PEG Meeting Recap & Volunteer Opportunities

(written by PEG ambassadors Rachel Damiani & Jessica Knight)

It has been a pleasure to get to know many of you at the Parent Engagement Group (PEG) meetings and work with you as volunteers. Thank you to everyone who has donated their time and energy so far this year!

This last PEG meeting was a great success! Donna and Ricardo described the goal of making GRS a zero-waste school! We're still far from that goal, but one important step is educating students and the GRS community about proper waste stream management. The school is being equipped with waste stations that include bins for compost, recycling, and landfill, and at the end of the day, students bring waste from those bins out to sort into the appropriate dumpsters. Donna and Ricardo have been supervising that process (with some heroic dumpster diving antics to entertain and educate students) and will looking for some parent volunteers to lend a hand with both end-of-day and lunchtime waste stream management going forward.

New school chef Leah Korger and School Nutritionist Jenny Breen answered questions about the new school lunch program and offered a tour of the gorgeous new kitchen, including food prep, cooking, and warming stations, as well as the walk-in refrigeration units. Sourcing, recipes and menus, and serving logistics are being finalized, and the new program will be rolled out gradually starting next month.

As we head into the second half of the school year, we'll be reaching out even more to make sure families feel welcomed, connected and engaged in our community. We also encourage you to reach out to your PEG classroom or level ambassador or email anytime! 

Blue Heron Bash March 23rd!
Great River’s biggest friendraiser of the year, the Blue Heron Bash, is coming up on March 23.  This is a great time to meet other families & check out the new building all while raising money for exciting projects at school.  Check out our webpage for more information. Blue Heron Bash — Great River School 

Cook or Donate for the GRS Staff of Color affinity group
Please help the Parent Engagement Group support GRS’s staff of color affinity group by providing delicious food for their monthly meetings! We are looking for donations of main dishes, side dishes, beverages, and dessert on the first Tuesday of every month. Cooking not your thing? Cash donations and gift cards are also welcome! SignUp Genius coming soon, or contact Karen Solas at

Be a Volunteer Judge for History Day Competition
Sarah Garton, our intrepid UA Social Studies guide, is seeking volunteers to judge our tenth grade History Day competition on Tuesday, Feb 12th from 8-11am. This year's theme is Triumph and Tragedy. Students are working on their exhibits, websites, research papers, documentaries and performances on a wide range of topics, and we'd love your help giving them critical feedback. Judges would need to arrive around 8am for orientation and will judge at least five different entries with 1-2 other judges between 8:45-10:30. Debriefing and conferring for who to recommend to regional competition should take until 11am. If you know anyone else in the community who might be interested, please pass this along + thanks for your support! Questions? Email Sarah Garton:

Volunteers Needed For GRS Green Initiatives
The school is seeking volunteers to help with various green initiatives on campus including: help with sorting trash, compost and recycling during adolescent advisories, supervise sorting at lunchtime, research plastic bag recycling, write grant for recycling and plastic occupations, design and build 3 compartment stations for waste stream stations. Email to get started!

Take the Bike/Walk to School Survey
The Parent Engagement Group (PEG) would like to know your thoughts about biking and walking to school! Even if your kids already bike or walk to/from school or if you would never consider it - we want to hear from everybody! Fill out this short survey and be entered to win a $25 gift card for Now Bikes & Fitness:

Find a Carpool Buddy!
Wouldn’t it be great to have a shorter drop off/pick up line, not have to drive to school every day, AND reduce the amount of carbon being emitted into the air? You can do all of this - and get to know more people - by carpooling! If you are interested in receiving a link to the ‘GRS family map’ to find other families who live near you and set up a carpool, email Laurie Sovell at

Elementary Book Fair Success!
The elementary classrooms have been enjoying their newly expanded libraries, thanks to the generosity of the GRS community. So far this year, families have gifted almost $1700 worth of books from elementary teachers' wish lists, and have earned another $1400 in free books from Usborne Books purchases. Our next in-person book fair will take place during spring conferences. 

And don't forget, you can purchase books any time via our Usborne representative's website, and 50% of sales will go to GRS through the end of the year! Just follow this link to browse and purchase:

Used Book Sale Volunteers Needed
PEG has heard some community interest in a used book sale. If you're interested in helping to organize these initiatives, contact us at

View our Sign Up Genius Page for additional opportunities!

Festivus (What is It?)

by Johan Hanson, class of 2019

If you’ve seen the 90s sitcom Seinfeld, you are probably familiar with Festivus. For those who don’t know, Festivus is a non-religious holiday that was created to avoid the pressures and commercialization of the holiday season. Adopted from Seinfeld, Festivus has become an annual event celebrated by the adolescent students at Great River.

It traditionally involves a slew of different activities but at the core of this GRS tradition is a potluck and an airing of grievances.

This year’s celebration also includes an improv off, a hackey sack off, and a faculty and student karaoke. The event is being planned by student leadership in coordination with school leadership.

Students will be asked to contribute to the communal potluck! In the morning, between 8:00 and 8:30, students can drop off their contributions to the Festivus potluck in the upper commons (room #277). We will have access to a refrigerator for storing food, but not a freezer. Also, since we do not have access to ovens, dishes that need to be kept warm should be brought in a crock pot or other electronic food warming device. The potluck assignments by advisory are as follows: 

  • Abby – Main Dishes

  • Anni  – Main Dishes

  • Sheila – Beverages

  • Zack – Allergen conducive alternatives (vegan, gluten free, peanut free)

  • Caroline – Appetizers

  • Lindsey  – Desserts

  • Mike – Chips and Dip

  • Sarah G  – Fruit

  • Ocean  – Vegetables

Unfortunately, due to our polar-vortex mini winter break, Festivus needs to be rescheduled! (Administrative note: likely for February 28th, 2019) The student leadership team has been working hard to make this celebration happen, and their determination and planning will indeed be rewarded. Look for future communications from the school for more details.

Crow Wing Newsletter Articles: Construction & Physical Expressions


GRS Construction   
Willa Henkemeyer, fourth grade)

Recently, Great River School (GRS) has undergone construction. I mean a lot. For example, we have a new gym (see Vincent’s article), a new cafeteria, and a whole new wing of the school. All the construction has taken many months.  Some parts have taken much longer than anticipated.

Because GRS has been having construction on the cafeteria and kitchen, students have had to eat in other locations, which really doesn't matter except the fact that there has not been any hot lunch. But by the end of February all the students will have a hot lunch option!

When GRS was building a new gym, the students were having P.E. outside. Some of the students didn't  like to have P.E outside because we had it outside into winter. But now students are in the gym.  Many students feel warmer and happier to be in the gym for P.E.

Since GRS has added on the new part of the school, classrooms have been changed to different areas of the school, which has taken some getting used to. All the original parts of GRS are still there, but just with added construction. GRS has only recently finished painting the school.

It's been exciting watching the changes!


Physical Expressions
By Vincent, fourth grade)

Recently Great River School (GRS) got a new gym. The gym was supposed to be used when we came back from winter break, but it was a little after that because the flooring took longer than anticipated.

I interviewed Seth the gym teacher and asked questions like “What's it like to be a gym teacher?” he answered “Challenging and rewarding at the same time.” He has enjoyed having Eric, his new co-teacher, around for teaching and if something goes wrong.  Right now, the elementary students have been learning Kali sticks, these are sticks where we follow a pattern and focus with our whole body.

Personally I like when we have PE in the gym because it's getting colder and I don't want to freeze. Ok, that was a little dramatic, but it is getting colder- and cold weather during gym for 45 minutes right after recess can be dreadful.

Big Work!

by Jenna Laffin (Minnesota River Guide)

Let’s build the biggest polygon we can!
Let’s use ALL the bead bars in our next problem!
Let’s do all the pin maps at once and build a map of the world!

Building the biggest polygon possible

Building the biggest polygon possible

Elementary children are particularly interested in discovering the “how” and “why” of the world around them. They ask big questions, and only by doing “big work” can they begin to answer these questions for themselves. That’s why statements like the ones above are so common in a Montessori classroom; after giving the children a key to understanding a concept it is almost a given that they will want to challenge themselves to the maximum extent. The children naturally want to explore, completing their work due to internal motivation and enthusiasm rather than to gain adult approval. They choose projects of greater difficulty and requiring more dedication and focus than we could create for them.

In Minnesota River, a group of first- and second-year students had eagerly been working on pin maps early in the school year. At one point, one of them suggested that they collaborate and finish all of the pin maps at the same time and put them together to show every country, capital city, major land form, and waterway of the world. They were thrilled when they accomplished this task over the course of a few days, and gave their classmates a tour of what they had done. A few weeks later, the six boxes of pins from the different continents got hopelessly mixed together and were out of commission for a few days—separating hundreds of small flags seemed an onerous task. But when this same group of students discovered the problem, they joined together to separate out the pins in just a few hours as the names were now so familiar to them. We did not ask the children to fill out a worksheet listing all the countries in the world, or give them a test on capitals. We did not require them to sort by color or alphabetize the pins, activities that they chose on their own to make their sorting work easier. Instead, they learned all of these names through repetition in their work and commitment to each other to complete the big project they set for themselves.

Two students find the value of all the positive and negative bead bars from the Negative Snake Game

Two students find the value of all the positive and negative bead bars from the Negative Snake Game

As Dr. Montessori wrote, “Our aim is not merely to make the child understand, and still less to force him to memorize, but so to touch his imagination as to enthuse him to his inmost core. We do not want complacent pupils, but eager ones; we seek to sow life in the child rather than theories, to help him in his growth, mental and emotional as well as physical, and for that we must offer grand and lofty ideas to the human mind, which we find ever ready to receive them, demanding more and more.”

Completed map of the world!

Completed map of the world!

Nutrition Program Update - January 2019


Changes have arrived in our school nutrition program! We have hired a new school chef and a new school nutritionist! Leah Korger (Chef) and Jenny Breen (Nutritionist) . Leah and Jenny each bring years of experience in local food and affordable, healthy ingredients to a revamped menu and food offering starting in February. Our commercial kitchen was finally completed in December and Donna Goodlaxson has been teaching our lower adolescent occupations students in the space - cooking and studying food systems.

So, you may be asking: When does the homemade hot lunch start!?

The wait is getting shorter and shorter until we’re producing delicious, sustainable meals inside our very own, newly licensed commercial kitchen! We’ve been excited to see community members utilizing our coffeeshop space more and more - please stop in for a student-made granola bar and warm beverage soon!

Chef Leah tells us, “We plan to be producing cold sandwiches and other ‘grab-n-go’ food items by the first week of February, moving onto hot lunch and salad bar offerings by February 18th.”

Planned menu items include:
-Taco Tuesday featuring local hot sauces and Minneapolis-made La Perla corn tortillas
-Curries and dals with whole grains
-Herb-roasted chicken and buttermilk mashed potatoes (made with affordably sourced organic potatoes)

…and more! Leah and Jenny tell us “As we settle in and develop efficient systems we will be increasing the variety of options and increasing organic/local purchasing. We’re excited to hear what feedback the school community has once we begin and will be using it to guide the program moving forward!” Jenny Breen will be taking the lead on wellness group meetings and planning family events to welcome us all into the school to eat together and experience good, whole cooking for every family.

Our previous team of Mary Hunn and Renee Havelka have moved on to other employment and we wish them well. Pleas join us in welcoming Leah & Jenny and the wide breadth of experience they both bring. Read their bios below and say hello the next time you’re in the building!

Biographies for Leah and Jenny:


Leah Korger (pronouns: they/them)
School Chef

Growing up, I was never a stranger to healthy food or how it grew. My grandparents owned a potato farm in Wisconsin and my parents cultivated towering blueberry bushes in our backyard. My interest in food and agriculture grew when I focused on a Human Biology - Nutrition degree from the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay. After college I have completed apprenticeships on organic farms, served a year connecting kids to healthy food with the FoodCorps, and most recently was managing the commissary kitchen for the Wedge and Linden Hills Coops. I am excited to bring some scratch cooking to a school setting and connect the school community to local farms!

Jenny Breen (pronouns: she/her)
School Nutritionist


Jenny Breen has been a professional chef and advocate for local food and healthy food systems since the mid 1980’s. She has been working in the field of education for over 25 years, and received a Master’s of Education and visual arts in 1993. After years of working in the food industry in Minneapolis,  she opened and co-ran a farm to table restaurant from 1996-2001, and a local foods catering company until 2009, when she received a Bush Leadership Fellowship to pursue an MPH in Nutrition at the U of Mn. Her vision is to build networks within health and food systems for greater access to food, support for sustainable farming, and to promote cooking as a health and community building strategy. She has worked in and collaborated with numerous food and farming non-profits, and now contracts as a culinary nutrition public health educator with local health departments, school districts, non-profit food and farming organizations and health care institutions as a partner with The Good Acre agricultural food hub. Jenny’s work makes food and cooking relevant to the bigger picture of health for people, communities and the planet. She shares a love of food, learning and well being, and brings a dynamic combination of skills, leadership, passion and experience to her work.

J-Term 2019 Preparation

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Hello Great River Families, 


Our J-Term performances are quickly approaching! This year the 7th and 8th graders are working very hard to present to you three very different shows. They are:

  • Deleted Scenes from Fairy Tales by: Briandaniel Oglesby

  Characters with attitude star in a series of fairy tales with modern adaptions.

  • Shuddersome: Tales of Poe by: Lindsay Price

  This dark and haunting show brings to life three works of Edgar Allen Poe  

  • The One Word Odyssey by: Dwayne Yancey

  This is an abridged version of the Odyssey of Homer, but every line is only one word long. (Chaos ensues.)

Each of the three shows will be performed on two different nights, and it will be possible to buy tickets either for a full night or for only one of the two shows on a given night.

Performances are: 

  • Deleted Scenes and Shuddersome, Thursday, January 31 (evening), 

  • Shuddersome and Odyssey, Friday, February 1 (evening),

  • Deleted Scenes and Odyssey, Saturday, February 2 (matinee),

and will be held in Great River's new Performance Space!

Adult, Full Night: $15 
Student, Full Night: $10
Adult, Individual Show: $8
Student, Individual Show: $6

If buying tickets is a financial hardship for you, please let Holly Bell know at so that we can make sure you can attend.  We would appreciate hearing from you by noon on Thursday, January 18th. 

Children in laps do not need to buy tickets. Student prices include those 18 and under who do not attend Great River.

Thank you so much for your support!

Phoebe Kirchner 
Front of House Manager

Lower Elementary Library Adventures

written by Rachel Cupps, Minnehaha Creek Guide

Great River lower elementary students are able to have off campus days. We use these as an opportunity to extend our classroom environments. One of the wonderful places we have been able to go is the Hamline Midway Library.


The Saint Paul Public Library has wonderful programing that inspires a new love of books and reading. Minnehaha Creek has “rocked the library scavenger hunt”, heard new and silly stories, and found books to spark research as well as imagination.

Our library trips are also a time to encourage responsibility and independence. The local librarian worked to get each child their very own library card. With their own library card students learn the importance of caring for a borrowed material and returning it on time. Students also feel trustworthy checking out books in their own name. Being a library patron establishes the child as a member of a larger community of both the city and readers.  

Students also find joy in being able to choose books that interest them.  Children are able to find a wider variety of fiction and nonfiction texts at their level. This can spark or renew interest in topics. Library time is an active discovery for lower elementary students.

The intensive, exhausting and exciting process of the IB Extended Essay

From investigating Nigerian feminist fashion to American waste reduction, from the Mexican Revolution and peasant land-reform movements to nihilistic film, Great River senior IB Diploma candidates are curious people! 

IB Diploma candidates from the Class of 2019 finally completed their IB Extended Essays (4,000-word argumentative research essay on a topic of their choice with the support of a GRS mentor) on December 21, delivering the final essays to their mentors on a silver platter. 

Earlier in the autumn, faculty mentors and senior IB Diploma candidates shared tea and cookies as they talked through feedback on drafts of the essays. Alumni regularly report to us that the Extended Essay process prepared them for college writing. As a graduate from last year wrote, "The extended essay is the most valuable skill you will have going into college. I have already written similar style essays and knowing how to approach the writing process has been very helpful."


On January 9 IB Diploma candidates from the classes of 2019 and 2020 gathered to celebrate and share wisdom about the extended essay at the 75/25 party. (Senior IB Diploma candidates are 75% finished with their pursuit of the IB Diploma, while juniors are 25% completed.)

Read the draft questions from this year's seniors' Extended Essays:

  • ISIS and social media: how terrorists use the internet to their advantage — To what extent does social media help groups with little influence to increase both their hard and soft power? 

  • How effective is humanitarian intervention? 

  • To what extent is there a correlation between agrarian revolution and capitalist modernization in 20th century Mexico? 

  • How can Americans reduce their annual waste output? 

  • To what extent has nihilistic film and television affected the film industry? 

  • How does the depiction of the 'other' in narrative military propaganda film function as validation for both the motivation of the main character as well as the films central ideology? 

  • What role do economic philanthropists play in the feminist fashion movement in Nigeria? 

  • How and in what ways do underground subcultures of music influence mainstream music and music culture?

Algebraic Squaring of a Trinomial

written by Adara Coates and Stella Hudson of Otter Tail River

Greetings from Otter Tail! We would like to share some math we have been doing this winter!

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This is called Algebraic Squaring of a Trinomial. Algebraic notation is when we use a letter to take the place of a number, squaring is when we multiply something by itself. In this case we picked a word to square, we chose GRS, and assigned a value to each of the letters. Then we connected lines to construct a square that represents the values in the equation. We color-coded the squares and rectangles with like values. Using the square as a guide we wrote the equation for an algebraic trinomial. If you would like, you might choose to calculate the total value of the square.

In the future we would like to square the word ‘Montessori’ which would be an algebraic decanomial! It is fun to do this work because we can square any word we would like!


UA Students attend the Global Minnesota's Great Decisions Conferences


IB Global Politics students represented Great River School at Global Minnesota's Great Decisions Conference focused on Media and Foreign Policy at Minneapolis Central Library on November 9. We heard lectures by Foreign Service diplomat Tom Hanson, who spoke about foreign policy in an era of Twitter Diplomacy, and professor Susan Moeller, who spoke about media literacy and discussed how statements made by US politicians influence how states use violence in other countries

We also heard from a panel of journalists who discussed press freedom in their home countries of Hong Kong, Ecuador and Venezuela, New Zealand, Nigeria and Albania. One interesting point from the Albanian journalist was that there are 900 portals of media information in Albania yet only 100 of those outlets are controlled by trained journalists. So the three million people of Albania are highly vulnerable to misinformation or false claims since much national information is not vetted by journalistic integrity. Finally, we heard from Mary Stucky, founder of Round Earth Media, which connects foreign and local reporters to gather and share the stories of the "quiet, untidy corners of the world." 

Some of our favorite quotes from the conference:

• John Stuart Mill's warning about the "deep slumber of a decided opinion" (1859)

• "When foreign offices were ruled by autocracies or oligarchies, the danger of war was in sinister purpose. When foreign affairs are ruled by democracies, the danger of war will be in mistaken beliefs. The world will be gainer by the change, for, while there is no human way to prevent a kin from having a bad heart, there is a human way to prevent a people from having an erroneous opinion." - Elihu Root, US Secretary of State (1922)

• "In an ever-changing, incomprehensible world, the masses had reached the point where they would, at the same time, believe everything and nothing, think that everything was possible and that nothing was true." - Hannah Arendt The Origins of Totalitarianism (1951)

• "We live in a world erected through the stories we tell." - George Gerbner (1998)

• "As tempting as it is for Americans to focus attention inward as American democracy feels like it is imploding, it is vital to remember that the United States is still a power that reaches into lives, and sometimes deals death, around the world. If Chinua Achebe’s famously wise words were right, if evil really does thrive best in 'quiet, untidy corners,' then foreign correspondents must persevere there." - Christina Goldbaum, NYT (2018)

Perspectives on Global Stories and Media Literacy:

Global Voices: Global Voices is an international and multilingual community of bloggers, journalists, translators, academics, and human rights activists. Together, they leverage the power of the internet to build understanding across borders. 

World Press Freedom Index 2018: The US just dropped from 43rd to 45th in this press freedom ranking in 2018. Read why.

Blue Feed, Red Feed: Facebook’s role in providing Americans with political news has never been stronger—or more controversial. Scholars worry that the social network can create “echo chambers,” where users see posts only from like-minded friends and media sources. To demonstrate how reality may differ for different Facebook users, The Wall Street Journal created two feeds, one “blue” and the other “red.” If a source appears in the red feed, a majority of the articles shared from the source were classified as “very conservatively aligned” in a large 2015 Facebook study. For the blue feed, a majority of each source’s articles aligned “very liberal.”

GSA Goes to Q-Quest!

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

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The GRS Gender & Sexuality Alliance attended Q-Quest on November 14th, 2018. There we watched dance performances, a comedy routine, and an open mic performance. We were able to attend entertaining workshops with topics including queer puppetry, identities, “How to Survive the Holidays”, and creating supportive relationships. The performances (especially the dancing) were engaging and fun.

As always, Q-Quest strives to create an open and welcoming community for LGBTQ+ and allied students, and gives students the resources to create these spaces at their own schools.

What is GSA?
GSA is Great River School’s Gender & Sexuality Alliance. It is a space for LGBTQ+ and allied students to talk about LGBTQ+ related issues and learn about each other.

Heron's Nest Cafe Update!

The Heron’s Nest cafe will have student-made baked goods in December. On December 20th, from 6:00 - 7:30, the Lower Adolescent Cafe Occupation will sell food and drinks at the Occupation Theatre night event. Parents, students, and any other visitors can stop in the Heron’s Nest cafe for treats and hot beverages. Occupation Night is similar to Odyssey Night, but the focus is on occupations. Students will be sharing info about the occupations they’re in and what they’re doing in them.

Watch for other additions coming soon. In particular, we will be adding Hot Chocolate for the winter season, and maybe some other types of drinks as well!

The cafe construction is coming along well. The walls have been painted, along with sinks and stoves, and other kitchen essentials have been installed. Although we do not know for sure when it will be producing hot lunch, we are thinking possibly after winter break. Stay tuned!

Swan River Students Value Creativity and Literature

written by Emma Williams and Sofie Scholte 

Most would think that a favorite time of day for any fourth-grader would be recess or maybe lunch.   However, in the Swan River classroom, Reading is the top choice closely followed by Art.  

Each day after lunch, students settle into a comfortable reading spot and enjoy their chosen literature book.  Some students are reading Bone by Jeff Smith, Maximum Ride by James Patterson, Amulet by Kazu Kibuishi, and A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snickett.  Others are reading Tales from Outer Suburbia by Shaun Tan and one student is reading Brianna DuMont’s, Weird But True Know-It-All: U.S. Presidents .    

Teo Rysavy enjoys his independent reading time each day and says, “It’s fun to read!”  Zoey McGee says, “It feels peaceful and quiet during reading time.”

After students read a book of their choosing, the class comes together to listen to a book they have selected as an all class read-aloud.   Currently the class is reading Gabriel Finley and the Raven’s Riddle by George Hagen.  This is a book about a boy and his raven.  They are able to paravolate (merge with one another) and they go on an adventure to rescue his father.  On their journey they share riddles to test that they are not encountering a Valraven!  One of our favorite riddles from the novel states:  What lies at the end of forever?   Answer:  r

So what role does creativity play in our community?  Each week we practice a writing work we call Love of Words.  Many of these assignments integrate Creative Writing and Art.    One of our favorite writing assignments this year brought these two things together in a beautiful way.   The activity was entitled a ‘one-pager’ and the task was to create a piece of art piece that describes a story.  The work that we created was so incredible.   According to Josie, “The one-pager is fun to do, and challenging.”  

Below is an example of one of many amazing final works that the class felt was an exceptional example (artwork design by Onya Vandarci).


Supporting New Readers -- Do’s, Don’ts & Activities


Reading is an incredibly complex cognitive task and it may be difficult to relate to your child’s challenges.  Consider something you have recently learned. A couple of years ago, I started to incorporate meditation into my morning routine.  I began by practicing weekly with an experienced teacher, made myself accountable to another student and was very motivated. Two years later, I’m proud to report that I’m now able to sit still with a relatively empty mind for approximately ten minutes most mornings.  Here are some tips to promote joy in your journey!

DO make reading with your child a time for closeness & connection.

DO show that you, as an adult, enjoy reading.

DO practice patience as your child builds stamina in small increments.


DO include your child in library trips and encourage them to check out books of their choice.

DO trust that your child will become a reader over time.

DO connect reading to your child’s interests -- cookbooks, Pokemon, directions for science experiments, board games, comic books and anything else that has words.

DO sing together (Bonus -- sheet music divides long words into syllables!)


DO sight word searches in books you are reading together.  

DO practice reading from books with predictable and familiar words.

DO focus on meaning rather than expecting 100% accuracy when your child is reading.  

DO take turns reading with your child - decide with your reader how often to switch.  In some classrooms, we call this time “Partner Reading,” a term coined by Gail Boushey.  You can learn more about this practice at

DON’T make reading a chore.

DON’T worry if your child isn’t reading fluently yet (like the neighbor’s kid or their cousin).

DON’T require your child to practice reading in the evening when they’re tired.

Writing is the Road to Reading

Label the Environment -- Give your child small slips of paper and tape and together write labels for objects   You help by providing correct spelling. Your child may be very excited to do the writing as this is something that is often done in primary classes.  Label items such as snacks, dirty clothes, library books, socks, shirts, PJs, wash clothes, towels, blocks, games, forks, spoons, etc... This also helps children be more independent at home and supports the organization of their belongings.

A variation on this can be found on this blog:

Writing Shopping Lists and Lunch Menus -- Your child can copy words from their favorite food packages to ensure the “right” kind of cereal or other items are purchased.  Of course, parents still have veto power!

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 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

Great River Enrollment Team