Welcome to Junior High
The Children’s House Junior High is a small-scale, authentic community of Montessori students and adult guides working side by side to explore and conserve Northern Michigan ecosystems. We study and apply our knowledge of Mathematics, Science, Languages, and the Arts as we seek to understand how these systems have shaped, and are shaped by human history and natural forces alike. Through real, meaningful work on the land, in the classroom and throughout the community, students discover and cultivate their resilience, unique talents, and individual contributions.
Treenen Sturman, Junior High Guide
B.A. College of the Atlantic, Maine, Human Ecology
M.S. University of Delaware, Public Horticulture
AMI Montessori Orientation Programme to Adolescent Studies, Cleveland, OH
The Children’s House experience (2014-present):
Elementary Classroom Support
Junior High Classroom Support
Junior High Guide
Kristina Weidenfeller, Junior High Guide
B.A. Michigan State University, Special Education K-12
M.A. Michigan State University, Curriculum and Teaching
The Children's House experience (summer 2009- present):
Elementary summer yoga and nutrition class
Junior High Guide
November 16, 2017
There we stood, huddled together in the cold, gray light of an early November morning, waiting among the starkness of the headstones and monuments for the presentation to start. Students, with attention to detail, had already been noticing markers labeled with "GAR" and pennies set atop the gravestones surrounding the McPherson Post Memorial. Our hosts, included Commander T. Mattis, Memorials Officer, Scott Schwander, and Camp Secretary, Dale Aurand, the leaders of the Robert Finch Camp No. 14, Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War. Also in attendance, was Brother Jim Ribby, who identified himself as "a local bard." We learned that "GAR" stands for the Grand Army of the Republic, the first organization created to support United States veterans and their families. The pennies were left behind by visitors. We learned that each type of coin left carries a unique meaning regarding the relationship between the visitor and the deceased. For the next 90 minutes, we were regaled with stories of soldiers, stories of battle, mothers who lost sons, young boys who were "over 18" the day they enlisted, and unmarked and forgotten graves. For that hour and a half, the Civil War was transformed from a distant history lesson to a part of the narrative of Traverse City, connecting it to the place we live and the people who were part of creating our community.
We are often asked how our Jr. High program addresses state standards, which, in this case would fall under the blanket of "history." Our answer is that we approach all our subject matter with the intention that each of our students understands his or her personal connection to the subject matter, and how that subject matter has come to define their own past, present, and future. In the case of the Civil War, we examined this pivotal point in history, through the lens of how our community, the "Grand Traverse Country," contributed to the continuation of the democratic experiment we call the United States. We stand surrounded by the voices of past Grand Traverse citizens who stood in that wilderness, and made the most difficult decisions of their lives. How better can you model community service, responsibility, and citizenship than to meet people in your own community actively doing work that needs to be done, just because they feel it is important? Our morning in Oakwood Cemetery, we were witness to what it looks like to be a citizen of Traverse City, or any community, today and 167 years ago.
November 2, 2017
Creativity has been featured prominently these past two weeks, with visits to the Music House Museum, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra (DSO), and the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA). At the Music House Museum, students were treated to a diversity of automated musical instruments, some dating back to the 18th century. In our second, annual trip to the DSO, the Jr. High was once again engaged by a lineup of performances specially selected for young adult audiences, including selections designed to evoke joy, sadness, fear, and love. In their finale performance, students were enlivened by the Star Wars theme, written by John Williams. Finally, at the DIA Alison Hoffman led students through a diversity of galleries including the world famous Diego Rivera frescoes, a Day of the Dead exhibit, and a photographic exhibition of artists, promoters, and other personalities associated Detroit's Hip-Hop community. While in Detroit, students kicked off their first Humanities workshop of the school year with a visit to Greenfield Village wherein they explored historic, (mostly) 19th century homes, shops, and farmsteads, and imagined what their lives might have been like living during this time period.
The morning after returning from Detroit, six of our Junior High students jumped in the van and headed out to Glen Lake High School for the first Read Across The County of the new school year. We rounded out the fortnight by preparing for parent, student, teacher conferences, which, in the Jr. High are student led. This preparation process involves each student assembling a portfolio of work showcasing their various academic and community responsibilities, as well as, meeting with Tree and Kristina to review the conference agenda and student progress report.
October 19, 2017
The adventure continues...
After two solid weeks of community action planning projects, ten students have made a variety of discoveries, community connections, and have started to formulate plans. Here is a brief run down of what has been going on inside and outside of the JH wing:
Public and Community Art- Two students are working on creating art within the community. One student is working with Inland Seas Education Association to design a project that would reflect the experiences of other students that visit and sail on the educational vessel through including those visitors in the creation of an art installation. Another student is working on creating a piece for public display. She has made connections with Blackbird Arts, Traverse City Art Council, Dennos, and a downtown business owner.
The Greening of Downtown: Two students spent today creating an inventory of green spaces, trees, and recycling/and trash bins in the downtown area. Using a map, GPS, and cameras, they documented their findings. They have both interviewed community members that are connected to their areas of interest; Bay Area Recycling for Charity and TC Parks and Recreation.
Campus Projects: Two students are working hard on projects on campus. One student is working on developing an opportunity for JH students to take "electives." She has been interviewing Specialists at school and trying to design a plan for future classes. Another student has interviewed multiple adults at school regarding vole control, he is interested in trying to attract raptors to the campus to reduce the vole population.
Timbers Recreation Area projects: Two students became interested in projects on the Timbers property. One student is taking a strategy for inventorying snake populations that she learned about on Beaver Island, and applying it to the Timbers. She has been working with a herpetologist, Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy (GTRLC), and Central Michigan University Biological Station on design and placement of "snake boards." Another student is busy gather historical information about the Armour Estate in hopes of creating an audio tour. She has been in contact with local historians and the Lake Forest College Library.
Watersheds: One student set out to answer the question, " What is a watershed?" She has researched watershed and important issues within her local watershed. She is hoping to find a way to share her research with a larger audience.
Regional Recreation: One student took his passion for hiking and using public trails and turned it into a project. He has been in contact with the GTRLC and will be attending a meeting about a possible trail connector in the region. Another student has combined his recreational interest to his project as well. He has been working on bringing Rugby into the forefront of sports options for young people of the region.
All of these projects require communication, organization, and planning skills- along with so many others. Students have been learning to write and speak for multiple purposes as needed. They have had to compose professionally written emails, thank yous, and interviews as well as learn how to prepare for interviews in person or over the phone. They have had to answer questions like, "Where and how do you store all your research and information?" and, "How do you keep track of contacts and appointments?" Real learning in real time for real purposes.
- If anyone knows any contacts or has any expertise in the areas/topics that were mentioned above, please email either of us and we will pass the information on to the student or students.
October 5, 2017
The Jr. High is bustling with a wide range of activities traversing a robust and rigorous curriculum. More than this, the students, each in their own way, are growing into themselves. They are asking questions they have never asked before, about who they are and how they are connected to the world beyond the walls of the school. They are beginning to establish their culture as a classroom, experimenting with roles and responsibilities, and exercising their identities as "adults in training" (they don't call themselves this of course). And in all the spaces between the doubts and fears, they find time to pay attention to the difference between a dependent and independent variable, the definition of irony, and the proper way to conduct a phone interview with a community partner. When you take the time to step back and observe, as we do on a daily basis as Montessori teachers, you are able to realize the extraordinary constructive process that is going on inside each of our students. They are learning and unlearning and relearning more in any given week than most adults do in their lifetimes. We are incredibly proud of the progress each of them has made these past two weeks.
Curriculum-wise, we took a hands on, integrated approach to learning about predictive and descriptive data using simple experiments and an online graphing tool called Desmos. Students selected research topics for their year-long occupations projects and began reaching out to community partners for input and support. The first ever (we think) Children's House Student Council elections took place, complete with campaign propaganda, politicking, and speeches. We also said goodbye (for now) to our classmate Charlie Slawnik, who will be living in Australia until the middle of February. On Wednesday afternoons the students met with Tara Hochstetler for Reading Workshop, where they delved into the very human, but not entirely easy to understand concept of irony, using picture books as a guide. Spanish lessons with Senora Malone, Microeconomy discussions, and a fast and furious read through Tuck Everlasting punctuated two weeks of wonder in the Jr. High. We invite you all to set up a time to observe our unique environment, if you get a chance. In the meantime, we will see you at the next installment of Classroom Highlights.
September 20, 2017
Building a strong foundation
"Only education starts fresh in the ninth month of the calendar year"
The beginning of the school year is an important time. It sets the tone, the expectations, and the culture of the classroom. From social to curricular, and from conceptual to logistical, we have been very busy laying the foundations necessary for an exciting, meaningful, and catalyzing year ahead.
Week 1: The eighth years established themselves as the old guard and warmly welcomed the 7th years to the classroom. Students discussed what community and culture are, how they are built, and how we can contribute. Students examined what it means to be an independent member of a community and the steps necessary to successfully transition from childhood to adulthood. We laid the conceptual foundation we will continue to build upon throughout the year. And then we went out to practice it all…time for logistics!
We started with monitoring invasive aquatic species at Fern Lake with Dr. Jo Latimore through the Cooperative Lake Monitoring Program. The only invasive species we found in the water were ourselves, which is great for Fern Lake. Friday we started the day with Lois Goldstein and John Heiam, who are part of the TC Paddle Club. They gave us a highly detailed and hands-on presentation of paddling safety. Hardly moments later, we were in kayaks on Fern Lake testing out our paddle knowledge and collecting water quality data. Later that same afternoon, students designed research projects in preparation for the Diving Deeper program on the Inland Seas Schoolship. To round out the week, we watched “The Ottaway,” a documentary about the Boardman River Dams Removal project in preparation for our paddle on Wednesday.
Week 2: NOMI experience; time to take the show on the road. Monday started off with birding at Otter Creek. We then launched into a whirlwind exploration of Glen Haven and other points of interest within the Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore and ended with stargazing along the shores of the Platte River. Tuesday morning we gave back by helping with brush removal at Miller’s Farm with Ranger Matt Mohrman of the National Park Service. In the afternoon, students boarded Inland Seas and collected data on fish, plankton, benthos, water quality, and microplastics, all of which will be entered into a running database that is accessible online. Wednesday, we paddled the Boardman River from Sabin Dam to the Bay. We talked with a project manager from the Army Corps of Engineers about the Cass Bridge project and the riverbed restoration. Frank Dituri, from the Grand Traverse Band's Natural Resources Department, met us throughout our trip to talk about the dam removal project, past, present and future. Thursday, at the crack of dawn, maybe earlier, we headed up to Beaver Island. John Gordon from Central Michigan University Biological Station met us at the dock and took us to see some of the research being conducted in mesocosm tanks. After lunch, we had an ecological and historical tour of the island, which included searching for, capturing, and identifying snakes. Thursday evening we enjoyed dune climbing and a campfire under the stars. Friday, we headed back to the mainland and were treated to an Earl Young Mushroom House tour by the Charlevoix Historical Society. Students were able to see architecture that mimics nature.
Week 3: Schedules, routines, and structure
We came back to our regular schedule and the beginning of our first workshop. We've gathered data, stories, images, and experiences from multiple places, communities, and systems of all sorts. The students are processing and organizing the information as they prepare to more closely examine their own place, culture, and community- and their place within it.