Vanderhaar, class of 2021

The Bdote trip was the key experience that the 10th graders had, camping at Fort Snelling State Park for four nights to study about Dakota culture and history. The students researched a few of the historic places known to the Dakota people called Mni Owe Sni, Wakan Tipi, Oheyawahi or Pilot Knob, and Mounds Park. Unfortunately, due to the gloomy and wet weather, only a few of the places named were able to be visited in the short amount of time. Despite not visiting most of the places planned, the students were assigned a packet of homework to complete based off of their reflections from the places they did visit. Although the trip was new for everyone who went through it, most of the students and guides appeared to have a great experience from it, and in conclusion, the trip will be a good key experience for the 10th graders in future years.

Building Construction Update

by Sam O'Brien, Head of School

Construction on the full remodel and finishing of our campus started June 11th, 2018. Since then, we’ve seen our total campus remodeled, rebuilt, re-painted, and finished anew! We have official approvals from the city of St Paul and our major construction is on schedule for the school year. As we welcome returning and new families to our 3.5 acre campus, we look forward to spending the year settling in, learning about our new home, and preparing the best Montessori learning environment possible for our students.

What is happening with the building?
Our 36,000 square foot building from 2004-2017 served our growing school well. We have - through the purchase, remodel, and full integration of two parcels of land - created a 72,000 square foot learning environment for children ages 6 through 18. From the west end of our building to the east wing, we have dedicated Montessori learning environments for 6 lower elementary classrooms, 6 upper elementary classrooms, groups and advisory spaces for students in grades 7/8, 9, and 10-12. Our exterior campus has doubled our space for urban agriculture and quadrupled the space available for recess and outdoor exploration for elementary students

What is it going to look like when we come on September 10th?
The major construction is complete, and on Back to School Night, you’ll see a building that looks like it’s just being moved into :-). Rooms are just being set up starting September 4th by guides and staff, and we’re excited for you to see the early stages of our building move in! We’ll welcome you and you’ll get to see portions of the facility that corresponds to your student age. On September 10th, our classrooms will be fully prepared for students across all ages. Adolescent guides will be ready to prep for key experiences. Elementary guides will have environments ready to engage in great work with our students.

Gym and Kitchen
The Gymnasium and Kitchen are two rooms with technical requirements and equipment that we want to make sure get built the right way, and to specifications matching our needs. The kitchen will likely be serving our first hot meals from scratch the first week of November. Until then, box lunches will be assembled by our Nutrition staff offsite. We look forward to providing nutritious breakfasts and lunches in box form until the kitchen is completed and open, at which point our custom menu will begin, making delicious food onsite. Look for the Nutrition logo and communications to come out later this week!

Thanks to one of the first wonderful milestones being reached by the Great River School Foundation Capital Campaign, we will have maple floors in our gymnasium  scheduled to be installed and finished by mid-November. Our gymnasium is currently the staging site for the kitchen equipment to be constructed, and we have chosen to delay opening the gym to make sure we build it right the first time and have the finishes and equipment we want in the gym before winter sets in. (Also thanks to the Capital Campaign we  have essential equipment needed for hot lunch starting the first week of November!)

We thank all of our community for patience, support, and time pitching in to volunteer with our move this past year, and with our construction. We also thank everyone for the future support and pitching in as we move into and settle our new building into a home for students. Our continued support from the community will allow us to fill and finish the spaces with beautiful learning materials.

Great River & TCA Announce New Mascot

Great River School and Twin Cities Academy have a new mascot for their sports cooperative - the Tigers! Great River and TCA have been partner schools for years, and as we enter a new decade of our partnership for athletics, we are revamping our presence in the athletic conference from "Charter School Cooperative"  to "TCA & GRS Tigers". 


The logo above integrates the Great River Athletic Stars logo into our shared Tiger mascot. Athletic Director Victor Vondracek sees real benefit into a renewed logo and image - he reports "A real identity for the cooperative will generate recognition across the conference of who we are as a partnership."  

The charter cooperative was a vestige from an original 2004 cooperative of 5 schools. Great River's Star emblem - seen on the Great River Ultimate jerseys and in LIST league uniforms - will still be a Great River team name. Victor says "We've also integrated the Great River Star into our cooperative logo. The new 'Tigers' name gives our schools a unified team name and place to get cooperative spirit going!" 

Great River looks forward to our new partnership mascot! Look for spiritwear with our shared logo!

Sam O'Brien
Head of School

School Nutrition Update

by Mary Hunn, RD, School Nutrition Director

In addition to all our students and staff, we look forward to parents and family members, as well as community members, to come eat, drink, and enjoy! We will soon be serving breakfast, lunch, after school and elementary classroom snacks, ala carte choices, and coffee shop foods and beverages. 

Construction of the commercial kitchen and dining hall area has begun and we hope to have it finished by the end of the August! Once everything is set-up and functioning, we'll be serving hot, fair-sourced meals to your students by October 8th.  Our twelve elementary classroom kitchenettes have also begun construction and we hope to start use by the first day of school.

Our brand new coffee shop is being built during the summer and will be slinging beverages in its permanent space by winter break. In the meantime, a temporary coffee shop will function as a pilot program for the school. There will be future work on the final design and layout of the permanent coffee shop with students engaging in the operations, as well as the instructional space for students in the commercial kitchen.  

Curious about what food spaces are open to you or your student? Look below! We hope to share a meal, hot beverage, or snack with you soon. 

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Experiential Learning in May!

Great River seniors participated in the second annual Experiential Learning (ELM) in May, a program designed to keep seniors engaged in their last week of high school, while teaching them valuable life skills. Our twelfth graders learned everything from how to change a tire, to self-defense, to mental health and self-care skills. Click here for a full description of this year's ELM schedule. 

Seniors also helped organize and run the Field Day event for our elementary and still managed to have enough energy to build three beautiful wooden chairs as a gift to the school. 


Field Day at GRS

On the second to last school day of the year, our younger students were treated to a Field Day at McMurray Field, organized by our seniors as part of their Experiential Learning in May (ELM). The older students led activities like a three-legged race, water balloon tosses, parachute games, jumping rope, and egg relay races. This was a great space to get some end-of-year energy out while playing cooperative games! 

Members of the Ultimate team were on hand to teach their younger counterparts proper disc throwing technique and Lower Adolescent students were there to cheer the game participants on. 

Last Day of School Ceremony

The last day of school ceremony at Great River School is a time when we gather as a whole community of students and recognize the passing of a year. Below is a transcript of the ceremony:

“As we face north, our youngest students stand in the very front line. we place our hands upon the shoulders of those in front of us. 

Those in the very front of the line – the youngest among us – have pioneered for another first year at Great River school. As the youngest students  they have bravely found their way here and as members of the community. 

Their pioneering spirit  has reminded us of where we have been and our responsibility to care for those younger – those who follow us in this place.

We now take a deep breath close your eyes and exhale gratitude and thank you to those younger.

As we turn now to the south  we will face the shoulders and backs of those older than us. Standing with no one in front of them are the oldest student among us – the seniors who will graduate. 

We now place our hands on the shoulders of those in front of us -extending a bridge of support from younger to older up until the 12th year, where the seniors look out upon an undefined path forward. 

This next path where they will decide how they carry themselves in the world, with the full memory of where they have been and those who are now holding their shoulders and backs all the way down to the youngest students here at great River school. 

The oldest among us demonstrate how to be, will remind us how to learn from those who have gone before, and serve as an example that inspires us and leads us into a future. 

As we look to the support that was ahead of us, we thank them  for their bravery, for treading a path that we may follow, and for creating trails and a legacy that we may follow into. All that we inherit next year has been cared for by those who are now standing before us. 

We close our eyes now and inhale, saying thank you we exhale a breath of gratitude to those who are older as they depart for their next year.

In graceful courtesy we turn to those next to us and around us, wishing each other well for the coming summer.”

Robotics at GRS


Another first for NoMythic – we qualified for Minnesota State Robotics Championship this year! This was one of the most competitive fields we’ve seen this year. On May 29th, we played hard and had a blast. We ended the day in 9th place. We were selected by the second alliance, and our alliance won second place overall. Nice work!


For younger students with an interest in robotics, Lego Camp is a day camp for 4th-8th-grade students who are interested in learning how to build and program a robot. Click here for more info or to register. 

Bike Trip

Our incredible 102 A1 students biked 121 miles over 4 days! They made it up every hill, camped every night, and came back older & wiser. 

From Tami Limberg, program coordinator: 

"We defs couldn’t thank all the volunteers and family members that made the homecoming today so fun! Thank you to our whole community for picking students up at Brackett Park, taking things home to wash, unloading the Uhaul at school, taking vehicles back, handing out popsicles, making signs, clapping!!!!!! We do this work as a way to build community in a real way - we couldn’t get up all those hills, through the rain, and the hard times without each other. We also had so much fun - playing, singing, cooking, joking, biking. That feeling when the endorphins kick in and you feel like you’re just flying on the bike - with a student that you can see a difference in, growth in, the future- that’s magic. Thank you for all your support."

Spring Intensives

For the last four days of school, 9th-12th graders were able to choose between 10+ exciting and skill-building spring intensives. Groups of students rehearsed in bands before performing at the Driftwood, canoed down the Namekagon, went on mural walks, learned how to woodwork, hiked state parks, and so much more. Our students' work built community-supporting skills and ended the school year on a productive high note. 

Spring Musical: Cabaret

written by Randi McClure, director, for the Cabaret program

Thea Aitchison (A2) as Sally Bowles, singing "Maybe This Time" 

Thea Aitchison (A2) as Sally Bowles, singing "Maybe This Time" 

Choosing a musical can be challenging. You spend months planning followed by 8 weeks of intensive rehearsal all for three performances where you put it all out on the line. I have always been more inclined towards smaller shows, ones that stretch actors outside of their comfort zones and ask them to try on characters they may have nothing in common with. When I was in high school I loved roles that let me peer into the complexities of adult life, both the ecstatic highs and wrenching lows. Theater teaches us what it means to be human.

Alice Erickson watches over the lightboard 

Alice Erickson watches over the lightboard 

In the summer of 2017 I was feeling stuck. Every idea seemed too saccharine, too intimidating, or too something else. It was mid August when the idea of Cabaret just wouldn’t go away. It was after watching the white supremacist march in Charlottesville, VA that I couldn’t get Cabaret out of my head. Here were Nazis. In America. In 2017. The idea of directing anything other than Cabaret seemed impossible. The idea of directing anything else seemed cowardly.

I was nervous about picking Cabaret. It’s not what one might call an ‘easy’ show. There were Nazis, tumultuous and sometimes violent relationships and a good deal of it takes place in a seedy nightclub. However, few musicals speak of love, loss, and disillusionment as beautifully as Cabaret.

Finn Scharen (Herr Shultz) & Sarah Erickson (Fraulein Kost) sing "It Couldn't Please Me More (The Pineapple Song)"

Finn Scharen (Herr Shultz) & Sarah Erickson (Fraulein Kost) sing "It Couldn't Please Me More (The Pineapple Song)"

The play was inspired by Christopher Isherwood’s novels ‘The Berlin Stories’. Isherwood was a young English novelist who traveled to Berlin to experience the “Golden Age” of jazz, cabarets, and relaxed ideas around of sex and homosexuality. He lived there during the rise of the Nazi party and the people he met inspired his stories of Sally, Herr Schultz and Ernst; they were all based on real people living in the Nollendorfplatz in 1929. Knowing that all of our characters were based on real people gave our rehearsal process a kind of weight. We wanted to do right by these people.

Directing Cabaret has been a profound experience. Watching these young actors research their characters, overcome fears and doubts, and dedicate themselves to finding the truths in their roles fills my heart with such deep affection. With an entirely student-run technical crew and a mostly student filled pit band this show truly belongs to the students that have created it. I feel honored to have worked with this group. I hope you enjoy the show.

Sincerely, Randi McClure



GRS Volleyball Update

written by Kayla Kronfeld, volleyball coach and A1 guide

The 5th/6th grade season wrapped up with a game at Twin Cities German Immersion. The athletes rocked it this season! They went from getting comfortable with postures and passes to nailing serves and spikes! The 5th/6th graders have worked hard to have a team that communicates and runs to the ball--they are doing a wonderful job. Many of the athletes are intending to join a Volleyball Camp this summer and we look forward to having them join us with new knowledge and experience next season!

2018 National Honor Society Inductees


Great River School inducted eighteen students into our National Honor Society chapter on April 25th, 2018. Congratulations to Gregory Ballen, Tacy Lenius, Leonide Sovell-Fernandez, Anna Clements, Sean Clements, Theresa Dart, Emilia Hidalgo, Haley Schmidt, Elias Rojas Collins, Guthrie Pritchard, Clara Sorensen, Helena Grilliot, Frank Steinhauer, Lauren Funke, Eva Fischer, Bea Ibes, Avery Reyes Beattie, and Zack Johnson! 

Brand New School Food & Nutrition Programs Starting Fall 2018!

We can sure see the GREAT construction that’s happening as we speak! And a big part of this are our Brand New School Food & Nutrition Programs starting in September!

We appreciate all the input, thoughts, and ideas we’ve heard from many parents and family members, staff, and students. The top three priorities that we are focusing on are: 1) Have Good Quality Food, 2) Serve Healthy Food, and 3) Offer a Variety of Choices. These meet our goal of providing nutritious and appealing food in a positive environment in line with our mission. And we are on our way to success with the following activities taking place ---

The new construction area in the middle of the two initial buildings will have a commercial kitchen that includes instructional space for students, a coffee shop/café with a seating area, and a cafeteria that is a part of the gymnatorium (gymnasium + auditorium). We will have three serving areas; two in the cafeteria and one in the coffee shop. The middle and high school students will have access to these areas before school, throughout the day, and after school. The coffee shop will also be open all day; and elementary students will have access before and after school. We invite parents and family members, as well as community members, to come eat, drink, and enjoy!

The elementary classrooms will have kitchenettes that will provide a learning environment. Lunch and snacks will be set up, served, and cleaned up in the classrooms.

We plan to have the kitchen, cafeteria, and classroom kitchenettes initial construction done by the first day of school, as well as a simple coffee shop to start the year. There will be future work to add instructional space for students and the final design and layout of the coffee shop with students engaging in the operations.  

Upon the completed initial construction --- fresh, healthy, scratch-cooked food made by our chef and production assistants will be ready to eat! We will have a variety of breakfasts, lunches, snacks, and coffee shop foods and beverages. Both hot and cold food options, a salad and fruit bar, vegetarian choices, gluten free foods, and other special diet options are all in the works. The elementary classrooms lunches will be sent from the commercial kitchen to each classroom. “To-Go” food using compostable supplies will be available for high school students, as well as all students, to take to their learning environments.

School meal accounts will be set up and all students will have pin numbers to enter into the laptop at the cafeteria and coffee shop cashier areas. Elementary guides will use a manual process to check off the served food in their classrooms. Orders will be taken in advance for elementary students; and middle and high school students will be encouraged to make orders in advance for planning purposes, but the cafeteria and coffee shop options will always be available unless we happen to run out of particular items.

Real, Meaningful Work --- including teaching nutrition education and culinary skills by engaging students in preparing food for our community, building awareness of local farming and environmental sustainability, implementing health and wellness dimensions and role modeling --- and more work will be in the works!

The Name of our Coffee Shop is…….

A GREAT name! We are hearing from everyone --- parents, family, community members, staff, and students. So far, the following ideas for names have been shared:

  1. The Heron Café

  2. The River Side Café

  3. The Coffee Shop

  4. Great River Café

  5. GRS Café/Coffee Shop

  6. The New Café

  7. Blue River Café

  8. Java Jive

  9. The River Cafe

Please let us know your input, thoughts, and ideas anytime --- and Thank You always. Send your ideas to Mary Hunn at nutrition@greatriverschool.org. We’d love to hear from you!