Heron's Nest Coffeeshop Update

written by Donna Goodlaxon, Coffeeshop Coordinator

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Heron’s Nest Phase I is underway. The Cafe Occupation, a class of 7th and 8th graders, hosted a successful cafe experience at Odyssey Night. They took in over $300 selling home baked cookies, hot chocolate and coffee. This covered the purchase of our used brewer and airpots!

Each day there are two types of coffees available for staff, visitors and our older students. In addition, the class is developing recipes and pricing that will be part of the next cafe phase. Speaking of the next cafe phase - the cafe will move into its permanent space upon completion of the commercial kitchen. Keep fingers crossed that this will happen soon.

The next phase will enable students to be making baked goods and additional beverages to add to the menu. Along with the next phase is the next Wish List. We’ll need a number of items to fully outfit the cafe. The biggest is an espresso machine. Also on the list are mugs, an ice machine, commercial blenders and more customers. Let us know about any connections that might help us get set up.

Watch for updates and plan to come and enjoy the new space and new treats!

Gender & Sexuality Alliance News

Great River’s Gender & Sexuality (GSA) has been busy!

On October 25th, student leaders organized a walk out, protesting the Trump administration’s proposed redefining of gender identity based only on biological sex. Students from GSA took turns speaking and leading their peers in chants. 70+ students chose to walkout, some holding signs, and peacefully gather on the north side of Energy Park Drive.

See below for student organizer Chandler Peters-DuRose’s reflection:

I am Chandler, a ninth grader here at GRS, and one of the leaders of the most recent protest. With the help of Astrid, administration, a few staff members, and a whole lot of support, a protest was organized to protect the trans community. Even though I wrote a speech and helped organize, I have to give a lot of credit to Astrid who made posters, buttons, flags, and really got the word out. To be completely honest, I didn't think this would go as well as it did - maybe 10 people would show up, not even. But in the end we got around 70 students in all grades.  As a trans person who came from a school where trans jokes were made, this was really a large change. People who I didn't even know showed up and that’s a great feeling to see that many people care. After the protest was over I thought “whatever, it is done kids will move on and forget the whole thing happened.” Instead the exact opposite happened: kids came up to me in the hallway and complimented me on my speech. One kid even asked me how to get involved. It's hard not feeling like you belong and it's important that people find their voice and their passion. It is hard to constantly demand that you belong in a space that is meant for everyone. It gets exhausting. I don't really know why it is such a big deal because I am just doing what is right. Isn't that what people are supposed to do? Fight for and with the people who have not found their voice? I believe that everyone has a voice and that it is just a matter of finding it. Everyone is capable of public speaking, but for some people it comes naturally. For others it takes time. This is not about creating different genders. Rather, it is about embracing your identity. Everyone is allowed to identify as they wish and it is important to realize that identity is self-declared and to say a specific community “is not real” or “should be erased” is saying a group of people and their history is invalid and they are not human. By getting rid of basic rights it leaves communities powerless and less human intentionally or unintentionally.

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On October 28th, a group of GSA students went to Monster Drag Brunch!

LUSH, a queer club located in Northeast Minneapolis, hosts a monthly themed all-ages drag brunch and has given generous scholarships for GRS students to attend. GSA members had the opportunity to see the show and meet the drag performers afterwards. Students prepped for this event by learning about the history and etiquette of drag shows in weekly GSA meetings. We’re looking forward to welcoming show director Victoria Deville to one of our meetings soon!

written by GSA leadership collective Ella Tomlinson, Avery Malenfant, and Stephanie Ballen

BIPOC Student Programming

Great River School faculty of color organized and hosted BIPOC-specific (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) programming for students of the global majority the afternoon of October 26th.

written by Jackie Le, class of 2024

The PoC or the People Of Color event last week was a celebration for all the kids in GRS from 12th graders all the way to the elementary. First we had an introductory meeting explaining our schedule for the day and what was going to happen and when it was going to happen. Then we adolescent students went to pick up the elementary kids, and introduced ourselves in our chosen groups, explaining what was our name, pronouns, our race/ethnicity, as well as a few of our favorite things. Soon after that we played games in the recess space and met each other. Overall it was a great experience, and there will be another POC meeting/event on topics and thinking together each month for adolescents who identify as people of color.

6th Grade Bridge - Classroom Pets

written by Rena Curtis and Thea Satre-Pratt, 6th Grade Bridge

Having animals present in a class room encourages skills like responsibility and care for living beings. As a whole school, Great River is a home for many animals. Our part as a class for caring for animals includes; feeding and caring for goats, chickens, class pets Wendell and Paulo (our bunnies) and Dart our Leopard Gecko.

Lucy, Rue, and Oz (our goats) require food, water, shelter and exercise. Some ways we meet our goats needs are saving food scraps, investing in shelter, and redesigning wooden planks for agility. Parents and students are asked to bring in food scraps such as, bread, corn products, fruit, lettuce, chard, carrot tops, dried fruit and vegetables. The goats dietary resrictions are meat, rhubarb, diary, avocado, tomato, potato, eggplant, and oak leaves. If you do not find a food on this list please refrain from sending it into the classroom for safety of the goats.

Our chickens have a similar diet. Bread, corn , fruits, grain, greens, carrots, broccoli, squash, and cucumbers. Sweet, salty, greasy, processed and citrus foods are harmful to the dietary systems of the chickens. We also collect eggs from the chickens to sell at stands and farmers markets.

Wendell and Paulo have a limited diet. Apples, pears, raw carrots, celery, lettuce, and cauliflower are their source of fresh vegetables. They also eat hay that we provide along with rabbit food pellets. We ate planning to build a new hutch with the guidance and assistance of our guides and head of school. Students will also design toys with food inside for training.

Our newest member of the bridge program is Dart the leopard gecko. Her diet consists of crickets… their diets are simple but they are complex creatures. Dart eats about 8 crickets per week so temporarily, we also have crickets chirping in the class.

Bringing in food for the animals as listed contributes to the health of the animals and is appreciated immensely. You can drop food donations at the front desk, labeled for our classroom! Email Cate at cwilliams@greatriverschool.org with any questions.

Odyssey Night

Families were invited to Odyssey Night on October 23rd! Science Odyssey projects allowed student the opportunity to explore and dig deeper into a science related topic that they were exposed to on the trip and also provided a great opportunity for students to complete and share academic work with their peers and school community that they can be proud of. 

2019-20 Enrollment Application Now Available

The application for enrollment next year at Great River School is now available. 

Applications do not carry over year to year, so even if you are currently on our waiting list, you will need to submit an application for next year to be included in the enrollment lottery for 2019-2020. The deadline for inclusion in the lottery is Friday, March 1st. 

Complete the Application to get on the list for next year! 

The 2018-19 waiting list still stands. Should a spot open in any particular grade level mid year, we will offer off the current year's waiting list.

Thank you for you interest in Great River! If you have any questions, please Email enroll@greatriverschool.org.

Great River Enrollment Team

Autumn Leaves: Upper Elementary Update

written by Andrea Galdames and Blue Earth River students

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As the leaves turned color this fall, students in Blue Earth River pioneer classroom (4th grade) were inspired to learn more about leaves and plants. As a class, we collected both deciduous and coniferous specimens outside and learned to use a dichotomous key to identify different tree species. Many students drew beautiful diagrams of leaves and brought in leaves and seeds from home. According to Henry Stumme-Hanson, “The leaf collecting was fun, but the identifying part was kind of hard. It was hard to find the correct tree because sometimes we had dried out samples and they weren’t as good, but with perfect samples it’s super easy to tell.”

One group of students followed up on a lesson about photosynthesis by writing a skit based on the “leaf factory” Montessori chart. This group wrote and revised the script, gave out parts, created props (including water and carbon dioxide particles), and performed the skit for lower elementary students to teach them about the process of photosynthesis. The rest of the students in the class got pulled in and became backstage props managers, audience greeters, and clean up helpers. According to Margo Willis, “I think the play was challenging. We all worked really hard on setting it up. There was a lot to remember. But it was good because I didn’t know people at the beginning of the year and the play made us connect more.” Other students echoed Margo’s remarks. “I enjoyed the play and enjoyed the fact that I was able to do something and be backstage and be part of the play,” said Antonia Sanmartin.

Henry Severtsgaard observed the flexibility and team work of the actors with admiration, “Everyone seemed to keep it together. When someone messed up they would act like it waspart of the play and it was no big deal. I was happy that I got to help.” This project can be summed up in the words of student Morgan Kane, “I thought it was fun.”

UA Reflections on Nobel Conference

On October 3rd, Great River juniors and seniors attended the Nobel Conference 54 (Soil: a Universe Underfoot) at Gustavus Adolphus in St. Peter, MN. The conference aimed to invite participants to “consider the vast diversity and complexity of soil and to ponder the challenges we face in protecting this most fundamental resource.”

We’ve collected some student reflections below:

Hayden Cyrus

I think the Nobel Conference taught me that it is important to maintain soil health and make sure we have healthy soil. We need to make sure that farmers should not till their soil so much because it breaks up the ecosystem of plants and crops. I also found it interesting how we were taught to make sure that soil needs to be healthy or it could affect what we eat in the future. Not many people know the importance of soil and how it needs to be healthy. I really hope in the near future more people will know about soil health and how we should maintain it, because I really think that it's important.

Most farmers till their soil, which is fine in most cases but if you continuously and repeatedly it can have a grave affect on your soil. The reason for that is because when you till soil it breaks up its ecosystem and makes it less stable and terrible for the plant or crop. And it's our responsibility for us humans to make sure our soil is plantable and sustainable. So that's why we need to use non-tilled soil so it can keep that ecosystem and sustain itself and also we need to stop using harmful chemicals.

Kieran Aus

There was one key idea brought forward during the Nobel Conference that really stood out to me - there are many downfalls of repeatedly tilling your soil in order to prepare it for new crops and tilling leads to increased erosion. The exposed, uncovered soil easily gets moved around by wind and rain. The goal of tilling is to start your crop in a weed free environment, but an overlooked benefit of weeds is that they hold the soil together. Tilling up healthy soil makes it very easy for a little bit of rain or wind to wash away the nutrients and microorganisms in the soil, and even erode the soil itself. This is what caused the Dust Bowl, winds whipping around dry tilled soil.

Another huge downfall of tilling is its disrupting of microorganism ecosystems in soil. These little microbes to do much to help the soil, they are adapted to their environment and they play crucial roles in maintaining a healthy soil. They help provide nitrogen and water to the plants, are they are primary decomposers of dead plant matter. Most of these ecosystems are in the top few inches of soil, exactly the part that gets torn up by tilling. This displaces the microorganisms, pushing them away or down into deeper portions of the soil where they cannot survive to help the soil. Because of this, come people are adopting a no-till style of farming. This makes the soil much healthier; it absorbs more water, holds more organic matter, and cycles nutrients very well. The dead plants that have been cut from last years crops remain there, covering the soil and keeping in more moisture and making it cooler. No-till also makes the soil much more resilient and able to withstand heavy rains and winds. Over time, it also reduced the costs of running large scale farming operations as there isn’t a need for as much large, expensive machinery. Ray “The Soil Guy” showed a demonstration of him running water through soil, one portion of soil was tilled, the other not tilled. The soil that wasn’t tilled absorbed almost all of the water that contacted it, and almost all of the water applied to the tilled soil ran right through it. Many farmers continue to till their soil because it has been a very common farming practices for decades. Driving down in southern Minnesota, or near any farm land for that matter, tilled soil is everywhere! However, I believe this will change over time as they see the no-till farmers reaping the benefits of letting the natural soil thrive.

Anonymous 11th Grader:

One key idea discussed in the Nobel Conference was biodiversity. Biodiversity is defined as “the variety of life in the world or in a particular habitat or ecosystem.” Biodiversity is often referenced as a measure of an ecosystem’s health, but I hadn’t thought about or understood why until the Nobel Conference. But there are many instances, especially in soil health, that biodiversity is critically important. One such example came up during Ray Archuleta’s talk about sustainable farming practices. On many farms, biodiversity isn’t thought about much. Generally speaking, one crop is planted in one field, and then the field is sprayed with herbicides over and over in order to kill off all unwanted plants. The practice of applying herbicides is thought of as necessary, because those unwanted plants may be taking up nutrients in the soil that the desired crop needs to grow. But scientists like Archuleta have proved that’s not the case. They have created crop mixes designed to mimic prairies that include crops often grown in monoculture (like corn and soybeans). The yields from the crop mixes have been wildly successful, because cover crops, which help to maintain and restore nutrient levels in the soil, are being grown at the same time as the desired crop. This biodiversity not only improves the economic output of farmers, but the health of the soil.

Another example of beneficial biodiversity came up in Suzanne Simard’s talk about the connections that exist within forests. Just like in farming, it was once considered that plants of different species exist in fierce competition with each other. As such, logging companies would remove trees from forests they sourced from that were not the desired species of trees, with the thought that the desired specie would get the nutrients and resources to grow faster. But this was soon found to be untrue. Trees that were planted in those forests were less likely to survive than trees that were planted in forests with high biodiversity levels. Simard’s research provides us with a reason why. Trees connect with each other through fungi that grow on their roots, called mycorrhizae. Through these connections, trees can send nutrients. Some even share nutrients based on seasonal need. In the winter, coniferous trees share much of the sugar they produce with deciduous trees, who are producing very little. In the spring, the coniferous trees are on In this way, biodiversity in forests allows for a strong and resilient ecosystem. The understanding of biodiversity is important because it provides us with a better way to care for the earth. Biodiversity illustrates perfectly the connection that exists between all things in nature, as the lack of it often has dramatic negative consequences. I believe that biodiversity is essential if we wish to create a more sustainable future.

GRS at the Macalester International Roundtable

written by Isabela Alvarez, class of 2019 


     On Friday, October 12, a group of Upper Adolescent students attended the Macalester International Roundtable. This year's theme was "Beyond Blood and Skin: The Global Production and Consequences of Race and Racisms". We spent our day listening to speeches about biomedical research on genetic health disparities and the impact of technology and memory on post-apartheid freedom. Students were offered a chance to ask questions to the plenary speakers. Our group also sat in on simulcasts of two discussion panels that focused on how politics affect racial identity in the modern day. It was a full and thought-provoking day, and we all went home with new concepts and questions. If you are a rising junior or senior, don't forget to register for next year's International Roundtable!

Harvest Fest 2018

written by Jennifer Gessner & Rachel Damiani, on behalf of the Parent Engagement Group

“Our Favorite Fall Things”
(To the tune of Sound of Music, “My Favorite Things”)

Hot soup in the cauldron
and painting on faces
pumpkins and gourds and wide open spaces
Sounds of the music the whole school can sing
These are a few of our favorite fall things.

Our school all together
exploring new places
crowns made of leaves and sticky caramel faces
Sharing the veggies and bread that we bring
These are a few of our favorite fall things.

When the soup boils
When the bread breaks
When I’m feeling glad,
I simply remember the Harvest Fest
And all of the fun we’ve had!

This year's Harvest Festival was the largest Great River School celebration to date. With our new space, we were able to gather as a whole community to celebrate the bounty of the harvest season. Old friends and new enjoyed arts and crafts activities, shopped the bounty gathered from the Adolescents’ trip to Buttermilk Farms, and made good use of the bounce houses and Gaga pit, all while the soup cooked away in the large cauldron. Harvest Fest was a great opportunity to connect with the community and share an afternoon of fun, food and frolic, while amazing music from our very talented students filled the air. The GRS Harvest Fest is a wonderful tradition that allows us to reflect on the gift of community and wonderment of how, together, our individual contributions can make a feast.

A very special thanks to all of the staff and volunteers that helped to make the Harvest Festival such a great success! Our fearless leader, Rachel, worked tirelessly to coordinate all of the logistics to make this event happen. In addition, there were SO many people--students, families, and staff alike--who dedicated time, energy, and resources to make this incredible day possible. Thank you to co-coordinators Monique, Holly, Jennifer and Jessica. You guys were the best team in making sure this event went smoothly! Thank you to Jenny, Jim, and Zack for pulling off such a special music set that included a community sing-a-long, GRS student and student alumni band Why Not, and professional Congolese musicians Salima & Dallas. Thank you also to Jim and Mary for saving the soup! (You guys know what I'm talking about!) Thank you Scott and the forestry occupation for setting up the straw bales and pumpkins and preparing farmstand items for sale. Thank you to Tami and the 9th & 10th graders who performed admirable community service during Harvest Fest. The event would not have been the same without your participation! Thank you to the 6th Bridge students who cleaned and prepped veggies for the soup! Thank you to all the students who harvested the pumpkins and veggies at the farm, and brought your homemade goods to the festival! Thank you to Scott Brown of The Accounting Group for sponsoring the hours of "free babysitting," aka bouncy houses. Thanks to Stacey for being our official Harvest Fest photographer. Thank you to Charlie and Jennifer for getting the word out about this event, resulting in such a great turnout! We had two amazing chefs who raised our soup experience to new levels--Kristin and Lisa--and many prep chefs too! Thank you so much to all the PEG Ambassadors who put in extra volunteer time before, during and after the event. Thank you so much to the setup and cleanup crews - you guys made the place look so beautiful to start and made sure every last piece of debris was picked up at the end!

Thank you to everyone who came out just to enjoy the event and be a part of the celebration!

If you have any feedback about this event or are interested in volunteering for this and other school events, please email: peg@greatriverschool.org.

LE's Day at Buttermilk Falls Farm

written by Jessy Fabel, Spring Brook guide

Our trip to Buttermilk Falls Farm has come and gone once again. After some wrestling with mother nature and some rainy days, we finally got some sunshine and each classroom had the chance to spend a glorious day at the farm.  

With our program growing, we recognized that there will be challenges when planning a trip to a farm with 130 children, but we also recognized that this tradition of going to the farm is something worth holding on to.  Great River has a beautiful partnership with the farmers at Buttermilk Falls Farm out in Osceola, Wisconsin and we find it important to introduce the students to the land and to the farmers - Christina, Carter, and the many eager workers that do residencies at the farm - early on in their experience with Great River.  As they grow and progress into the adolescent program, they will already be familiar with the land and the people that work it and they will also get the chance to live and work on the farm for one of their key experiences.  

We find this trip and partnership valuable for many reasons.  We get to spend some quality time outdoors, hiking in the forest, hearing waterfalls, exploring caves and hallow logs covered in lichen, and see some majestic wildlife.  This trip to the farm also allows us to see our biology curriculum come to life.  The students got to examine different types of seeds and harvest some of the fruit that those seeds become.  They also learned how to care for strawberries and prepare them for winter by covering them in a blanket of straw.  Christina spoke with many of the students about what constitutes an acre and they actually walked the perimeter of an acre.  The students also got the chance to learn about the animals they keep at the farm and how they're cared for.  They especially loved the gentle giant, Almo (the polar-bear-sized Pyrenees) as he wandered freely across the property and often lead the way to each of our activities.  

On our bus ride home, it was wonderful to hear stories about the students favorite memories from the day... picking out gourds, picking corn, balancing on huge tree longs.  We also talked about what it be like to have a farm and how their farm would look ... their responses were so delightful.  Many of the students even fell asleep in their seats (some on top of each other).  We cherish our partnership with Buttermilk Falls Farm and the wonderful people who run it.  It's also important to note that they are open to the public and host a number of activities as they are a CSA and a Folk School.  Please feel free to check out their website at http://www.buttermilkcsa.com/.

Here's to hoping you get the chance to experience this little slice of heaven just an hour away.

6th Grade Bridge Buttermilk Farm Reflection

By Isabella Severt and Rena Curtis, class of 2025

The week of the 24th, forty-one students and four 6B guides traveled to Buttermilk Falls Farm in Osceola, WI for our key experience. We spent three nights in tents, many hours harvesting and went on multiple hikes down to the falls. We separated into cook crews and made phenomenal meals throughout the week that reboosted our energy to partake in many activities. During the week many other staff at GRS made the trek down to teach creative expression classes. Sam O’Brien, our head of school lead a tree harvesting ceremony and Donna Goodlaxson co-taught with our guide Laurax an earth art experience.

Now presenting a story from our trip…

It was after nine and 6th bridge was all fast asleep when a slobbery thief and stole the students shoes and rain gear that had been left out to dry. When the students awoke to no shoes they were puzzled, Then began to realize the beast was in fact the farm dog, Almo.

Our class learned an incredible amount of skills at the farm. We also grew as a community. We inherited gardening skills and cooking skills, basic nature lessons and learned more about our classmates. This was such a wonderful and successful trip and we hope to have many more experiences like it .

9th Grade Buttermilk Farms Reflection

Compiled by Everest, Caleb and Kylie, class of 2022

When we got back from the farm trip we were asked to reflect on the trip by thinking of one thing we struggled with, one thing we learned, and one thing we enjoyed.

These are some of the things our peers wrote:

What did you struggle with?

  • I did not like how wet and cold it got, and my socks got wet.

  • Being wet all the time and continuing to work even when it was raining.

  • Harvesting squash was difficult.

  • Moving all of the pumpkins.

  • Lifting pumpkins.

  • There was too much rain the entire week.

What is a new skill that you learned?

  • I learned that when the weather wasn't the nicest you can still have a good time.

  • I learned how to harvest radishes.

  • To can food, preserve fruits and salsa.

  • to hide in the woods.

  • to make soap.

  • to saw through wood.

  • that working on the farm was not as hard as I thought.

  • how to make Pico and now to spider climb trees.

  • it rains a lot in wisconsin.

  • Cooking and Preparing lunch.

  • That I can cook.

Although we struggled and learned a lot, we also had a bunch of fun and enjoyed our time. Here are some of the things we enjoyed!

  • How to fix a barn.

  • The hike.

  • I enjoyed washing pumpkins and laughing with friends.

  • Playing frisbee with friends during free time.

  • The ride home.

  • My bed.

  • I enjoyed bonding with my friends again.

  • I enjoyed picking pumpkins.

  • I enjoyed the Coffee House that we put up on the trip - there were a lot of cool acts.

  • I enjoyed sitting in the orchard house getting to know people.

  • Carving spoons, and squash harvesting with Sarah Hansen.

  • Sleeping

  • The Bus Ride back home

  • Cleaning The entire house

Upper Elementary Wolf Ridge Reflection

By Sofie Stumme Hanson and Evelyn R. Hugart, Shingobee River Classroom

As you probably know, recently the Upper Elementary went to Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center in Finland, MN. We traveled  from September Twenty Fourth to September Twenty Eighth. Not only did we go to Wolf Ridge as a bonding experience, but also because the previous place, Widjiwagen, had too little space to support the Upper Elementary community. The head of school, Sam O'Brien, helped put together this trip to Wolf Ridge, (which was built in 1971) with the other adults including Jean Peters and the Upper Elementary staff. We got there by multiple Coach Buses, one bus per two classes, and got to Wolf Ridge around lunch (12:00 pm).  

Over the course of the week, Upper Elementary students explored the North Woods environment around Lake Superior. There were classes on lake study, stream study, forest ecology, animal signs, Ojibwe heritage, indoor rock climbing,  a high ropes course, and more. All of the Upper Elementary classes went to Wolf Ridge, and that includes the Shingobee River, Crow Wing River, Otter Tail River, Little Elk River, Swan River, and Blue Earth River. Here are excerpts from some quotes from three children who went to Wolf Ridge, along with the thoughts of the authors. As with any new experience, there were highlights and things that were not their favorites. Sofie from Shingobee stated, “I loved the animals and the climbing wall, as well as a bunch of other things.” Her co-author Evelyn reflected,  “I loved everything especially the rock wall, but I was sad by how tall the ropes course was.’’ Greta from Little Elk said, “I didn't really like the ropes course, I didn't really like the food either, but I really liked the animals and the rock wall.” Sofie from Swan River explained, “I really liked the ropes course, but I didn't like canoeing.” Have a good day!

Stanford & University of Michigan Visit GRS


A big thank you to the 89 students who joined Stanford University and the University of Michigan on September 21st. Students were able to ask questions, meet with individual admission officers and hear more about the application process.  Over 25 different colleges will be traveling to GRS over the next few months and all juniors and seniors are invited to attend. You can find out more at Great River College Planning on Facebook or look for the list posted outside the College Counselor's office. 

Preparing Thoughtful Spaces and Planning How We Work Together: Success at School and Home

by Nadine McNiff, Rice Creek guide


As October begins, we reflect on how our beautiful spaces and time spent in learning how to work in community leads to the greatest support for children here at school.  Maria Montessori explains what children need from adults; what indeed they might ask from us, “Help me help myself.” Fostering this independence is key and central to how we organize, plan, and use our school and classroom spaces.  

A prepared environment is one that considers carefully the needs and perspective of the child, and the goals for growth and independence we have for them. At school, this looks like wide hallways, plentiful light, a variety of outdoor spaces, a classroom with artwork and furniture at the child’s level, beautiful materials placed in a specific order on open shelves, objects that hold weight and require careful handling, and spaces that clearly define a child’s personal spaces and materials.  

Adults in a Montessori classroom also spend a great amount of time, with children, defining how we will all work together.  This includes discussions on what kind of school and classroom we want to come to each day, how we can do our own unique parts as adults and students, and finalizing this thinking and discussion into belief statements.  Our classroom beliefs guide our work as a community, throughout the year, in peaceful times as well as times of conflict or differing opinions. We take time each week to acknowledge all the beauty we recognize in our work together and address when we are having difficulty in upholding our beliefs or failing to do our perspective jobs.  Spending time preparing environments and agreeing on how we will work together is central to our healthy community. We know this type of investment and work is important in our student’s homes as well.

Preparing your home for independence takes some time, planning and thoughtfulness around the freedoms and responsibilities you understand are right for your child.  Including children in the daily life of your home is one of the most important indicators of their success at school, and in life. This might look like rethinking your routines such that your child has time and space to get ready independently, giving your child special jobs or chores that are their responsibility, asking for their input and perspective in appropriate family decisions, and organizing their sleeping spaces and personal spaces sparsely,   beautifully, and with a goal of independence in mind. Preparing our homes and including children in our family life fosters purposeful work, practical life skills, and builds self-reliance and discipline. Let them show you just how MUCH they can do.

Freedom and independence are vital, but we all know that there are some decisions and rules that are not appropriate for our children to make.  It is our job as adults to set the limits and hold fair and firm boundaries. Moreover, although we often hear them protest these limits, we understand this consistent structure to be comforting and healthy for our children.  It is worth considering what are those parts of your family life that children can make choices about, saying yes as often as is healthy and safe. This way, when we say no, and explain why we are making these decisions, they can trust (even if they don’t understand) that we are doing so, because this is our job as adults.

There is much thought and expertise surrounding these ideas.  We have attached some resources to guide you in planning spaces and designing how you work together in your homes.  We understand that you are the holder of unique insight and knowledge about your child that allows you to make the best decisions about how to create opportunities for independence and healthy boundaries at home.  We also know children are served best when schools and families do this in partnership.


A Parents Role: How it Differs from That of a Guide


7th & 8th Grade Odyssey Reflection

written by Eva Flood, class of 2022

On The Odyssey West we got to go to the Badlands, Bear Butte / Bear Mountain, Oahe Dam, Wind Caves, Pipestone National Monument, Mitchell City  History Museum and we got to view the night skies and hear elk bugling. We learned so much about all these Indigenous peoples lands and their history. We learned about the wind caves creation story. In the  Badlands we got to learn about the rock formations and how they were created. On the Odyssey we got to learn how to cook, work together, and become this beautiful community that we are today. Also we got to become closer and make new friends and learn about each other in the most spectacular ways. People who were new to the school were immediately welcomed, so  were the people who were in the 6th grade bridge or 6th grade. We all made new friends 8th graders and 7th graders alike.

12th Grade Canoe Trip Reflection

For their fall key experience, the 12th grade class traveled to northwest Wisconsin to canoe on the Namekagon river. On the first day of the trip, the students canoed over 16 miles to a campsite where they set up tents, cooked a communal meal, and engaged in rite of passage work, which was the overarching theme of the trip. The next morning was crisp, and students and guides awoke early and after a hot breakfast began to travel down the river again. The second day of paddling was shorter, but went through Trego Lake, where the current became barely noticable and paddling hard was crucial. After crossing the lake, students portaged their canoes across the dam, paddled a short ways to a small campsite, and then hiked half a mile to the Leisure Lake Youth Camp. Though the itinerary planned for more paddling the next two days, due to a forecast of thunderstorms, we remained at the camp and participated in olympic events, did reflective writing, and engaged in other rite of passage curriculum.

11th Grade Northstar Quest Reflection

written by Sean Gleason, class of 2020

The NorthStar Quest was a pretty fun time. We visited some colleges, ate at some cafeterias, ate at some campsites, and strengthened the community. The colleges we visited were the University of Minnesota Duluth, The North House Folk School, Northland College, and on the last day we had the option between Carleton and St Olaf. By the end the bus smelled and it was refreshing to get out of the bus and into the rain shower.