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Welcome to Tree & Kristina's Classroom

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 25, 2017

May in the Jr. High has been a flurry of activity with weekly water quality testing and habitat explorations punctuated with individual student research projects on a variety of water-based topics. We have floated our research fleet (one green row boat named "Peas" and an anonymous canoe) on Little Glen Lake and Fern Lake, and visited an extraordinary bog in Kalkaska, complete with pitcher plants, loads of sphagnum moss, and two species of lady slipper orchids. We also "Scored the Shore" on Fern Lake as part of our participation in the Michigan Cooperative Lakes Monitoring Program. The students also had the opportunity to meet with the Michigan DEQ staffer responsible for issuing a permit for our Beaver Deceiver project at the Timbers. With a little luck, we will be installing our Deceiver this fall. While not otherwise engaged in their aquatic adventures, students have been presenting their Humanities projects (on ancient civilizations), plowing ahead on their math projects, practicing for the Grandparents Day concert (and Water Quality presentations), running mock "Battle of the Books" trials for the Lower Elementary, and assembling their gear for our pending camping trip at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. This morning, we visited the Grand Traverse Commons for a 1.5-mile hike to test out our backpacking skills; we learned a great deal! With the end of school right around the corner, students also have be planning graduation activities and establishing new traditions for future graduating classes.

May 11, 2017

The Junior High returned from Washington D.C. (read blog here) and launched directly into our spring Freshwater Studies workshop. This began with an exploration of water equality wherein students learned about water access challenges around the globe and then simulated one of these challenges by pumping 100 gallons of water by hand from the school well and transporting it into a classroom trough, which they had previously used to test their ROV. The students later shared their water-pumping experience with the elementary classrooms through short presentations. The students were then treated to a presentation from Liz Kirkwood, Executive Director of the Traverse City-based organization FLOW (For the Love of Water). In her presentation Liz addressed a wide range of freshwater issues, with a focus on threats to the waters of the Great Lakes Basin. The next morning we visited the Traverse City Wastewater Treatment Plant and enjoyed an exceptional tour from Ken Stowowy, who entertained and enlightened us to the functionality, challenges, and opportunities associated with treating the wastewater of 40,000+ people.

With their brains marinating in a plethora of freshwater topics, we then introduced our students to their final, individual Occupations project of the year, a "Multi-Genre" study of a freshwater topic of each student's choosing. This unique format explores a topic through a wide variety of literary lenses, whereby challenging students to harness all the writing, research, and creative skills they have been developing over the course of the year. Our week ended with our annual, belated Earth Day celebration where we joined the sixth year students for a service project at Hickory Meadows, where, alongside staff from the Grand Traverse Conservation District, we planted native trees and removed invasive species. We finished out last Friday with a presentation from a hiking enthusiast which covered gear, the importance of foot gear, and taste testing of trail meals. We began this week with a test run at the Timbers of our group, water quality monitoring project, which will begin on Monday with a sampling paddle on Little Glen Lake. Amidst all of the this, our students found time to plan the route for our four-day, three-night backpacking trip to Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. All in a day's work!

April 27, 2017

The Jr. High remained in full swing as we wrapped up our Early Human Civilizations workshop and prepared for our trip to Washington D.C., from which this Classroom Highlight is being drafted. All the while the Jr. High, for the first time in school history, planned and hosted the annual Poetry Jam, which included a variety of hands on activities. We also ventured into the the depths of ancient literature with a reading of Gilgamesh, an epic written over 4000 years ago. Friday we attended the Cooperative Lakes Monitoring Program Conference and Training. Being the youngest in the group, members of the group and participating vendors were more than welcoming. Students learned how to sample for phosphorus, "Score the Shore" (for habitat quality), and identify exotic aquatic plants. We are now fully prepared to monitor Fern Lake, one of "our" lakes at the Timbers property. Less than 24 hours later, we loaded the van and headed out to Washington D.C. (via the Detroit airport) for a whirlwind exploration of the several democratic movements the students have been studying. Each student has taken responsibility for navigating the group over hill and over dale to the several noteworthy sites in D.C. that lend relevance to their topic. The students are working on blog entries that will be published by weeks end. Stay tuned!

April 13, 2017

With spring break in the rear view mirror, the Jr. High has embarked on our next adventure in the annals of human history. Our Early Human Civilization workshop has students exploring the first civilizations of Mesopotamia, Ancient Egypt, and the Indus River Valley. It began with a brisk and eventful morning at Brown Bridge Quiet Area where Chelsea Nester from the Human Nature School guided us through the experience of early hunter gatherers on the eve of their transition to agrarian societies. Subsequently, students have been broken up into teams and are developing synopses, in the form of Google Slides, ranging from agriculture and transportation to trade and communication. In other news, on Wednesday April 5th we participated in our final Read Across the County of the school year with a zestful morning at Horizon Books navigating the nuance and whimsy of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. Good times were had by most. When they are not otherwise knee deep in their studies, the Jr. High has been polishing the itinerary and logistics for our trip to Washington D.C. at the end of the month, and taking the lead in planning the school-wide Poetry Jam.

March 23, 2017

Everyone has suffered, fallen, and overcome the plague that has wreaked havoc on the greater Grand Traverse Region. March can just "march on" for all we care; bring on April! With all different permutations of our classroom, we have managed to soldier on. The Democratic Movement Workshop rounded out with students presenting to the Upper Elementary and anyone who happened to drift in. Guests enjoyed art installations, animation, video, music, and written presentations. Plane tickets have been purchased, lodging reserved and many activities planned for our end of April trip to Washington D.C.. Through connecting studies to our trip, we will be seeing sites and museums, many of which, most folks have never heard of.

Less exciting for some, but nonetheless valuable, students have been learning and practicing test taking skills as well as working through the several parts of the IOWA test. The IOWA Test of Basic Skills is a standardized test commonly used by Montessori Schools around the country. It allows students to gain skills necessary for future standardized testing that they may experience in high school and beyond.

March 9, 2017

Our humanities workshop is coming to an end with each student working furiously on their final projects. Students are creating everything from protest signs and narrated videos to a full newspaper spread complete with advertisements and black and white historical photographs. Next week, our students will begin (and hopefully complete) planning our end-of-April trip to Washington D.C., during which they will visit historical sites that lend significance to their individual studies. The experience of planning the D.C. trip by themselves is a critical component of the Montessori Jr. High philosophy, which seeks to foster self-efficacy and independence during these important transitional years. Meanwhile, our students have been working enthusiastically with Reed Zitting to each create a pair of scripts that will be performed by the Upper Elementary later this month. Their weekly script-writing and performing sessions with Reed are filled with whimsy and enthusiasm with each and every student contributing his/her unique personality to the mix. And to round off the past two weeks, the Jr. High spent this past Friday morning engaged in a fast and furious photo/video scavenger hunt at the Timbers Recreation Area, with two teams seeking to demonstrate their creativity as well as their superior knowledge of our Land Lab. We finished up this arctic adventure as anyone who has spent a prolonged period in the freezing cold might do... with an ice-cream cone of course, at the opening day of Moomers' Long Lake store! All together, an excellent adventure!

February 23, 2017

Humanities is in full swing in the Jr. High with each of our students immersed in a democratic movement of their choice, including: civil rights, abolition, animal rights, immigrants rights, Native American rights, and, women's rights. In support of their individual efforts we paid a visit to both the Traverse Area District and the NMC Osterlin Library, where we were welcome by enthusiastic library staff eager to lend a helping hand. Armed with this information our students distilled and delivered two "mini-presentations" to their classmates, covering key events, significant leaders, legislative repercussions, and similar movements outside of the United States. Parallel to their research projects, each student also identified a work of fiction that lent context to their study. Consequently, Humanities and Literature Seminar are running side by side- providing for some great discussions and reflection. Meanwhile, our students celebrated Valentines Day by hosting a Read Across the County event, which included staging a Mississippi town circa 1964, right smack in the middle of "Freedom Summer." For a few hours that morning the Children's House gym was transformed into a Southern movie theater, swimming pool, court house, grocery stone, railroad and riverbank. The students were gracious hosts and the inter-school friendships that have been forming over the course of the year were truly palpable. Our final installment of Read Across the County will take place at Horizon Books in early April.

February 9, 2017

The Jr. High spent the last week of January immersed, both literally and figuratively, in the ecology of the Florida Keys. Our Marine Science Field Experience took us to the Coral Restoration Foundation, The Aquarius Reef Base operations center, Theater of the Sea marine park, The Turtle Hospital in Marathon, and, Pigeon Key. At the Coral Restoration Foundation we received information on the plight of the world's Tropical Reefs and what is being done to restore them. At the Aquarius Reef Base, we learned from the Operations Director how this underwater habitat is being used for scientific studies, educational outreach, training NASA Astronauts, and developing new undersea technologies. While at Theater of the Sea, we were mesmerized by the beauty and intelligence of marine mammals as well as the exceptional care they are afforded by a talented, compassionate, and professional staff of trainers and animal care specialists. The Turtle Hospital showed us first hand the perils of being a sea turtle in increasingly crowded and polluted near-shore environments. Our final destination was Pigeon Key where, for three days and two nights, we explored the whole spectrum of Florida Keys habitats from mangrove forests to coral reefs and everything in between. We waded and snorkeled through limestone, sand, and seagrass identifying beautiful and terrifying animals alike. We learned the history of Flagler's Railroad, snorkeled Sombrero Reef, fished for sharks, and flew our ROV under a cloudless night. It was, in every sense of the word, an unforgettable adventure, which was only made possible by the generosity of Audra Jackson and her parents Andy and Pat, to whom we are eternally grateful.

We returned to Traverse City and wrapped up our ROV workshop with a presentation to the Upper Elementary. We currently have moved on to our first Humanities workshop of 2017, focusing on the origins of democracy, as well as modern democratic movements. This workshop began with a guest presentation by Dr. Emily Modrall, who whet our historical palates with tales of ancient Athenians forging the halls the democracy.

January 12, 2017

Robots, Scripts, and Sun Salutations, oh my!
The Jr. High has been working full throttle constructing their Remote Operative Underwater Vehicle (ROV). This phase of the project has involved soldering the control box, wiring and waterproofing the several circuits, constructing the frame, positioning the three propellers, and establishing neutral buoyancy. Our ROV is near completion and the students will be testing it next week at the NMC Parsons-Stulen Technology Center. With a little luck, we will be transporting our ROV to the Florida Keys in support of our week-long marine science field experience at the end of January. In other news, our students have just begun a new, creative writing experience thanks to the talents and generosity of Reed Zitting, whom will be leading a weekly script writing workshop. Reed's goal is to use some of our student's scripts in the Upper Elementary theatre production later this year. An additional weekly highlight has been our Friday morning Yoga sessions led by Jr. High parent, and Yoga Instructor, Audra Jackson.

December 15, 2016

In this short interlude between Thanksgiving and Winter Break, our intrepid Jr. High students have been running full throttle on their mission to design and assemble their Remotely Operated Underwater Vehicle (ROV for short). After considering, rejecting, and reconsidering numerous team names, the students settled upon a moniker that reflects their unique personalities, sense of humor, and gender imbalance. Ladies and gentleman, I give you: "Charlie and the Mermaids". Following their first foray into paddle driven boats (see previous post), each student tried his/her hand at designing and constructing a fan boat using styrofoam tray (courtesy of Oleson's Food Stores), a 9-volt battery, a small electric motor, a 4" propeller, popsicle sticks, hot glue, and perseverance. The trials and tribulations of their adventures may be enjoyed on our Blog. As I write this, our ROV team is dutifully soldering, tying, taping, bending, cutting, and calculating their way through the early stages of assembling our ROV, which has been affectionately named, "The Shark". In other news, on Friday, December 2nd we traveled up to Northport Schools for a preview of The Outsiders. Afterwards, we met with the cast to provide advice and encouragement in advance of opening night the following evening. In addition, this past week our students participated in their second Read Across the County, hosted by Glen Lake Schools, where they discussed the book Jakaby by William Ritter. We also are nearing the completion of our Literature Seminar title, The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak. Never a dull moment in the Jr. High, and much more to come in January as we gear up for our end-of-the-month Marine Biology field trip to the Florida Keys!

December 1, 2016

The past few weeks have been full of thanks and giving. As a class, we took time to think about and to thank the people in our lives that make our days better, whether it be through their actions or their words. We also were able to give back. Three students traveled to Zenner Farms Hydroponic Farm and worked diligently to wrap lines and hooks as part of the end of their growing season. The Zenner's have been gracious enough to host farm tours for our TCH students the past two years, this gave us a chance to say thank you. Last Tuesday, JH also had the chance to help in the kitchen and gym organizing food and putting on some of the finishing touches for the Harvest Feast.

Humanities finished up this week with speeches on voting age. Students were asked whether or not the voting age should be lowered and, believe it or not, their were some strong differing opinions! I would have guessed that after studying the Declaration and Constitution, building a voting rights timeline, and watching the election that all six students would have had strong arguments for lowering the voting age. Not the case! Three argued to lower the voting age, two argued to keep it the same and one supporting keeping it the same for federal elections but lowering it for state elections.

Wasting no time, we jumped right into our next Occupations unit: Building an ROV. First students were given a 4x4 square styrofoam tray, a rubber band, popsicle sticks, and a hot glue gun. Using only these items, they needed to construct a boat that could propel itself across a tub the most efficiently. Nearly all 21st Century skills were used in this process. In the end, for better or for worse, whether ocean worthy vessels or tragic ship wrecks, the laws of physics were discovered. Today we traveled to the NMC/M-Tech facility to tour their Engineering Technology programs. So many amazing classrooms, programs, and resources! The highlight? Flying an ROV in their massive training tank, working together to pick an object up off the floor of the tank. Sure, we learned about sonar and uses of ROVs, possible careers, and all that- but flying an actual ROV and capturing an object? That's where the action is! A perfect launch into our next project.

November 10, 2016

The Jr. High has been abuzz with activity, literally and figuratively as we prepare for the Holiday Art Market. The actual buzzing came from our hive of honey bees, from which we harvested and subsequently bottled just over twenty pounds of deliciousness. This was our first honey harvest and the students navigated the activity with courage and enthusiasm. Insects aside, the classroom has been filled to the sounds of sewing machines and deft handiwork as our students put their finishing touches on their Holiday Art Market products.

A huge highlight of the past two weeks was our day trip to the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and Detroit Institute of Arts. The combination of music, art, and urban immersion made for an educational and inspiring day. This incredible experience was planned and orchestrated (no pun intended) by Amanda Igra and Alison Hoffman.

And to round out our recent adventures, we spent Election Night at the Children's House tallying electoral votes as we worked toward the completion of our Humanities workshop entitled "Finding your voice, making sense of the US Election process." As you might imagine, we were up into the wee hours of the morning, red and blue dry-erase markers in hand, awaiting the final election results.

October 27, 2016

Progress reports, Holiday Art Market, Reading with Friends, and Huge Manatees...

The Junior High has been hard at work- all kinds of work. We have been diligently preparing for our first round of student led conferences next week. Students have been working side by side with instructors to evaluate their progress across the curriculum through the lens of "21st Century Skills." How many skills do we look at? Eleven. These skills include responsibility, written and verbal communication, leading and following in a team, critical thinking, creativity, adaptability, grit, inteGRITy, and initiative. Although a mite bit involved on this first round, students and instructors are having very open, honest, and reflective conversations about the student's interaction with their education. The learning belongs to the learner; they control their level of interaction with their learning. "Owning it" is part of the process of becoming an adult. They are well on their way.

When not engaged with self assessment, the crew is deeply engaged in self expression through their micro economy. Each student has chosen at least one project for production. Rock tumbling, thrift shopping, sewing. and much more has been going on daily in and outside the classroom. Start saving your pennies for the Holiday Art Market. The JH will be selling some items you will not be able to resist!

Today is the first day of the JH's involvement in Read Across the County. They just returned from meeting with other JH students in Northport and discussing a short story. The students of Northport hosted our students along with Glen Lake. They first met in the gym for icebreakers and then retired to the library for warm food and hot chocolate. Overall, everyone returned having completely enjoyed their experience. We will be hosting the group here in February.

In the midst of all this excitement, we're also starting our first humanities or "huge manatees" workshop, as it's been called. The main focus of the workshop is to learn how the election process works, and how, as individuals, our voices can be heard. In order to get to that point, we've started with looking at how we've arrived to where we are by exploring the Declaration of Independence and The Constitution. When we next update our Classroom Highlights, we will know who the next president will be.

October 13, 2016

The past two weeks have seen a transition in our Occupations work from guest speakers and group learning to individual and group project work. Students are busy developing interpretive signs, brochures, and research papers on topics ranging from steel manufacturing to amphibians.  We also have been reading Old Man and the Sea by Earnest Hemingway. This classic novel has challenged our students to place themselves in the mind of a character whose passion and life experiences have been far different than their own. All the while, we have been ramping up our Cottage Craft business as we prepare for the Holiday Art Market. Students have been tumbling rocks, twisting wire, sewing pillows and jeans, and creating one of a kind artwork. As always, please visit our student blog at: http://tch-jhaps.blogspot.com/

September 29, 2016

Our northern Michigan adventures continued with a boat tour at Pictured Rocks, camping on the shore of Lake Superior in Grand Marais, and finished up with a trip up and down the Soo Locks. Geology, engineering, industry, history, and shipping are a small sampling of the subjects covered during the trip. Upon our return, we hosted and were hosted by several experts. We were enchanted by Don Oleson's stories of his time on the property just after World War II. Interns from NMC's Fresh Water Studies Institute, Chelsea Cooper and Jessica Rhodes, led us through the water studies they conducted on Page and Fern Lakes within the borders of the Timbers property. Dr. Sarah Tanis, of MSU, along with Jake Bournay of the GT Regional Land Conservancy, toured the property showing us different insect/tree relationships as well as how to to survey insect populations. Becky Roethlisberger, a former Girl Scout Camp Counselor, came from her home in Petoskey to lead us through a typical stay as a girl scout at the Timbers. Duke Elsner, renown entomologist (bug guy), had us poking through logs, turning over leaves, and cutting open mystery growths searching for all sorts of creatures. Hank Somero, former Ranger of the Timbers, along with Don Oleson, provided a more in depth history of the Armour Estate to two students who decided to study Lolita Armour and the Stone work done there the 1920's . The Estate tour required special permissions from the current owners of the remaining buildings, cottages, dormitories and the mansion, since the majority of the remaining buildings are no longer part of the property. As a special treat to the students, Mr. Somero also arranged a introduction to local musician, Bob James. Mr. James graciously hosted the two researchers and showed them how his recording studio functions. Wow. In short, our JH community has enjoyed gifts of time, history, and passion from local and regional experts.

Throughout these travels and experiences, the students have been forming projects that they will research, create and present as a culmination of the Occupations Workshop. Work is underway! Don't forget to check out the blog!

September 15, 2016

The Jr. High has launched the 2016-2017 school year with adventure after adventure in the Northern Michigan outdoors. We spent much of our first week of school setting up our new "Land Lab" at the Timbers Recreation Area and participating in a TC Scavenger Hunt seeking out several of our school-community partners and exploring the early history of our region. Now in week two, we have hardly set foot on campus as each day has brought a new adventure. On Monday, we paddled 11 miles of the upper Boardman River weaving our way through a glacial landscape. On Tuesday, we hiked the shoreline of Lake Huron, exploring coastal fens, uncovering shipwrecks, and digging into an old rock quarry in search of ancient fossils. Wednesday, we headed up to the tip of the mitten to dive into the history of fort Michilimackinac and bike our way around Mackinac Island in search of caves, culture, and inspiration!!! Visit our blog next Friday for updates and information on our entire adventure, including pictures and articles from our students.

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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