Welcome to Upper Elementary Cedar - The Children's House

Home / Family Portal / Classroom Pages / Upper El Cedar

Welcome to Upper Elementary Cedar

“…the child’s intelligence (is) a fertile field in which seeds may be sown, to grow under the heat of flaming imagination.” - Maria Montessori

This year we look forward to developing a curious, kind, and inspired community together. We hope to ignite imagination in each other and help discover new passions and curiosities.

Jamie Schaub



Room Parents
Renee Mittelstaedt
Casey Ressl


Back to School Parent Letter

Jamie Schaub, Upper Elementary Guide
Jamie Schaub, Upper Elementary Guide
Annie Gerstner, Upper Elementary Support
Annie Gerstner, Upper Elementary Support

Classroom Highlights


Thank you so much for all of the sweet and thoughtful teacher appreciation gifts this week! I feel very appreciated by all of you and your children.

We had such an adorable birthday celebration for my dog Rue on the 7th. Your children wrote her cards, a poem, and gave her compliments. She is so loved by your children. 

This month is Asian American and Pacific Islander Month so I have shared some biographies in the mornings. We have a great book filled with stories of inspiring Asian Americans. 9-12 year olds are especially interested in biographies, we have quite a collection in our room and in the library. They are learning what they are good at and thinking ahead to what impact they could make. Biographies help guide them by taking in stories about the lives of others.

Your children are wrapping up their research studies in the next couple weeks and we are excited for them to feel the accomplishment of sharing their knowledge with each other. 

Mothers, I hope that you feel celebrated and loved this weekend!



This week we learned about the history of Earth Day and this year’s goal to reduce plastics. Your children brainstormed about the plastics that they use and what they could do to replace them with more sustainable materials. 

We also talked about understanding ourselves. Your children wrote in their journals: descriptions of themselves, treasured memories, words to describe themselves, favorite things to do, hopes for the future, and things they would like to do. This suggestion creates a time capsule of each child at this moment. We encouraged them to create something visual to share this journal activity. 

Your children created art for a bookmark contest at TADL. They will be on display at the library during the month of May. I hope you will visit to take a look.

A few years ago as a school we read the book “How to Raise an Adult” by Julie Lythcott-Haims. I would highly recommend this book to you if you haven’t read it already. In the middle she describes age appropriate life skills children should learn at different age levels. When your children were drawing for the bookmark contest at TADL the form asked them their address and phone number. Some of the students didn’t have them memorized, which Julie recommends for children to learn around 4-5 years old. I thought I would include the list of life skills from this book as encouragement for conversations and learning at home. 

Ages 6-7 is the beginning of basic cooking skills, putting things away, doing the dishes, and helping to pack their lunch

Ages 8-9 folding clothes, simple hand sewing, caring for outdoor toys, using a broom and dustpan properly, reading a recipe and preparing a simple meal, making a grocery list, counting and making change, watering and weeding, taking out the trash, and vacuuming

Ages 10-13 staying home alone, going to the store and making a purchase alone, changing the bedsheets, using the washing machine and dryer, planning and preparing a more complicated meal, using the oven, reading labels, ironing, using basic hand tools, mowing the lawn, and looking after younger siblings.


This week we loved having our door to the outside open and we’ve been able to enjoy some work cycles outside! The eclipse was a special highlight this week and one that I’m sure we will all remember into the future. We reviewed the rotation of the earth, the revolution of the earth around the sun, and how the moon revolves around the earth to explain what is happening. 

Your children have started to spend time in the greenhouse to start seeds and water plants. It is exciting to feel this spring energy! Currently, we have a few experiments happening in our room as well; some related to plants, and others related to the states of matter.

Last week we talked about Trans Day of Visibility and read a couple of biographies in our book “Queer Heroes” by, Arabelle Sicardi. This week we finished our read aloud book "The Cobra's Song" by, Supriya Kelkar and were able to reflect about how the main character Geetanjali changed and grew in the book as well as what lessons were learned. Next we are reading “Manatee Summer” by Evan Griffith. Many of the students participating in Battle of the Books recommended that I read this next. 

We’ve also enjoyed learning new types of poetry for Poetry Month and I have shared a variety of poems with them so far. By the end of the month we are hoping to assemble a Cedar Classroom Poetry Book.

We are excited to share about our Ruby Bridges Project on April 25th at 3pm. Your children have been preparing research, writing, and photos to assemble a poster board to share with you about our class project. We hope to see you there!



My goodness we are having so much fun with our theatre workshop! Your children have grown so much in their stage presence, ability to project their voices, the bravery to show a variety of emotions and improvise characters. We are looking forward to seeing their performances on stage this afternoon at 2pm!

I really enjoyed meeting with you all doing conferences to talk about your children. It is such a joy to know and support them. I am happy to be on your team as we help raise independent life-long learners. 

This week we talked about the spring equinox and what is happening with the sun. Perhaps they can teach you about the amount of daylight on the equinox and about the equator. 

After spring break we will have a student teacher joining our room to practice giving Montessori lessons. Her name is Katie and she was in training with Jaime Janiszewski. We are excited to welcome her into our community for two weeks.

I hope you have a wonderful break!


Recently we have engaged in learning about anti-bullying and human growth and development. Your children learned the difference between friendly teasing and hurtful bullying. They learned that the intention behind the actions and words are not what are important, but rather how the person receiving feels. They learned that it is important to apologize when their friend or peer is hurt by what they intended to be a joke. They also learned about how to be an upstander and help each other when they see or hear something hurtful. This last day has focused on educating about cyberbullying. Your children have all had a lesson on puberty and development for both male and female bodies to show compassion for the changes everyone is going through.

In the classroom we discussed what qualities and actions we like when we do activities with each other that may be competitive, whether it is in PE, at recess, or an after school activity. I had them brainstorm actions that fit with “Be fun to play with” and “Be fun to play against.” This was a helpful journaling activity for your children to think about what it really means to be a “good sport” and what those actions look like. More about this topic here: What is a good sport?

Prior to our field trip on Friday, we will be talking about the Indigenous maple syrup history of our region and its importance to Anishinaabe culture. 

Next week your children start theatre! It is an exciting time of growth as they learn about staging, improv, enunciating, memorizing lines, and playing theatre games. We will engage in theatre during the morning and afternoon workcycles between Wednesday, March 13th and Thursday, March 21st. Please plan to attend their performance on Thursday, March 21st at 2pm in the gym.

I look forward to meeting with you for conferences next week. Here is the sign up if you need it: conference sign up



Last week Trisha Short (our school counselor) came for our monthly social/emotional lesson. She talked about filling a relationship jar with one stone by doing a kind and joyful thing with each other. She also showed them that when negative things happen two stones are removed, showing that they have more impact and that it is harder to repair. I really enjoyed this visual metaphor and your children were able to give many examples of things that feel good and would add to the jar, as well as things that feel bad and take away from the jar.

We learned about the history of Black History Month and read the book “Undefeated” by Kwame Alexander. I love this book, the illustrations are beautiful, as are the words. This book inspired your children to look into our biography books and learn more about Black historical and contemporary figures. 

I also shared with your children about the Grand Traverse Band Anishinaabe Round Dance that I attended last weekend at the Grand Traverse Resort. It was a beautiful celebration with drumming, singing, dancing, traditional foods and art. I brought some sweetgrass for them to smell and earrings made from porcupine quills. If you’d like to learn more about the GTB, they have a website with information: GTB History

Next week we have SECRET VALENTINES!

It is an Upper Elementary tradition to celebrate Valentine’s Day with Secret Valentines. Your children will need to prepare a total of three handmade valentines for their secret valentine. We are celebrating Monday 2/12, Tuesday 2/13 and Wednesday 2/14.

Students should write three hints about who they are and at least one compliment to the valentine on each card. It may be fun to write codes, use a typewriter, cut out letters, or other ways to disguise their handwriting. They also need to make sure that their valentine’s name is on the card. The first should come to school on Monday the 12th, second on Tuesday the 13th and the final on Wednesday the 14th. Sometimes students like to make a SMALL homemade treat on the last day, that would be fine if they do, but not required.

Here is an example for the writing on the card: I am the oldest sibling, I have two pets, My favorite season is summer. You always write interesting and thorough studies.

Students should keep their valentines a secret. Students should take their time creating thoughtful valentines. If your child will be absent, please make a plan to deliver the valentine ahead of time, have a sibling bring the valentine, or bring in the next day if they are sick. 

On the 100th Day of School Thursday 2/15 your children have the option to wear pajamas and bring a board game for the afternoon. We will have other learning activities prepared related to 100 for the morning. The Talent show is also on this day at 2pm in the gym.

Family Visiting will take place in a few weeks. Please sign up for a time here

Lastly, I have attached the new kitchen schedule so that you can see when your child will be attending the Pig Farm outing.



Recently in “Antiracist Kid” we defined the word racism and talked about the origins. The 6th years had been reading in our American History textbook about this origin as well so it was helpful to tie in what they were reading with the rest of the classroom. Your children recorded this definition in their journals, “racism is personal prejudice and bias AND the planned misuse and abuse of power by institutions.” This began our discussion about colonization and institutional power. Our read aloud book "The Cobra's Song" by, Supriya Kelkar gave an example of a microaggression by an adult toward the children and the children stood up for themselves and each other.

We also read about personalities and your children took a personality quiz to get to know themselves better. They then described themselves. The next day they described someone else’s personality like a family member or a friend. I have attached the quiz to this email in case you’d like to discuss your personalities as a family.

Another way we are getting to know each other better is by having conversation cards on the table at lunch that have a variety of questions on them. It is fun to watch them talk through their answers and switch cards with other tables to keep the conversations going. 

Many of your children are enjoying learning and calculating area by creating house blueprints. Others are loving the vocabulary cards and some are mesmerized by the microscope. 

We are looking forward to the Robotics Final Battle on Friday, February 2nd at 1:15pm. If you are interested in watching and available, I invite you to come!

Lastly, here is a message from Student Council:

Dear Families,
Student council would like to do a temporary Meals on Wheels route! We had a successful bake sale which raised $340 for Meals on Wheels. We would like to deliver meals every Wednesday starting February 14th for 8 weeks. We need parent support in order to accomplish this task! Drivers are needed. Learn more and sign up here.

Thank you, Student Council


Welcome to 2024! We were so excited to get back together again and dive right in. Your children spent some time creating intentions for themselves in a few areas: school, home, friendships, and personal. I encourage you to ask them about what their hopes are for this year!

I took time to watch two webinars from ISACS about childhood anxiety, the signs and how to support. I really enjoyed learning from Jonathan Dalton and he gave helpful scripts to support worries, fears, and anxious thoughts. I talked to your children about the importance of not avoiding things that feel scary like: presenting to the class, talking to the office, making phone calls, and trying something new. Instead I encouraged them to work up to trying these things slowly just like how our lessons build on each other. I also gave them a few lines to say/read when they feel nervous/worried/scared to write in their journals and use when they need to. I also gave them general examples about when I have pushed them because I knew they could do something. 

Here they are in case you’d like to use them at home:

  • “I can be scared/anxious and _______ at the same time.” (brave, strong)
  • “My worth is not my achievements”
  • “Scary thoughts cannot hurt me”
  • “Just because I feel scared doesn’t mean anything bad is going to happen”
  • “Just because I feel scared doesnt mean I can’t do it”
  • “I am stronger than my fears”

This month we are lucky to be engaging in robotics on Fridays with Philip who works for Quarkmine. Your children are in teams learning to collaborate, design, test, fail, rework, and try again.

We have also been discussing Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and were lucky to watch a percussion performance by Mr. Aleo that accompanied Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. Here are some local events happening on MLK day in case you’re interested: https://www.thealluvion.org/tickets/mlkday 



What a joy it was to go caroling with your children at The Pavilions yesterday. First, it was so sweet to practice singing these songs together the past couple weeks, and then to share them through the hallways was just a pleasure. The residents and staff were so delighted by our singing. 

This morning we enjoyed having Abby (Olivia Taylor’s mom) come in to teach us about Hanukkah and how their family celebrates. I’d love to invite all of you in to share something whether it is a tradition, skill, job, or hobby. Let me know if this interests you.

Last week we read from “The Antiracist Kid” about oppression and some of the different kinds that exist. We defined many of the “isms” including: ableism, ageism, classism, heterosexism, racism, and sexism. I gave them an example about ableism and how sometimes elevators or automatic doors are not repaired quickly (or are not present at all) which makes buildings inaccessible to some people. We also talked about how when people have different abilities, they may look different than us and it is important to be welcoming and curious about them instead of making judgements. Personally, I read a wonderful book called “See No Stranger” by Valarie Kaur that inspired this conversation about wondering about others we do not know. Perhaps you’d enjoy this book as well.

Last week I wrote a blog post about life-long learning, in case you missed it:

See you at the Holiday Sing on Friday, December 15th at 11:30!


I loved meeting with all of you to talk about your children. It is a joy to watch their growth and excitement for learning. I hope you enjoyed seeing their work and their reflections.

This week we talked about Veterans Day and Diwali. Your children learned the history of Veterans Day and how we celebrate. I also shared that my sister is an Air Force Veteran. Your children learned about the big beautiful celebrations of Diwali for Hindu and Sikh people. 

We had a discussion about how we react, feel, and think about things differently. I gave them a few scenarios to reflect on how they would feel and what they would do to introduce the idea of empathy. We also had our first life skills lesson with Trisha (our school counselor), which will happen once monthly. She had the students think about similarities and differences, multiple intelligences, and our abilities. Your children realized that we are similar in many ways, and that it would be boring if we were all exactly the same. They also thought about differences in skills, preferences, and abilities. We can’t be good at everything after all, and it is helpful for the community to have many different skills and specialties.

Many of your children have been measuring area and learning why it is so important. They thought about builders, architects, designers, and realized that knowing how to find area is important for everyone when they are painting their homes or decorating their space with rugs and furniture. 

We look forward to our Harvest Feast meal on Tuesday. Your children are practicing a lot of songs including Harmonia Mundi, Holiday Lights, and Winter Lullaby. Maybe they can teach you too!

From Steve in PE:
I have been having a good time recently with the Cedar group, especially working on cardiovascular endurance. We have done an activity called the fitnessgram pacer test. I tried to be very clear that this was an individual activity and not a competition. Participants run 20 meters at a time in a progressively shorter amount of time until failure. Most learners really seem to enjoy this challenge. Passing the “test” equals participating your best on a given day. Separately we have been working on liking what you like and allowing others to do the same, this often comes up on music choices in the gym but I think everyone would do well to show some grace to others about their preferences. Hopefully some of the fun we have in the gym makes an impact on these people's days, thanks for sharing them with me. 


I have loved hearing your children share about their ancestors during Dia de los Muertos this week. We talked about how marigold flowers are important to this celebration because of their bright colors and strong scent. The belief is that they help lead their ancestors home for a visit during Dia de los Muertos. Your children strung up garlands that are decorating our classroom. To me, I love sharing stories about cultural beliefs around the world to help children think about the other ways that people believe, celebrate, and think about things. This helps them reflect on what they believe and what traditions they have. 

On our professional development day we spent time thinking about and discussing gender inclusivity. We were able to participate in a wonderful training ahead of time. Your children started the school year sharing their names and pronouns. I plan to continue to have discussions around gender and especially helping your children move away from stereotypes.

Tomorrow we will be discussing power from “Antiracist Kid.” We will reflect on who the people in power are and what their identities are in our country, state, city, and school. We will talk about institutional power and personal power.

I want you to know that we have discussed the history of conflict in the Holy Land starting with the Crusades and looked at maps to see how the land has changed over time. We left out news articles written for kids about the current situation in Israel and Palestine for your children to read if they wanted. You can find them attached to this email. This conflict has been a part of our learning for Montessori Model United Nations throughout the years. I thought you might find this helpful: talking to kids about Israel and Palestine

On a lighter note, your children had a visit from Rue (my dog) dressed as a bumble bee on Halloween.  A reminder that we have an outing tomorrow afternoon to the Maier Ceramics Studio and conferences next week.


Lately I have loved the exploration your children are experiencing with our microscope and the investigation of plants. Such wonder and excitement are shared in the moments they bring items into focus and get to see the insides of petals, leaves, stamens, and pistils. 

In “Antiracist Kid” we talked about fairness recently. At first your children discussed fair as everything being the same or equal. Once we read the example, they started to wonder about their idea of fair in a new way. Jewell proposed that there are 15 cookies and 5 children and wondered how many cookies each should receive. All of the students replied 3, having practiced sharing and also word problems. Then she gave more information, one child didn’t have breakfast or lunch, another had a box of cookies at home. After this she described fair as everyone having what they need. I really enjoyed this conversation with your children and this way of talking about fairness. 

We also discussed the words bias and prejudice as feelings and beliefs compared to discrimination as negative hurtful actions. We talked about how discrimination is the way you act on your negative biases and prejudices.

We’ve been singing a sweet short tune that really helps relax the body, maybe you can ask about it. It’s called “Loosen.” We also have been singing a song about the moon phases and another called “Great Waters.”

Conferences, please sign up for one slot: Conference Sign Up
Family visiting is next week, please make sure that you have selected a time: Family Visiting Sign Up 
Dia de Los Muertos story sharing 10/30-11/2 (more details to follow in another email)
Halloween costumes allowed on 10/31, please nothing over the face and only in the classroom so as to not frighten the younger children in the school.
Outing: 11/3 to Maier Ceramics Studio 1pm-3pm 


Hello Cedar Room Families!

Well it has certainly been exciting around here with the raising of a monarch caterpillar. On Friday of last week our butterfly emerged from his chrysalis and we were able to release him at the end of the day. The learners wished him luck on his flight south toward Mexico and chose to give him a name in Spanish, Pez (for fish, ironically I suppose). 

Your children are deep into their studies and some are reaching a point where they will write an outline to organize their notes and begin writing a rough draft! How exciting. 

I shared the Story of Humans with your children last week where we talked about how we have the ability to love and care for people, plants, and animals we have never met, the ability to use our hands to create and invent, and the choice to do good in the world. 

We are also discussing the Anishinaabe people of our region and Indigenous Peoples’ Day coming up on October 9th. 

I thought I might give you a few questions that can serve as conversation starters:

  1. What facts did you learn about for your study today/this week?
  2. How did the class name the butterfly?
  3. Who did you sit with today?
  4. What was your writing sample story about?
  5. What is happening in the read aloud story?
  6. What did you play on recess? In gym? 
  7. What did your group read about on Wednesday?
  8. What words are you learning in Spanish?
  9. How is the math booklet feeling? (we do this on Tuesday’s)
  10. What song are you learning on the recorder in music?

In “Antiracist Kid” we talked about what to do when we make a mistake this week. We discussed the steps: 1. Admit that you made a mistake, 2. Apologize, and mean it with the intention of changing your future behavior, 3. Listen to the person you harmed. Your children wrote examples of things they can say like “What I said was not okay.” “I’m really sorry and I won’t do that again. I know it upset you.” They also wrote reminders for themselves: “you will not always get it right,” “you can work on making sure you do not say the wrong thing again,” “you will grow from your mistakes,” “you are always learning and growing.” 

Please sign up for a time to visit with your child and see their work in a few weeks:

Visiting in Cedar Room (Jamie Schaub) 23/24


Hello families! It has been such a pleasure to be in the company of your children. Over the past three weeks we have created an agreement together about how we would like to feel and how we agree to be in the classroom. We have started spelling lessons, and reviewed concepts in math. Your children have heard the Montessori Great Stories of the Creation of the Universe, the Timeline of Life, and the Long Black Strip. 

These stories work together to build an understanding of just how long it took for the earth to form, all of the creatures to exist, and the comparison of how little time humans have lived on the earth. The Timeline of Life is full of illustrations in contrast to the Long Black Strip which is a black piece of fabric 30 meters long void of anything (representing all of the time from the beginning of the earth) until the very end where the children see a red strip of ribbon just 1cm wide that represents the length of time that humans have existed. I love sharing these stories because it creates such a sense of wonder and discovery, even if the children have heard them before. They often enjoy reading the Long Black Strip story and unrolling the fabric with their friends. We are also talking about the Autumnal Equinox and will engage in learning about the night sky on our field trip to The Sleeping Bear Dunes tomorrow. 

In “The Antiracist Kid” we discussed our personal and social identities. Some children were not sure about their racial identities (skin color, categories in the US: Black, American Indian/Alaska Native, Asian, Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander, Latinx, Hispanic, white) and ethnic identities (the cultures of our ancestors which could include countries we come from) so I encouraged them to talk to you at home. Your children are creating artistic identity maps to show who they are and what they love. We hope to display the final versions to celebrate our similarities and differences.