A break

So folks, I will admit that I fell off the blogging wagon there. Suddenly I wasn’t sure what to blog about – what are you interested in hearing about – and I was also busy planning lessons and grading student work… so there’s that.

Students have been very busy of late. There are research papers or projects happening in both Science and Social studies right now and they have been reading a lot for English. The field trips should be over for the most part right now – there are no more scheduled for A1 core classes that I know of, though I’m certain we will identify some more opportunities this year.

Please make sure that students are prepared to be outside every day. We are one of the few schools that schedule a recess for our adolescent students and if they have to stay inside during this time then it somewhat defeats the purpose. I am totally guilty of this as I sent my 7th grader without winter jackets, gloves, or hat today!

Questions to ask around the dinner table:

  1. What is your origin of humans research on?
  2. What MN animal are you doing research on?
  3. What was the most interesting/ disturbing/ difficult/ thing about reading Lord of the Flies? or Julie of the Wolves?
  4. Who did you sit with at lunch for Mix it Up Monday?
  5. What questions did you ask in seminar?

I will try to be better at posting here, but please do let me know if there are additional topics or questions that you have that I can answer in this forum.




A challenge

This, I believe, is the moment when this blog becomes a challenge for me. We’re past the new part of the year. We’ve gotten through the first few weeks and the Odyssey and even the parent orientation. What do I post about now?

I can tell you what’s been happening in classes for the last week since the Odyssey presentations took place and perhaps give you a little peek ahead. Is that useful to you?

In social studies students are doing readings and have gotten several lessons on new material. There’s quite a bit of reading students should be doing. They do have some time in class to do that, but they also have the option of checking readings out at the end of the day. Ben has been standing at the end of the handshake line reminding students about the work they have.

In English students should be finishing up The House of the Scorpion. From the accounts I’ve heard this is a gripping book. Students should write questions for their last seminars which, I believe, happen this week and have a study guide to fill out as well.

In Science half the students went up to the Como Woodland Outdoor Classroom this week to do observations. The other half will go closer to MEA. This next week all students will be going on a field trip – the Trolls on Tuesday and the Yoopers on Thursday. They’ll be gone the whole morning, back about 1pm. Students are also doing seminars on The Sand County Almanac. They have a study guide to fill out for this as well.

In Math most students are still working on non-decimal bases. Most of this work is happening in the classroom so you won’t see a lot of math coming home right now, but you can still ask them about finger charts or algorithms they’ve been working on.

So that is the work in the core classes right now. This does not include work they might have in their Spanish, occupations or creative expression classes. It’s a lot to keep track of, but as was mentioned at orientation, planners should be up to date on Wednesdays. Check back then!

Ask Questions!

Last night’s Academic Orientation and Odyssey Presentation Night seemed to go well. The one part that I felt badly about was that there was no opportunity for questions. It really was our intention to take questions but with the technology glitches that started us off this became difficult. Are there any questions lingering out there? Anything that I might  attempt to answer here? Please ask! I can either answer them right away or prepare a post for a later date.

Let me know! This is your forum.


All about CAS

Your student may have arrived home yesterday afternoon referring to this strange thing called CAS. They may not know what CAS stands for – they just know it’s fun!

CAS stands for Creativity, Action, and Service. This is adopted from our IB program that requires students to do things in each of those categories a few times a week. In 11th and 12th grade students have to create their own activities in each category but in 7th and 8th grade we provide activities in each of these categories and ask students to try one or two things in each category each year.

So yesterday students participated in a variety of activities from biking to costume maintenance to ultimate to baking to art. Some CASes are with A2 students and sometimes an A3 student leads a CAS with adult help. Occasionally we have had parents come in and help out with a CAS idea. If you have a skill you’d like to share and 4 or so Wednesday afternoons available let me know and we’ll provide you with a small group of students to learn your skill.

Occasionally students do make up work or bonus Math classes during CAS. This is a popular time during the week and students look forward to the physical exercise while the weather remains good.

Please make sure your student is dressed appropriately for the particular CAS assignment they have. Also, please avoid scheduling appointments on Wednesday afternoon because we are often off campus and that makes mid-afternoon pick ups logistically challenging.


An Odyssey Project

Odysseys have a long history at GRS and other Montessori adolescent programs around the country. The purposes behind an Odyssey are many:

  • Building community
  • Faculty getting to know students better and students getting to know us
  • Getting students out of their comfort zone
  • Learning to work together
  • Exploring new places and getting out in the world

Back at school another purpose for the Odyssey appears: engaging in a topic or idea that students find interesting and learning more about it. This sets the stage for much of the work we hope to do throughout the year. Specifically, we hope that students will want to explore nuggets of information that we present to them and take charge of their own education by learning more.

Once we have returned from the Odyssey students pick a topic from the variety of places and ideas that we’ve looked at over the course of our trip. They research that idea and put together a  final product. Years ago the final product was a research paper of up to 10 pages. Over the last few years we’ve modified these projects to be more friendly to students new to GRS (10 page research papers are a bit daunting to many new seventh graders) and to showcase the amazing work that students do to their parents. Last year we combined our academic orientation and Odyssey project presentations into one evening with good results. Parents got to see not only what their own students had done but also what other classmates and students in the school put together.

This year we will once again offer Academic Orientation on the same evening as Odyssey project presentations (Tuesday, October 1). The tentative plan is to start with Academic Orientation and then move into presentations. These presentations are generally wonderful compositions of knowledge and fun and are well worth inviting others to see. Academic Orientation will run from 6:30 to 7 followed by two different  sessions of Odyssey project presentations at 7 and 7:30 or so.

Students are expected to attend as they will be part of a group presentation and their peers will be counting on them. This and j-term are really the only evenings we expect students to be at school over the course of the year. Please help to clear that evening so your student can experience the valorization that is a key component of Montessori education.

Also, what questions do you have for academic orientation? We have ideas of some of what we’ll go over, but what do you want to know about academics at GRS that we can answer?

See you then!

A Yooper? A Troll?

You may or may not hear these terms at the dinner table tonight, but they are important! Today, students were broken into two groups: Yoopers or Trolls.

Are you guys crazy?

Yoopers: The term for someone who lives in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Pronounced: You-pers

Trolls: The term for someone who lives “under the bridge” in Michigan. In this case the bridge refers to the Macinac Bridge that connects the Upper Peninsula to the rest of Michigan.

These groups will determine when students have Field Studies and when they have Humanities classes. Just to finish out the theme, students within Yoopers were broken down into Copper and Straits and students within Trolls were broken down into Iron and Lakes. So your student should be able to tell you that they are a Lake Troll or a Yooper Strait etc. Oh the conversations and laughter that will potentially ensue from these names!! We hadn’t even considered that we’d have Iron Trolls and Lake Trolls…

Today all students went to every class. This will happen on Mondays and Fridays. Students will rotate through four classes and should have homework from each class (though some of it will be due on Tuesday and some of it will be due on Thursday).

Also, the Trolls will be going to the Mill City Museum tomorrow for the morning – back by 1:00 pm.

The Yoopers will go to the Mill City Museum on Thursday for the whole morning.

Hope the first week of academic work goes well for your students. Please let your students’ advisor know if you have any questions or concerns at this point in the semester. And let me know if there are other topics or questions that you’d like to see presented here!

A Return

As I write this the south and north busses are both hurtling towards St. Paul from opposite directions. Our return is imminent. I am sure you are looking forward to picking up your charge this afternoon. They report that they are excited to take a long shower and sleep in their own beds. They are likely also eager to eat their favorite foods.
We had lots of great food on the Odyssey, but it’s unlikely that they enjoyed every meal. We ate spaghetti and meatballs, fajitas (a camp favorite), quinoa, pizza, hotdogs and beans, and rice and black beans. For lunch there were always sandwiches with a selection of meats and cheeses and peanut butter and jelly, cheese sticks, chips and pretzels as well as cookies and fruit!
Your student may or may not be very talkative about their experiences right away, but stories will emerge over the next several weeks. Patience may be the key here. When they get home they will be tired and may be unable to process everything into story form right away.
Suffice it to say that every student made connections and had fun. We will return to school on Monday ready to start the work of the year with gusto and a deeper understanding of each other. These connections will help us to work together more heartily and in an environment where everyone feels safe and cared for.
Thanks for sharing your students with us this week. We laughed and played and explored and learned. I hope they had as much fun as we did!