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Classroom Highlights 2023-24

Welcome to Compass Montessori Junior High!

compass_jh_202323_class_in_the_theater_1.jpgDuring this period of early adolescence, we create opportunities through a prepared environment that allows students to learn about themselves, their communities, and how their unique self contributes to those communities.  It’s about finding yourself, and your place in the world.  It’s about calibrating your inner compass.  

The 2023-24 school year promises to be full of new experiences and adventures.  We have settled into our downtown campus at 101 Park St., our new homebase. From here we will launch our studies of geology, botany, freshwater ecology, elections and government, ancient civilizations, applied technology, and democratic movements.  Throughout the year we will have opportunities to connect to our local community as well as travel as far north as the tip of the Keweenaw Peninsula, and as far south as Pigeon Key.  Get ready, because here we go! 

-Tree and Kristina

"The adolescent must never be treated as a child, for that is a stage of life that he has surpassed. It is better to treat an adolescent as if he had greater value than he actually shows than as if he had less and let him feel that his merits and self-respect are disregarded.” - Maria Montessori

Kristina Weidenfeller, Junior High Guide

Treenen Sturman, Junior High Guide

Tori Craig, Junior High Associate Guide

Room Parents
Megan Wick
Carrie Goodreau

Quick Links

Back to School Parent Letter

JH Handbook Addendum


Classroom Highlights

February 9, 2024
From Slavery to Civil Rights: A Trip to the South

Last week marks the third time we have traveled to Georgia and Alabama for our “Civil War to Civil Rights” Workshop.  Each visit is a unique, one-time experience that is shaped by geography, location hours, restaurant hours, and special events in the area, not to mention the personalities and interests of twenty-three young people.  Since our trips are not curated by a travel company, we are able to linger longer when there is interest, or add a stop if we stumble upon something interesting or unexpected.  We are also able to experience local fare, as opposed to visiting large chain restaurants (don’t worry, we call first!!).  So with all of this latitude, what did we do? Well, here it goes!


The vans rolled out at 7:30.  Not to jinx us, but this crew has been very punctual this year! After an uneventful drive to Grand Rapids, we boarded a flight for Atlanta.  The plane had “screens,” so it was a nice quiet ride.  If you’ve flown into Atlanta, you know it was a half-day journey from our gate to our rental vehicles. We stopped off and did some Kroger-ing for breakfast and lunch supplies and then continued on to our rental abode for the week.  After settling in, we got to work on roasting chicken for wraps, and baking breakfast casseroles. Each night, we sit in circle to reflect on our day, as well as prepare for the next. 

Tuesday - Atlanta

We started our day with wonder.  The Georgia Aquarium is one of the top aquariums in the nation.  They have tanks large enough to house not one, but two Whale Sharks, along with a couple of Manta Rays; both beautiful, graceful, and so peaceful, gliding through the water, paying no mind to the onlookers.  The Beluga Whales and penguins, on the other hand, wanted to check out our faces and inspect these creatures on the other side of the plexiglass. After a peaceful morning at the aquarium, we enjoyed our first packed lunch in the shared space between the aquarium, Coca-Cola, and the National Center for Civil and Human Rights.  Of course, we had to drop into Coca-Cola to check out the swag, and share a Coke.

The National Center for Civil and Human Rights is a museum designed to guide visitors through the time of segregation and Jim Crow up through the present.  Visitors can hear stories from Freedom Riders, participants in the Lunch Counter Sit-ins, interviews with government officials and police officers from the time period, and students who were the first to desegregate the schools.  One part of the exhibit is an interactive lunch counter sit-in, where visitors can sit at the lunch counter with headphones on, close their eyes, and hear what those student activists may have heard when they sat at the “whites only” counters. The exhibit ends with human rights offenders and defenders throughout history and around the globe. 

After an afternoon of some pretty heavy experiences, we bookended the day with Hamilton, at the beautiful Fox Theater in downtown Atlanta.  Ironically, the calls for freedom from the founding fathers were echoed in the stories of civil and human rights that we had been listening to all afternoon. 

Wednesday - Atlanta

We started our day at the Atlanta History Center, the home to the “Battle of Atlanta” Cyclorama.  Cycloramas were the “virtual reality” or “IMAX theaters” of their time.  The cyclorama gave the visitor the feeling of standing in the middle of a battle.  Originally created by Europeans to be displayed in Minnesota, it depicted the victory of the Union over the Confederate forces. It has been altered throughout its existence for marketing purposes- at one point the blue of the Union was painted red to show a Confederate victory! 

After a packed lunch, we headed to Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park, to see the backdrop of the battle for ourselves. Two students helped set the scene when they volunteered to dress up as soldiers to help us learn about the similarities and differences between infantrymen of the Union, and those of the Confederacy. We ended our visit by getting a glimpse of what those soldiers saw as they ran into battle: a large open field to cross, and a mountain to climb. 

Our next stop was Marietta National Cemetery.  After the war ended, the federal government sought soldiers buried at field hospitals, on battlefields, and near railway stations. Marietta was one of the first places those bodies were reinterned.  We learned that Marietta holds only Union soldiers, as at the time, the animosity was still so high that the locals did not want their dead buried with “Yankees.” We finished our night enjoying various cuisines in downtown Marietta at the Marietta Square Market.

Thursday - Birmingham

Road trip! Bright and early we headed for the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute.  We had seen this place from the outside on previous trips, but this was our first opportunity to visit.  We started our tour by meeting a “Foot Soldier” of the Children’s Crusade.  Miss Ann was 16 years old when she skipped school to join a march to talk to the mayor about segregation. “Bull” Connor, Birmingham’s commissioner of public safety at the time, sent the police force out with water cannons, hoses, and police dogs to end the march.  He sent so many children to jail, they had to use school buses to transport them.  The outcry from the nation who saw children being hosed and jailed led to the tipping point for President Lyndon B. Johnson, who soon signed the Civil Rights Act.  Kelly Ingram Park, across the street from the museum, commemorates that day with sculptures of the events. 

After our tour of BCRI, we met with Miss Dee, who works locally to bring resources into the community with the support of the Brookings Institute, which is investing in Birmingham specifically for its segregated communities and large African American population.  She talked about how Birmingham is more segregated now than it was back then, because after the Civil Rights Act was signed into law, Whites left the city center. Staying downtown, we headed over to Yo Mama’s Fried Chicken for lunch, and honestly, the best fried chicken and waffles I’ve ever had. 

After lunch, we visited the 16th Street Baptist Church.  There, our docent, a former Michigander and graduate of Wayne State, shared the history of the church, as a place of community, and Civil Rights work.  This is where the Children’s Crusade was organized, and where four little girls were killed when a bomb was planted outside under the steps.  Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. came to the 16th Street Baptist Church to deliver the eulogy for those little girls. They are memorialized in Kelly Ingram Park with a statue depicting a vision the lone survivor had of the souls of her sister and friends who were murdered that day.

Friday - Further south to Montgomery

Before leaving for our trip, we read the book “Just Mercy” by Bryan Stevenson.  The book recounts his experience as a young lawyer working on death row in Alabama. The Legacy Museum and The National Memorial for Peace and Justice were started by Bryan Stevenson.  He also founded EJI, the Equal Justice Initiative, a human rights organization in Montgomery.  EJI, the museum, and the memorial are all paths for justice.  The museum and the memorial work toward justice by providing the history and identification of those who lost their lives unjustly, either from enslavement, lynching, or unjust incarceration. EJI works to “end mass incarceration and excessive punishment in the U.S..” 

We spent “recess” along the Alabama River at Riverwalk Park, passing a statue of Hank Williams (not Junior!), a famous Montgomery native, along the walk.  To close out the day, we visited the old Greyhound Bus station, the site where a busload of Freedom Riders stepped off to be met by an angry mob that proceeded to attack and injure the Riders.  The station now serves as a museum, exhibiting information about the Freedom Riders initiative. As we strolled the area, we saw the Alabama Capitol building, with the First White House of the Confederacy just across the street.  The Capitol has two prominent monuments, one to those who fought for the Confederacy, and one to Jefferson Davis.  

Our last stop before home was Pannie-George’s Kitchen for hot soul food - catfish, creamed corn, cornbread, and more.

Saturday - Last day, Atlanta

We enjoyed sleeping in and having a leisurely breakfast.  We loaded the vehicles and headed for the National Center for Puppetry Arts.  Four performers, in conjunction with the puppets, told the story of an eight-year-old girl, traveling from Chicago to Alabama to see her Grandma - a Black family traveling south in 1952.  “Ruth and the Green Book” detailed the challenges Black folks faced as they traveled across the country, especially in the “Jim Crow” South. 

 Wow!  In a cozy theater, we were dazzled by the combination of singing, dancing, staging, set design, and of course, a multitude of puppetry!   Puppets included tabletop puppets, shadow puppets, and marionettes. 

After lunch in a park, we continued to Martin Luther King Jr. National Historical Park.  We toured the visitor center and attended a history talk at Ebenezer Baptist Church, the church where Dr. King grew up and where he eventually served as pastor, like his father and grandfather before him. The church lies just off of Auburn Avenue, also known as “Sweet Auburn,” which, before the Civil Rights movement, was the center for African American finance, entrepreneurialism, and culture. Our Park Ranger, Jake, told us the story of the King family as we sat in the pews, looking at the organ and the surrounding stained glass.  The church was also the site of Dr.King’s funeral, where 200,000 people, including Robert F. Kennedy, waited outside to accompany the casket, being pulled in a cart by a team of mules, for a three-mile procession to Morehouse College.  Being in the space and hearing the story was a profound moment for many in our group. 

Contrast? We’ve got it!  Our next stop took us to Stone Mountain, referred to as the “Mount Rushmore of the Confederacy.”   Stone Mountain is a pluton, an upwelling of magma, or in other words a big hunk of granite, a REALLY big hunk.  From a distance, it looks like a huge stone (800 feet high) sitting on the ground.  Up close, you see a carving of Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis, and “Stonewall” Jackson, riding horses and surrounded by a theme park. Under Georgia law, it is protected as a monument to the Confederacy.  This proved to be the most surreal moment of the trip; we walked through a closed theme park, past a group practicing a performance for the Lunar New Year, up to the face of the mountain that is flanked by statues commemorating the “Valor” and “Sacrifice” of the Confederacy in their “fight for freedom, in the footsteps of the founding fathers.” 

How do you begin to process the ever-changing landscape and history of one area? We went for dinner. Sweet Potato Cafe, just a stone’s throw from the mountain, welcomed us with fried green tomatoes, fried chicken, sweet potato fries, and black bean and sweet potato hash.  The restaurant is locally owned, and farm-to-table.  The owner, who is Black, asked us, “Why Stone Mountain?” It is always a challenging question to answer.  The Confederate carving was not completed until 1972.  It has been the location of KKK rallies.  Its funding was provided by the Daughters of the Confederacy.  The shortest answer?  Because it’s still here. Georgia altered its state flag in 2001, but this monument and theme park are still here. Why does it still remain? With the ideals of the Confederacy still in the landscape, what does that mean for the people of Georgia? What does it mean for the U.S.? 

In processing our trip, over the course of this week, our group shared a range of adjectives, adverbs, and abstract nouns to describe the experience which covered the entire range of emotions: courage, forgiveness, hopeful, sad, activist, humble, wondrous, reliable, inspirational, resilient, dangerous, rebellious, equality, terrorism, grief, hatred, fearless, determined, passionate, honorable, charismatic, sorrowful, faith, persistent, and peace - just to name a few. We discussed the similarities and connections we saw and also noted the contrast. We look forward to further exploration as the students begin their independent research and final projects. 

January 10, 2024
Art Installation at The Alluvion

This week marks the culmination of our two week Arts Intermester. The culmination comes in the form of an art installation at The Alluvion.  Students have been receiving mini-classes from local artists sharing different forms of expression.  We began our journey with collage through the instruction of both Deb Harris and Jessica Kovan. With Deb, students brought in items, textures, colors, and images that they felt represented their identity in order to create a piece on canvas with layering techniques.  

Jessica expanded their collage techniques through work in their art journals, exploring not only what represented their identity, but also what they may feel important, focusing on making “art from the heart.”  

Jen Steinorth introduced her use of “erasure,” a form of visual poetry in which she takes existing works such as books or other print and erases or removes parts to create a new piece or perspective with what is left behind.  

Phil Wilson led the students in exploring the outward aspects of character through creating fictional busts; head of characters of their imagination.  

Finally, students worked with Nicole McKendrick, Dave Thomas, and Lisa Thauvette of Tilt Think to explore how each individual contributes to the whole, answering the call with “Yes, and…”, building a skit as it unfolds, one contribution at a time. 

At the end of the mini-courses, students were given the opportunity to choose a format they wanted to explore further.  They were also able to choose formats they may not have been offered, such as electronic music composition, 3-D design, drawing, animation, and painting. With support from artists and guides, including Alison Hoffman, the student artists worked through imagining and creating multiple pieces that express aspects of their identity and experience. 

Each piece displayed is much more than a sculpture, painting, drawing, song or collage.  The piece, along with its “Artist Statement,” is the visual representation of an expression of self.  Emotions, interests, or simply an individual’s approach to creating - or all of the above - came together in the form of artwork.  

Metacognition, thinking about thinking, becomes more complex in adolescence.  Junior High/Middle School age adolescents are just beginning to analyze their thoughts, to be able to talk about why they thought what they thought or did what they did (emphasis on “just beginning”).  They may be able to describe the techniques they employed to create a piece, or not.  Some explanations may be simply, “because,” or “the colors were nearby, so I used them,” or maybe their friend made something similar and they liked it, so they did it too. Others may mimic adult examples, or have thoughtful connections that they can verbalize regarding their process and product. 

Self Expression is a key tenet of Montessori’s philosophy for the Adolescent.  Adolescence is a time of great social growth.  The adolescent is figuring out who they are, and as well as  who they are in the world.  With the brain in the midst of rapid growth and restructuring, art, music, creative writing, and performing arts offer a vehicle for teens to get their ideas out, try on different roles, ideas, and personas, all while remaining socially “safe” in an environment framed around creativity and imagination.


December 15, 2023
Season Spectacular! 

It’s been a full week! We have had stealthy secret snowpeople, singing, dancing, and over twenty visitors from the early colonies!  We had folks visiting from Jamestown, Massachusetts Bay, New Hampshire and New Sweden to name a few.  They came as merchants, fishermen, families, and stowaways; some seeking their fortune, some seeking freedom from their situations in the “Old World.”  Costumes, drama, and cliffhanger endings filled our afternoons.  It is truly amazing the creativity and imagination that each student brought to our “stage;”  some even sewed, or constructed their own costumes!  

Although it was a fast and furious December, it felt as if we came together as a community to celebrate our move, being together, and being a part of the whole. When a group of 12-14 year olds collaborate to play tuba, piano, xylophone, marimba, and jingle bells while dancing to their own choreography, and singing to boot, in front of their entire school community- that really tells you something about how they feel about their class, and themselves.  Teens are renowned for their love of complaining and drama, but at the end of the day, this day in particular being the sing-a-long, they dropped all the teen angst and malaise, and put on a great show.


December 8, 2023
New digs, new experiences!

They say, “Home is where you hang your hat.”  Well, the Junior High has hung our “hat” a few places in our short history, but it feels like we have finally landed in our forever home. After just two weeks, we are settling into new routines, learning how we best can utilize our space, and observing how the spaces engage our learners in new and exciting ways.  The change in lighting, the open windows, the intentional traffic flow management- it all feels so natural, comfortable, and, well, like home. We are so grateful for everyone who has been a part of this journey, in all the ways.  Boxes are unpacked, now to get back to it! 

Self expression is a key aspect of the Montessori adolescent philosophy.  Self expression is part of the process of exploring identity- what makes each of us unique? What do we share in common? How do we see the world? What is our story? Over the past two weeks, we have continued to support this exploration through continuing “Erasure” with Jen Steinorth, and creating “heads” from clay with Phil Wilson.  Art easily lends itself to being able to share what is within, without the need to explain.  Images, colors, shapes, found objects, words, and textures can make thoughts, feelings or perspectives easier to share.  We are looking forward to our exhibition in January, where we can share what has been and is being created by our community.  

Students have been researching pre US Revolution colonies of their choice; learning about who founded those colonies, why, and what life was like for those colonists.  When US colonies are mentioned in conversation, most folks think of the “original 13,” when in fact, many more than 13 colonies were created, and not all by the British.  With research in hand, students are currently in the throes of writing historical fiction monologues that they will present during our last week before break.  They need to create a character from their colony of choice, and through their first person story, share information about the charter of the colony, the location, the time period, and the fate. Be prepared to “help” with costuming!  It is most likely they will “remember” the night before!

Finally, we have truly committed to our Seasonal Sing piece.  We have choreography, we have instrumentation, and most importantly, we have enthusiasm!  We did have a bit of a trip up with differences in key between the musicians and the singers…but we are working to fix that. We look forward to seeing you in the audience as we help close out 2023! 


compass_montessori_junior_high_students_work_with_local_artists_1.jpgNovember 15, 2023

The past two weeks have been filled with gratitude.  Gratitude for community, vulnerability, support, strength, cooperation, bravery, collaboration, consideration, creativity, humor, patience, and perseverance; just to name a few.  

We had the honor of being witness to portfolio presentations that showcased work, reflection, and growth during our student-led conferences. It is in the reflection of work, sometimes more than the work itself, that growth occurs.  Some students realize their own growth as they describe their work, gaining perspective through comparison of work from the previous years. While for others, the growth occurs through bringing awareness to how they learn, how they work, and how they want to improve.  We are grateful to be part of this process. 

compass_montessori_junior_high_students_art_exploration.jpgRecently, we have had multiple speakers and artists visit our community.  We are formed by our stories.  The stories of our experiences, the stories we choose to tell, and the stories we are told.  We are grateful for the stories our guests shared with our community.   

Marshall Collins came to speak with our students about his experiences growing up as a person of color in Northport, Michigan and in a predominantly black neighborhood in Florida.  

Jessica Kovan is a local artist who “uses (her) art, for her heart.”  She works mainly with collage and mixed media.  She shared her stories of using “morning pages”  everyday for 28 years! We do this same creativity process each morning in our classroom - students free write for fifteen minutes to clear the mind and “make space for joy”. She also joined our conversation about Israel, the context of the conflict, and her perspective as a Jewish woman.  

compass_montessori_junior_high_students_move_into_their_newly_remodeled_park_street_campus_in_downtown_traverse_city2.jpgFriday we welcomed Jen Steinorth, another local artist, who works with “erasure,” or creating art out of “removing”.  She shared her process of processing her frustration as a female-identifying artist, through erasing text from an art analysis book that only included one female artist.  

Melissa Johnson, alum parent, has been key in organizing these talented artists. Alison Hoffman has been incredibly supportive in organizing supplies and working with our learners.  Each artist offered a workshop and the students experimented with self-expression through collage, paint, erasure, and poetry.

We have started the move!  Over the course of the past eight months, so many people have worked to provide our classroom with a physical space designed with the needs of our adolescents in mind.  First we triaged by saving as many of our materials as possible out of the standing water and dripping ceiling tiles.  We then were welcomed and supported by our TCH school community, as we held class at the main campus for just over two weeks.  While we were away in Washington, D.C., the admin and parents helped to move our materials into the “rental” as well as arrange the furniture to make it seem like home.  

compass_montessori_junior_high_students_with_misha_and_jeff_neidorfler.jpgOver the course of spring, Jeff and Misha Neidorfler held focus group discussions with the guides, administration, and students to gather the needs of the community and design a space to suit. All of the school administration worked to complete insurance claims, work with contractors, organize orders, schedule deliveries, fill out work orders, and so, so much more in order to get us back to our classroom. 

Once again, parents have helped in facilitating our move, supervising student moving groups, as well as helping rehome materials we no longer need.  Last, but certainly not least, our students are remarkable!  They have been patient with the constant changes in their learning environment, and key movers as we shift our classroom back across the “hall.”   

the_childrens_house_and_compass_junior_high_harvest_feast.jpgFinally, it is a beautiful time of year, where we are able to gather together and celebrate this amazing school-wide community that we are grateful for every day.  We are looking forward to gathering in the barn along with Elementary for Harvest Feast, and sharing “Stone Soup.” The story of Stone Soup, where each individual contributes what they have, and together creates something more.  

Thank you to everyone! May you all enjoy the warmth of family and time spent together!


Compass Montessori Junior High students and parents November 3, 2023
Student Led Conferencing 

Follow the child. They will show you what they need to do, what they need to develop in themselves, and what area they need to be challenged in.
 —Maria Montessori  

Precisely. As Montessorians, we know this. We live this. Parent teacher conferences, historically, have been a place for parents to listen to their child’s teacher highlight areas in which they excel and areas in which they are challenged. In the early stages of development, guides observe with the intention of gathering each learner’s interests and proclivities in order to guide the learner along the path of building in areas of challenge, and exploring further their areas of great enthusiasm. As a learner moves into adolescence, they become more self aware of this process, and are capable and ready to describe it themselves. 

Compass Montessori Junior High students and parents Student led conferencing is a conference, or more aptly, a presentation, created and led by the student for their parents and guides. Students collect samples of their work, including notes, drafts, practice, and published works and organize their collection into a portfolio. The learner then presents their work by explaining what they did, evaluating their effort and performance, reporting what they learned, and more importantly, sharing what they would like to study additionally, as well as future expectations for performance.  

The purpose of shifting the act of assessing a student’s learning from the guide to the learner is to recognize that the learning belongs to the learner; it is not a process dictated by the guide, parent, or other outside force. One’s successes, failures, motivations, and struggles are a personal experience, and therefore are best described, evaluated, and directed by the individual. 

Compass Montessori Junior High students and parents The benefits are infinite. Through verbalizing their learning process, students own it.  They realize that they are in charge of and responsible for their actions, or inactions. The student, through their presentation, acknowledges how their effort and understanding created their results. Parents and guides are not left wondering why a student excels in math and struggles in writing, or vice versa; the learner explains. As the audience, we learn about what excites them and why, what their dreams are, what their worries are, and get a glimpse of what role they will play in the future. Guides gain insight to each student’s individual understanding and perception of their learning while parents get to see their children as self-aware, independent learners. With all of this information, we then can best support each student as they continue to grow academically, socially, and personally. 

Instead of leaving traditional junior high conferences exhausted, we leave student led conferences invigorated, and inspired. Invigorated by the love of learning described in twenty-three unique ways, and inspired by the twenty-three new perspectives I have gained looking through the eyes of young adolescent learners. 

So, when the time comes for your child to present, be prepared to listen well, engage in their learning as a partner, and celebrate beside them. 


compass_junior_high_food_rescue_volunteering_1.jpgOctober 20, 2023 

As we continue to examine community, we have spent much of the past two weeks hearing stories about how individuals contribute to their communities.  Each person, through their choices, makes contributions to the communities they interact with, intentionally or unintentionally; affecting our environments and the lives of others through actions, and inactions. 

  • Groundwork Center with Christina Barkle - Shared Abundance art exhibit
  • Farmer Interviews at the Farmer’s Market
  • Biggest Little Farm film (a place Tori worked!)
  • Context on the Israel & Palestine conflict: regional history, The Holocaust, Parents Circle Families Forum, Presidential Address
  • Food Rescue, Taylor Moore
  • Eric Hemenway, LTB Archivist, Catholic Indian Boarding Schools
  • Coast Guard Chief Cecil Campfield Rededication Ceremony
  • Scott Schwander, Oakwood Cemetery
  • Lauren Pauly, Staffer for Congressman Bergman

compass_junior_high_at_coast_guard_funeral.jpgFor each story, we learned how an idea, a dream, a tragedy, a mentor, a relationship, an inspiration, a perceived need, a life experience, a situation, or a moment of chance led to a sense of purpose for an individual, a purpose that directed the way they chose to spend their time and resources, a way they chose to contribute to their community.  

Eric repatriates stolen or misplaced artifacts to his community.  Taylor helps get food to people who need it to survive, while supporting local farmers and businesses. Scott honors and remembers those who pledged to put the lives of others before theirs.  Lauren connects constituents to the work going on in the US Congress. Christina supports local farmers in getting their food to market.  Chief Campfield gave his life working to protect the East Coast from German U-Boats during World War II.  

Each individual, and their work, shapes the present that we live in.  Their stories share intersections across history, and connect in the present. Each of us plays a role- which roles will our learners fill?  


compass_junior_high_students_meet_with_the_local_chapter_of_veterans_for_peace_1.jpgOctober 4, 2023
Building Community

In Junior High, the focus is social.  It isn’t a choice, it just is what it is. “Social” is the work of third plane development. Adolescents are yearning to be with their peers; making them highly motivated to  learn how best to do it. As with any learning experience, it is fraught with missteps, mistakes, and misunderstandings.  To support, and guide the process, we design the curriculum and environment intentionally to provide a variety of voices, models, and experiences that supply the opportunities to learn about people of the past, and the present, and how those communities functioned, function, or failed. We meet people of different backgrounds and life experiences, and listen to their stories. We examine others, and then we examine ourselves through reflection, group discussions, and conflict resolution.  

international_peace_day_proclamation_of_peace_for_traverse_city.jpgThe past two weeks have been full of this work.  For the U.N. International Day of Peace, we started our day with the local chapter of Veterans for Peace.  The organization graciously welcomed us into their circle where we learned about their experiences with war, and why they work for peace.  Veterans, and their families and friends shared stories ranging from Agent Orange’s long term health effects, to missing the birth of their first child while they were in service to our country. After the circle, we joined them at the Governmental Center where Mayor Richard Lewis spoke to all of us about the power of listening, relationships, and working together.  Mayor Lewis then read a Proclamation of Peace for Traverse City created to celebrate the International Day of Peace. 

img_5811.jpgFollowing these presentations, we continued on to Oakwood Cemetery where we met our friend, a former police officer, Scott Schwander. He brought friends, Sheriff Michael Shea, and Coast Guard Station Commander Andrew Schanno, who also recognized the cost of conflict, and the importance of honoring those who are called to fight, when negotiations fail.  We worked with Scott to restore gravestones of veterans of the Civil War and Spanish American War, as well as make sure markers for all veterans were upright and facing forward. Oakwood Cemetery has over 2,000 gravesites of veterans, as a group we were able to help care for at least 90.  

compass_junior_high_exploring_and_learning_about_downtown_development_traverse_city.jpgWe have spent time connecting with our downtown community as well. Two Wednesdays ago, we explored downtown through a scavenger hunt, identifying uses, businesses, civic amenities, infrastructure, and natural elements.  Students observed tour bus tourists, dog walkers, joggers, shoppers, and folks just on their way to work. They counted crosswalks, noticed universal access curbs, saw drinking fountains, as well as trash cans. The scavenger hunt served as a kickoff to become better acquainted with our downtown home.  We observed who lives, works, or visits our community.  We also saw the goods and services that are present, as well as the things we may take for granted, such as access to the river, clean streets and sidewalks, or safety features like stop lights and crossing lights.  Students worked with ArcGIS to explore demographics and mapping data.  They have worked in teams to define what a “community” is, and determine what they each value. In addition, they have examined the concepts of “mission, vision, and guiding principles” through researching the work of the Downtown Development Authority.  

Finally, over the past two weeks, students have been working on “Temet Nosce,” or “Know(ing) Thyself.”  They’ve explored systems humans have developed to answer questions such as, “Who am I? What am I like? How do I connect with others?”  Systems range from ancient readings of the stars (Astrology) to self reporting quizzes (Myers Briggs, VIA, Multiple Intelligences, Enneagram).  Through these experiences, students were asked to reflect about their “results.”  Do you feel these “results” accurately identify you, or not? How do you describe your personality, likes/dislikes, tendencies and behaviors?  What represents you? 

As one of the culminating activities, students worked with Deb Harris, a former art teacher and current Arts Council member, on creating a 8 x 10 collage of colors, images, textures, words, and small collected items that represent who they (the students) see as themselves. How do you represent yourself visually?  

This is the “social” work of adolescence.  Who are we? What do we contribute? How do we take care of each other? Just a few of the light questions the Junior High has spent time pondering, as we watch the leaves change color, and feel the temperature finally begin to cool.


compass_junior_high_community_workshop.jpgSeptember 20, 2023
In a blink of an eye, the first (nearly) three weeks flew by!  

The beginning of the year is always such an exciting time.  We always start the first morning back with our newly minted 8th years, discussing their hopes and wishes for their junior high community. Then, after a short orientation to our space, we enjoy lunch and prepare to welcome the 7th years.  This year the process ran so smoothly, that by the end of the third day, all classroom roles had been decided, and jobs set up- we are now ready to roll!  

And roll, we have been.  On “Day 2,” we spent the day at the Shady Trails Camp for team building activities.  We had planned on a High Ropes course, but the weather didn’t get the memo.  We ended up working on various tasks in teams inside, while it poured rain around us.  In the last moments, we thought we had an opening in the weather, only to end up getting drenched while attempting to complete an obstacle course. Positive attitudes, a sense of adventure, and a little levity carried the day! 

compass_junior_high_community_workshop_insland_seas.jpgOnly two days later, we traveled up to Inland Seas to hoist sails, steer the ship, identify macroinvertebrates, catch fish, and check the overall health of Suttons Bay. This time, the weather was perfect!  Beautiful day for a sail! Inland Seas not only serves our curriculum through its water quality and ecosystem education, but also through the experience of sailing on a schooner.  This year we will study U.S. History, starting when Europeans began to colonize, through the Industrial Revolution.  Travel on water was/is essential to our history, especially in Michigan. 

compass_junior_high_beaver_island.jpgTo continue the thread, we spent last week on Beaver Island, at the Central Michigan Biological Station. CMU holds several classes on Beaver Island that vary from biology to the arts. They also conduct constant water quality data collection with a device attached to the Beaver Island Ferry, the Emerald Isle. When on the island, we spend time learning about some of their research, catching snakes hiding under their snake boards, and exploring the island and its rich history.  Beaver Island is one of the many islands in the Great Lakes that drew in settlers, and entrepreneurial spirits, due to its richness in resources.  For the Beaver Archipelago, it was fish first, and then lumber.  The island boasts 8 inland lakes, one of which is a bog complete with cranberries and pitcher plants. 

This week we are back at Compass and digging right in! We have been writing each morning, reading Omnivore’s Dilemma, having Spanish with Jordi, and math in the afternoons. Routines are settling in, and there's a rhythm to our days. The school year is off to a great start!


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