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Welcome to Junior High

Tree SturmanKristina Weidenfeller

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
Kitchen Classroom
Junior High Guide

Jr. High Blog....click here

May 10, 2018

“Come on,
Baby don't you wanna go?
Come on
Oh baby, don't you wanna go?
Back to that same old place,
Sweet home Chicago”


Five days, four nights, Amtrak, Metra, "the EL," CTA buses, head, shoulders, knees, and toes. If the many Fitbits that joined us on our journey are accurate, then we walked over 40 miles during our week-long adventure in the Windy City. This was, of course, the culmination of seven weeks of research and study on the Industrial Revolution in America. Having selected and immersed themselves in their individual research topics from among the plethora of options from the time period, we ended up with the tour-to-end-all-tours. We stretched the southern boundaries of Chee-caw-go with a visit to the once independent town of Pullman, where George (of rail car fame) exercised his Utopian ideals in the form of the first "Factory Town" in America. We rounded out our South Side experience with visits to the Museum of Science and Industry and the Union Stockyard Gate. The former provided a backdrop for student studies on "The Changing Role of Horses Before, During, and After the Industrial Revolution" and "The 1893 Chicago World's Fair." The latter, is all that remains of the once globally significant Chicago meat packing industry, which gave the city the moniker, "The Hog Butcher of the World." The Loop provided ample fodder for separate student studies on architecture, crime, and entertainment- including a much anticipated showing of the Tony Award winning musical, Hamilton. Of note to the author of this Classroom Highlight was a guided tour of the Auditorium Building, designed by Louis Sullivan and Dankmar Adler with a little help from an obscure draftsman of theirs named Frank Lloyd Wright. Every one of us, adult and adolescent alike, was dumbstruck by the beauty, scale, and intrigue of the auditorium, which has been deservedly named one of the "Wonders of the Architecture World." A long train ride to the suburbs provided us with another awe-inspiring experience courtesy of the First Infantry Museum, a recently remodeled, state of the art facility exploring the role of the first group of soldiers to be deployed in all of America's wars, since WWI- and yes, they had a "Tank Park." Curious what this is? Give Google a jingle. Suffice it to say, our students had a blast (pun intended). We rounded off our trip with a visit to the Hull House museum where we learned all about Jane Adams, Ellen Gates Star, and all the incredible reformers that worked to improve the lives of immigrants during the Industrial Revolution. But are the adventures over? Nope! This is the Jr. High! We make the most of every ounce of the school year. Presently, we are working to round off the year with a four-day, three-night backpacking trip to the Manitou Islands. Meanwhile, the students are wrapping up their year-long projects, preparing for the annual Research Fair, studying various aspects of Northern Michigan ecosystems, and getting ready for graduation, Battle of the Books, and the final Read Across the County of the year. It's May-hem at the Children's House, and the world will never be the same (Hamilton reference! What can we say, we're addicted!!).

April 12, 2018

Well, here we are nearing mid-April. As hoped, research on a variety of topics surrounding the Industrial Revolution has been completed, as well as several research papers. This week the hunt for information has changed from the past to the future. Students have been combing the internet for locations to visit in Chicago. They have been calling a variety of organizations confirming hours of operation, admission costs, and tour opportunities. We’ve been mapping locations and planning the itinerary accordingly. By the time we leave, everything should be rock solid, except of course, the weather. This “spring” has proven that you can “have it all,” at least where precipitation is concerned.

Amidst the hustle and bustle of trip preparation, students have been busy with both visual and performing arts. Bookending the weeks, students have been working hard to complete sculptures and paintings representing the styles of various artists from the time of the Industrial Revolution- a project collaboration between Alison Hoffman and Deb and Craig Harris (Children’s House Grandparent Volunteers.) There are canvases, plaster forms, wire skeletons, and wood constructions filling the lab and pouring out into the courtyard. In addition, students have been working closely with Reed Zitting to write their own slam poetry for the poetry jam. We hope to have you join us to hear their poems April 20 at 10:30 at the Poetry Jam!

March 22, 2018

And then... the research began.

Armed with our individual topic outlines, the Jr. High set off for the NMC Osterlin and the TADL Woodmere libraries in pursuit of resources that would help them explore the Industrial Revolution. The incredible staff at Osterlin went above and beyond to support our students in identifying resources for their many, diverse, and in some cases very focused topics. A fly on the wall would hear questions relating to everything from the changing role of horses, to innovations in weapons technologies, to the use of floating foundations to support the world's first "Skyscrapers." Leaving the Woodmere library, our arms were laden with books and our minds were spinning with ideas (including, we expect, "how am I possibly going to read all of these?!?!"). Rest assured, our students have since received a toolbox of techniques for gathering and organizing research. With a little luck and lot of hard work, by the middle of April each of our students will have written a polished research paper, and, developed an accompanying tour of a Chicago destination that supports their peers' understanding of their topic. Parallel to these efforts, our students have been spending their art time studying Industrial Revolution era artists and making plans for projects that emulate or pay homage to an artist of their choosing. All the while, our students have begun planning our actual trip to Chicago including the all-important transportation, food, and budgeting process.

Spring break is nigh, so by the time of our next installment our minds will be saturated with plans for the Windy City. Stay tuned!

March 8, 2018

We shall not be contained!

When you see a list such as “Chemistry, Culinary Arts, Engineering, History, Literature, and Visual Arts,” you may assume you are looking at a course listing in an academic counseling office, not a description of “What we did this week.” Here in the TCH JH, we don’t lock up subjects into their own little boxes and time slots. We recognize that every part of our world is touched by more than one area of study or expertise. The collaboration among diverse knowledge areas is what creates the reality, the world that we live in everyday. Science inspires literature and art, literature in art inspires engineering innovation. Cooking uses the concepts of physics and chemistry, while chemistry informs innovative cooking.

Students culminated their chemistry studies last week through demonstrating a chemical process by producing a recipe for a small group of elementary students. In total, we shared six presentations ranging from meringue to marscapone. Students explained the chemical processes occurring in emulsions, coagulation, fermentation, and caramelization- and then shared tasty treats with their highly motivated audience.

As chemistry ended, the Industrial Revolution began. Students began the week exploring the Industrial Revolution through the eyes of artists responding to the rapid changes occurring during that time period. Next, they will be choosing artists to study further, and ultimately emulate in the creation of a piece or pieces for the classroom. Tuesday began with an overview and brief timeline of the Industrial Revolution in the United States, after which students brainstormed which topics they may want to research further. Wednesday we enjoyed a nearly two hour tour of Cone Drive, a local manufacturer of precision gearing systems. Through their experience, we were hoping our students would be able to imagine what it would be like to work in a factory environment (past, present, and future). What we got was so much more. Cone Drive has been around since the 1920s, beginning in Detroit and then being “decentralized” to Traverse City post World War II. We learned about OSHA, unions, patents, “trade secrets,” design, machining, environmental responsibility and the different stages of “Industrial Revolution.”

You’ve heard of STEM, STEAM, Integrated Humanities- for us, it’s Wednesday.

February 15, 2018

Chemistry and cooking have been on the front burner in the Jr. High this month. We have had a guest chef join us each week for demonstrations on fermentation (bread baking), emulsifications (meringue, salad dressings, and Hollandaise sauce), and cooking with acids (ceviche). Salt was dissolved, trail mix sorted, and cabbage blended into an all natural pH indicator. The students would tell you that a lot of "big words" were thrown around-words like hydrophobic and hydrophilic-and that their note-taking hands were tired, and their food-eating stomachs satiated with the delicious products of their learning processes. While their left brains were hard at work mulling over the difference between ions and isotopes, our students' right brains were working overtime crafting original scripts as well as preparing their own performances for our annual Elementary (and now Elementary-Jr. High) theatre production. It has been a jam-packed two weeks as we eat, think, and emote our way towards parent-teacher-student conferences at the end of the month. The Industrial Revolution is next, so hold on to your safety bicycles and get ready for a wild ride!

February 1, 2018

From the infinite to the infinitesimal…

Last week we finished up a workshop on Astronomy. All projects concluded with presentations to elementary students.

The constellation study group temporarily transformed our classroom into an elite gallery of constellation masterpieces. The four featured artists created pieces showing the night sky present the night they were born. Each artist provided an artist’s statement, as well as background information about the constellations included in their work. The pieces were created from canvas, acrylics, and glow in the dark paint. Guests entered a darkened room to view the illuminated canvases, while respectfully staying behind the observation line on the floor.

One student provided group tours of the Solar System. Starting in the gym, he led students on a journey starting with the sun and ending with the outer planets. Along the way, travelers learned about the different characteristics of each planet and relative distances in-between.

The remaining group gave a series of four presentations in the gym for the lower elementary students. First through third years learned about Newton’s Laws of Physics through launching stomp rockets, shooting balloon rockets along fish line, and propelling “cars” forward by launching weights off the back. High flying rockets, zooming cars, and rocketing balloons brought forth cheers, squeals, and laughter for all.

After gazing at stars, traveling the solar system, and shooting for the moon, we turned our attention to how those elements that make up the universe also make up our dinner. This week we started off our workshop on Chemistry and cooking with adopting our own sour starters. A guest chef visited to share the secret of sours with the students as well as a piece of a five year old sour starter (there are people who have sours that are over 100 years old!). Each student named their sour and made dough for their first loaf of bread. We learned about natural yeasts in the air versus active dry yeast, how sours are unique to region they live in based on the strains of yeast in the air, and the chemistry behind what is happening in the bread to make it sour, and to make it rise.

Paint, rockets, flour, and yeast-
Astronomy to atoms-
Constellations to chemistry-

Just a sampling of winter in the Junior High.

January 18, 2018

January is Astronomy Month in the Jr. High!!! Despite a barrage of snow days, students have been dutifully navigating this astronomically proportioned topic from a diversity of vectors. On the first day of class, students selected from a list of possible group project topics, or developed their own, three-week study. At present, we have two groups exploring Newton's Laws of Motion, in part, through the construction of air powered rockets (using a NASA-developed curriculum). Another group is creating paintings of the night sky as they would have appeared on their dates of birth, all the while studying the mythology of the constellations that appear there. Our classmate in Sydney, Australia is going one step further by constructing a three-dimensional "planetarium" of the Southern night sky, which he will share with us upon his return to Michigan in February. Our other solo projects include a scale model of our solar system using day-to-day objects, and, an in-depth Chemistry-meets Astronomy exploration of how stars fuse atoms to create the elements of the periodic table. Through "Space in the News," the whole classroom has been checking in on today's newsworthy space-related topics, while "Astronomy in the Movies" paired students and their parents in an educational, cross-generational movie night. All the while, the class has been reading, and having lively "Literature Seminar" discussions about the classroom edition of The Martian by Andy Weir. And if that wasn't enough Astronomy, we spent our most recent "Math Seminar" calculating the time it would have taken Apollo 11 to traverse the distance between Earth and Mars at different points in their orbits. This week, we are comparing those results to the rate of speed imagined by the Hermes spacecraft as depicted in The Martian. As usual, there is never a dull moment in the southwest quadrant of the Children's House Montessori.

December 19, 2017

This past Friday, the Jr. High presented their culminating Humanities projects to an audience of Upper Elementary students and teachers. Together, we learned about Civil War Battles, the struggle for equality within our nation, the spread of Europeans across North America, disease and discovery, the advent of telecommunication, and the ongoing dance between fashion and practicality. We learned what it may have been like to live in the United States during the first 100 years of our nationhood. There are, and always have been, so many diverse voices determined to be heard and recognized. Students were asked, and will continue to be asked, “How will my voice be heard? What do I have to say? How will I contribute to this ongoing story of our nation? Of our world?”

After several long weeks filled with research, creativity, and sharing, we are just moments away from the shortest day of the year. Winter is a time for introspection, as well as gathering with family and friends. We have been doing a little of both. Sledding, secret Santas, snowflakes, sharing food, stories and songs help to spread light on dark cold days. Through sharing cheer with each other in the classroom, we are continuing to build traditions for our growing Junior High community.

Whatever your traditions may be, may you enjoy the warmth of friends and family, and the peace of the season! Looking forward to seeing you in 2018!

December 7, 2017

Maria Montessori envisioned a middle school curriculum where students seek to understand the essential elements that have driven the development of human civilization. In the Children's House Jr. High, students are encouraged to place themselves in the shoes of both ordinary and extraordinary figures throughout history and to interpret historical events as they might have been perceived by someone their age during those times. For the past three weeks, each student has been researching a topic of interest from the period between the American Revolution and Civil war. Their end goal is to tell a story, in a format of their choosing, through their own eyes, had they been alive and privy to the lives and events they have chosen. Topics include: The Battle of Antietam, 18th and 19th century fashion and fashion technologies, Sacajawea, Women's Rights, the Battle of Gettysburg, Diseases, Children's Education, the Battle of Fort Sumter, and 19th century inventions. Mini-presentations, project plans, and individual check ins are helping keeping students on track as we all race toward the finish line of Winter Break. All the while, students have been reading young adult historical fiction books of their choosing and looking at these events through yet another set of eyes. This is all, of course, concurrent to their English Language Arts skills practice, Math lessons, and Spanish Language studies, as well as their ongoing, year-long Community Stewardship Projects. Never a dull moment in the Jr. High wing of the Children's House Montessori!

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.

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Katelin Murphy

Katelin Murphy

tch_icon.pngThe Children's House - An Independent Montessori School
5363 N Long Lake Rd. | Traverse City, MI | 49685 (p) 231.929.9325 | (f) 231.929.9384 | email: learn@traversechildrenshouse.org