Classroom Highlights 2023-24 - The Children's House

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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

May 24, 2024
Two quick weeks loaded with planting, hosting, and preparation

We returned from Chicago and hit the ground running.  Eighth year portraits, speeches, introductions, slideshow, yearbook, backpack fitting, Nadine’s Day, SEEDS Farm and ATREP, the Timbers, food shopping, Grandparent’s Day, and a practice hike- the list has more items than we had days.  This time of year comes with so many traditions; traditions for closure, and for celebration.  We are looking forward to our time together on South Manitou to relax, reflect, and enjoy our last trip together as the Junior High Community of 2023-24. 


May 10, 2024 
Chicago 2024- The Reader’s Digest Version

Sunday, bright and early, we loaded the vans and rolled out toward Kalamazoo.  We always build in extra time for unexpected events, such as late arrivals, extra bathroom stops, or surprise construction detours.  On this trip, we had very little of that and were able to arrive with ample time to eat our packed lunches before boarding the train.  We had a smooth trip into Chicago’s Union Station.  Once we arrived, the transportation guides worked to buy 27 Ventra passes from ticketing machines.  Unfortunately, each pass is a singular transaction.  Now, at this point you may be saying to yourself, “Didn’t you know this ahead of time?”  We may have.  But, the point is learning what you don’t know in real time can be more memorable than arguing about it beforehand.  Patience and grace are also important skills to practice, which the time it took to use multiple cards and machines to get enough Ventra cards for the group for the week, allowed us to practice. We easily arrived at our VRBO and settled in.  the rental was new to the market, so we had a few items that we needed to sort out before heading to dinner.  In the past, we would start our trip by shopping for food, and making dinner.  We are smarter now. No one has the energy and patience to do that on the first night after a long day of travel.  Instead we opted for tacos and free time at the park, followed by a group meeting and overview of Monday’s activities before getting a good night’s rest.  

Monday, the first full day of activities, is always the most challenging;  it’s first breakfast, first lunch packing, first exit with all needed items such as Ventra passes, ID cards, water bottles and comfortable shoes, first morning of navigation throughout the city, and the first morning after not sleeping in your own bed.  We started our day with a stop at the historical marker for the first shipment of wheat out of Chicago.  Eric told us of the significance of how industry changed the way most people gained access to food, how food was grown, processed and transported.  From there, we continued on to Cloud Gate (AKA, “The Bean”) to learn from Cole about the steel industry, and to wonder about the construction going on around the Bean. Next, a thorough tour of the Auditorium Theater connected us to Max’s research about skyscrapers and architecture.  Our tour, nearly two hours long, took us from the lobby, to the audience, to the cheap seats, down to the stage, and finally through the dressing rooms to finish in the green room.  The guide fell in love with the theater at age 12, when he donated his monthly allowance to the restoration campaign.  After enjoying our lunch in a nearby park, we ventured onto the Central Camera shop, to learn from Niels about the evolution of cameras. When we arrived the shop was closed, but the owner, partly wondering about the large group of students outside his window, invited us in.  We were treated to a near museum collection of cameras, and stories from the owner and some of the employees.  Next up was a trip to, “The Palmer House,” a hotel created for none other than the famous Chicago socialite, Mrs. Potter Palmer. Evi taught us about the “OG” influencer of the 1890s as we stood in awe of the extravagance of our surroundings. Cedric rounded out our day with a trip to the Field Building, which stands on the site of the former Home Insurance Building, where he told us about the use of steel in the first skyscrapers.  Phew!  Time for dinner! Also the point in the day where we learn that it is important to phone first, the website may not have all the information you need to know.  After exploring our planned dinner location and finding it closed, we improvised and had Chicago Deep Dish instead.  Flexibility and adaptability are also important skills to practice. 

Tuesday morning started off rainy.  We traveled to “The Rookery,” where Caroline taught us about the work of Frank Lloyd Wright and his contributions to the field of architecture.  Due to the weather, and the ability to alter our schedule a little, we returned to the VRBO to eat our lunch and relax.  Monday was a full day, and we had a late night ahead of us.  After lunch, we traveled north to the Chicago History Museum, where we learned about trains from Shamus, and the beginning of film and Thomas Edison from Gentry.  The Chicago History Museum is a comprehensive collection of just about every significant event in the history of Chicago (albeit a bit dry.) Our change in schedule allowed us to enjoy the novelty of “conveyor belt sushi.”  We were entertained and well fed sitting among plates of food traveling around us on a conveyor belt, with intermittent food deliveries by toy semi trucks.  Want a better description?  Please ask your child!  We were also surrounded by televisions, which came in handy when we saw that the Cubs game actually started at 6:40, not 7:40 like our google calendar had told us as our “AI” adjusted for EST from CST.  AI was actually AU (Artificial un-intelligence) in this case! We adjusted and made it inside the gates before just about everyone.  We had plenty of time to take in all the pre-game moments, and then stayed until they kicked us out.  Really.  Multiple folks asked us to leave while Henry was giving his presentation about the history of Wrigley, and professional sports. Luckily, we had one usher supporting us and cheering us on.  She even gave us Cubs stickers on the way out.  We couldn’t have had a better time if we tried- the Cubs won in the bottom of the 9th with a walk off homerun.  The crowd went wild, and as the rain came down, we found ourselves singing acapella with 30,000ish new friends (minus that one kid with the Padres hat). Traveling back to the VRBO amongst the crowd dressed in blue was a rush.  If you know, you know. 

Wednesday Charlie took us out to Cantigny, to the First Division Museum to learn about advancements to warfare during the Industrial Revolution, specifically tanks.  The museum includes what may be best described as a “tank petting zoo” where visitors can get as close as white on rice to all sorts of tanks, and that is exactly what we did.  In the afternoon, Magnus took us to the HayMarket Affair Memorial and presented to us about the series of events starting on May Day of 1886, with the declaration of an eight hour workday, that ended in fatalities for protesters and the police sent to quiet the demonstration.  Gwennie then took us to the Hull House where we learned about Nobel Prize winner Jane Addams and her creation of a settlement house in Chicago.  We got to see the file the FBI kept on this “rabble rouser” who was busy providing employment for women (gasp!), and education and childcare for children. The nerve! Finally, Walter took us to the BP headquarters, the present day remnants of Standard Oil.  There we learned that British Petroleum benefitted from the break up of Rockefeller’s monopoly, and has been present in Chicago ever since.  In the same building, on the other side at the Wells Fargo headquarters, Myles told us the story of Black Bart, the poet outlaw that only robbed Wells Fargo Stagecoaches as his revenge for them taking his gold mine out in Colorado.  While the industrialists were transforming the cityscapes, the westward expansion of our country was happening as well with gold diggers, outlaws, and homesteaders. Dinner time!  This time the Old Post Office Food Mall was open.  We tucked in there and had a wonderful dinner before heading back to the VRBO for some R&R.  

Thursday took us south along the lakeshore to the Museum of Science and Industry, a perfect location to find Industrial topics!  As usual, there is never enough time at MSI.  We could spend days, no, weeks, there and still not see everything.  Ainsley taught us about early industry dangers such as radium, and how the lack of regulations and safety policies led to the exploitation and deadly conditions endured by young women who painted glowing radium on the faces of watches.  Graham brought us to the aviation exhibit and gave us the history of the evolution of aviation from the Wright Brothers to present day.  Eva highlighted several of the inventions of the time period as we stood on a street in “Old Chicago” surrounded by the novelties of the day.  Further down, we traveled to the town of Pullman.  There we enjoyed a tour of the historic Company town, and presentations from Miriam about Pullman, and from Mason about living conditions during the population boom in Chicago due to the influx of industry.  George Pullman designed a town to meet all the needs of his workers, but also set it up so that he could make the most money from and off his workers. Workers were trapped. When he reduced wages, and didn’t reduce rents, it was the last straw and the workers decided to strike.  Long story short, he was buried in concrete and steel, deep in the ground because the family feared that angry workers would dig him up.  On a sunnier note, we were invited into the Hotel Florence, to get out of the rain for our presentations.  We were lucky to receive an impromptu presentation from the gentleman managing the restoration of the building.  He shared his interest in the people that made the hotel important, the people who worked there and made it what it was to its guests. The opportunities we get just by showing up never cease to amaze.  For dinner that night, we enjoyed an authentic southern bbq at Lexington Betty’s.  As we enjoyed our meal, we noticed that the owner was a winner on the food network.  We were somewhere famous and didn’t plan it! To finish out our evening, and the rest of our presentations, we traveled to the Chicago Art Institute.  It was a bit of a hustle, but we were able to see some beautiful works and collections. Our students have such a comprehensive background in art understanding and appreciation from Alison Hoffman- they truly enjoy art museums!  Parker took us to the arch of the Chicago Stock Exchange, where we learned about the importance of futures trading, and how that came out of Chicago and its place in shipping and agriculture.  Ily closed out this trip by teaching us about famous cartoonists who were cultural phenomena during the early 1900s. Art, trade, industry, culture, science, society, city life, and more- we had a very thorough trip through history, and through Chicago.  

Friday we slow rolled it back home.  Due to train schedules, we had lots of extra time in the morning.  Originally, the VRBO owner had told us we could only store our belongings there until 11 am.  Over the course of the week, we, with all of our Junior High charm, had become chummy with the front desk folks at the condos.  They had no problem storing our stuff until 12:30.  So, we headed out around 10 am and went to the beach, a perfect chill spot before boarding the train and traveling home. When it was time, we picked up our belongings and 26 roller bags, and one knee wheelie headed back to Union Station, and then home. Patience, grace, flexibility, adaptability, adventure, and curiosity- just some of the things we learned on our trip! 

April 25, 2024
Location, location, location!
another layer to the work

Students are still hard at work on their research topics.  They are organizing their notes, revising outlines, and constructing rough drafts.  In the middle of this work, they needed to pause and find a location that matched their topic.  Some topics are fairly straightforward; with the location being center to, or even the topic itself.  Others are not so obvious.  How do you find a location for Standard Oil, when it was broken up and sold off when monopolies were outlawed?  How about a place for the beginning of personal cameras?  In finding a location, students need to get pretty creative, looking for not only the information about the history of their topic, but also how that event, invention, or concept has carried on until the present.  What are the lasting effects?  What has been forever changed by their chosen topic?  It’s a very Back to the Future look at the landscape; a “Lone Pine vs. Twin Pines Mall,” realization.  Why are streets named what they are named?  Why are buildings called what they are called? Or parks?  People and events are memorialized throughout our surroundings, you just have to look closely.  

Calling, emailing, budgeting, organizing- all the planning that goes into creating an itinerary based on the input and needs of 23 different research projects, is a lot of work.  Students find their locations, confirm possible tours, times, travel needs, and entrance fees and then share that information with the trip planners, who take that information and work to schedule the days, travel and meals to accommodate all of the locations. No small feat!  

In addition to the schedule, another group of students work to set up a schedule of how we will as a group feed ourselves, clean up after ourselves, and enjoy time together. Shopping lists are made, work groups are organized, and proposed sleeping arrangements are sketched out.  So many conversations come out of this process.  The critical question is, “How does this best serve the group?”  Not everyone will love pizza, not everyone will love bagels for breakfast- but is there something for everyone, at some point, throughout the trip?  Finding balance, designing with everyone in mind, giving up a little for yourself, and learning the art of compromise, is important work on the journey towards adulthood.  Living in a community is just that, living with others, not living alone.  

Before any trip, there are always nerves, speculation, or general worry- unknowns are like that.  Where are we staying?  What will it be like?  What am I eating?  Who will I hang out with?  What will I miss at home?  What if…?? Often students will try bargaining, either with themselves and/or with their parents.  They may make a plan to come home early, or find reasons that they just can’t go, or even start to feel sick days before the trip.  The second city trip of the year is often like this because of the level of responsibility that each person has to the group.  Each person has at least one part, if not more, of our food, comfort, daily transportation, or entertainment that they are responsible for.  It is very interesting how much they may worry about how others will view their location selection, and their presentation- the opinion of their peers’ is so much more influential than that of the adults.  

But, as usual, it is “always darkest before the dawn,”  As the trip gets underway, and the presentations start to roll out, folks start to settle into their roles and we end up having an overall wonderful time!


April 11, 2024

What is ELA?  This question comes up at least once during each conference season, and oftimes, receives a cloudy definition.  ELA is the abbreviation for “English Language Arts,” which traditionally includes reading, writing, listening, and speaking.  It also can include other media or “texts” that can be viewed, discussed or created. Both toddlers and teens experience rapid growth in the area of language.  While toddlers are working on forming sounds, attaching words to what is present in their environment, and beginning to build short phrases, teens are working on reading subtleties of word play, sarcasm, inference, and switching their style of speech to match their audience.  

The saying that, “teens are toddlers with a vocabulary,” is an understatement.  From around age fourteen up through age eighteen, adolescents are averaging 7-10 new words per day, if they are coming in contact with rich language.  You may also notice, they seem to be creating a similar number of new words FOR the English language as well- “sigma, skibbity, drip, bet, and cap/no cap, just to name a few! 

On average, seventh years are still fairly concrete, and factual in their language skills, both in their understanding of inputs, and their creation of outputs. Eighth years (on average), are voyaging further afield with their language travels.  They are starting to understand inference in what they read or hear, increasing their ability to comprehend more complex texts, as well as predict what may happen next in a story. 

Being in a classroom when half of the students may still be taking things literally (literally), while the other half are experimenting with inference and word play, poses challenges and opportunities. Probably the most significant challenge is communication amongst peers. If you have ever traveled to a country that speaks a language other than your native language, and you try, in your new language, to “be funny,” you may have experienced what we witness here in the classroom daily, results that range from a simple flop of a joke, to actually causing harm.  

In addition, language evolves over time and this evolution is led by adolescents who are creating a language as they go, something that distinguishes them from the old guard. In this workshop, we read Fair Weather by Richard Peck.  The book is written from the perspective of a young teenage girl, traveling from life on the farm to the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago.  Even though the book is short, the language is rich and provides endless historical information, through the definitions of the words alone.  Determining why an “old hayseed” was “on his high horse” when he should have kept “close to his own fireside,” can create two different images if you don’t know the language of the time and place. While students are decoding Fair Weather to find out why a hayseed would ride a horse, their teachers and parents are working to learn what “if your drip slaps, you are so sigma, no cap,” means. Is the faucet leaking? Why is sigma not a proper noun? Simply understanding the language of the time and/or culture gives us as readers a window to life in the past, or in places we are not native to (whereas not understanding new language, leaves us out of the culture-which is intentional as adolescents create their brave new world).  

Finally, each generation is asked to decode more layers of language than the generation before- and then be able to collect and summarize information from those multiple “languages” and perspectives and put it into their own words. That is what we’ve been doing for the past few weeks.  From the language of Britanica, to current websites, to the Chicago Tribune of the 1890s, students are currently decoding, digesting, and creating texts. They are utilizing context clues, cross referencing, and discussion to analyze what they read, comprehend the implications of change, and then write what they understand in a way that makes sense to their audience. Writing, reading, speaking and listening are the processes by which we understand ourselves and others, today and across time.

March 22, 2024
Student Led Conferences and Theatre Week

The past two weeks have been a combination of organizing and reflection, along with imaginative creating.  The seventh years settled into their second conference, a little more confident, a little more organized, while the eighth years completed their fourth and final conference.  

It is always so amazing to see the difference in the eighth years; to see how they have matured in their thinking about themselves, and about their learning.  For seventh years, the first conference can be a bit overwhelming, while the second may also be overwhelming, but for different reasons.  

Most times at this point in the year the seventh years are finding where they may have not put forth their best effort, or are starting to notice patterns of procrastination in their time management.  The goals they set coming out of this conference are much more relevant and individualized than they were in the fall.  

The eighth years are more settled with themselves.  Their reflections show a deeper understanding of self. They are more aware of their patterns, and have the language to more adequately describe themselves as learners, as well as identify what they like, feel “good at” and what they are looking to get out of their high school education.  The eighth years are looking beyond just this spring toward their futures. 

As conferences wrapped up, our focus turned to theatre.  We were lucky enough to have two instructors for the junior high; one for improv and one for script writing.  Students spent one half of their mornings writing, revising, and staging scripts and the other half practicing improv games.  

Writing scripts for your friends can be fun, and challenging. What is funny? What is too much?  Does the story have a beginning, middle and end?  Does it make sense? How will that look on stage with very few props?  And, most importantly, will the audience get it?  

For an age that thinks the entire world is always looking at them, and judging them, getting up on stage can be intimidating.  In the end, each student had to spend a moment in the limelight, delivering lines, and improvising.  A great way to end the last two weeks before a well deserved break! 

compass_montessori_junior_high_traverse_city_3824_1.jpgMarch 8, 2024
Educating the Whole Child

March at Compass Junior High is a great reminder that Montessori is dedicated to educating the whole child. Just in the past two weeks, students have been working to finish final presentations for our “Civil War to Civil Rights” workshop, reflecting on their work for the past term, and learning about Human Growth and Development- while still studying Spanish, and Math, of course.  

compass_montessori_junior_high_traverse_city_3824_3_1.jpgWow!  What an amazing week of presentations!  For the end of this workshop, students not only chose individual topics of interest, but also chose unique presentation formats.  As a result, we were able to experience history through well written papers, video, animation, slide shows, models, music, and artwork.  We learned about Malcolm X, Dr. King, the KKK, Gettysburg, the Atlanta Campaign, the Black Panthers, Bayard Rustin (now playing at the State!) Jefferson Davis, Fannie Lou Hamer, racism and Civil Rights themes in music, President Kennedy, the assassination of Dr. King, the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist church, the timeline of racism in our country, the Jim Crow Era and lynching, Street Art Activism, assassination of President Lincoln, the origin of Soul Food, and Iron Clads. We also learned about the challenges of time management, motivation, and focus. 

compass_montessori_junior_high_traverse_city_3824_5_1.jpgAs presentations finished up, students turned their focus to gathering work from the past term, organizing their portfolios and writing their reflections in preparation for student-led conferences. It is always bittersweet.  It is so wonderful to be present with a person when they articulate their understanding of themselves, and how they are getting to know themself.  That may seem like a substantial claim, but through the process of explaining their learning, their understanding and the challenges they have and/or overcame, they learn about themselves not only as learners, but as human beings. Ultimately, Montessori is a pedagogy designed to guide human beings in realizing their potential- but the journey always belongs to the traveler.  Adolescence is that time where the “traveler” becomes self aware of their role in the journey, and how their choices, interests, and efforts create their story.  

compass_montessori_junior_high_traverse_city_3824_2_1.jpgLast, but definitely not least, Carrie Ullery-Smith spent a few half days with us covering, well, just about everything. There were, of course, all the standard topics that one would expect from sex education, and there were also more nuanced topics.  Why do people choose to have sex? What makes a healthy relationship? What behaviors are “red flags” of an unhealthy relationship?  What is abuse? What is sexual harassment? Carrie has many years of experience, and it really shows in her ability to listen fully, reflect, and respond. Every generation says it, but it feels so true today that the “young people” right now have so much more to process when it comes to romantic relationships.  Most parents of current teens didn’t have to deal with the digital, or social media challenges that they are navigating.  

February 22, 2024
The Intrinsic Journey of Learning

compass_montessori_junior_high_traverse_city_22224_1_1.jpgOur last two week run began with Emmy Lou from the Meta Peace Team. The Meta Peace Team was founded in 1993, originally named the “Michigan Peace Team.”  The MPT is committed to creating nonviolent alternatives through education, training, supporting groups and events, and networking with other peace groups.  They don’t take government money, or money from the groups they support.  They work locally, nationally, and internationally to be present where conflict exists, providing nonviolent tactics to de-escalate, and resolve conflicts.  We have a local chapter of MPT here in Traverse City.  They provide both in person and online training. Emmy Lou described how MPT is trained to move toward “hot” emotions, and use active listening to let that person, or persons know that someone is listening. She also shared her story, and why she has chosen a path of peace and nonviolence. Emmy Lou, now 91,  grew up in Cincinnati, a place we may consider “The North,” in our Civil War studies. Growing up Jewish, with a best friend who is Black, in a place that had Jim Crow laws, made her hyper aware of discrimination, inequities, violence, and conflict.  It is a common belief for most “Northerners” these days that “those kinds of problems” only existed in the “South.”  

compass_montessori_junior_high_traverse_city_22224_3_1.jpgFrom hearing Emmy Lou’s experience, we then launched into individual projects for our Civil War through Civil Rights workshop.  Students had spent time working with the review of our trip and the adjectives and abstract nouns that we found to describe our experience.  After reflection, each student worked with collage to collect words, colors, textures, and images to further explore a topic of their own.  

compass_montessori_junior_high_traverse_city_22224_5_1.jpgThrough that experience, more specific topics surfaced and the students then set about the process of defining their research with three big questions about their chosen topic. A trip to the library, a lesson on analyzing sources, a lesson on MLA formatting and a lesson on organizing research gave them a box of tools to take on their project journey.  They have been diving into history, whether it be in a book or on a website, they are digging in. Searching for answers to their questions they often get lost down rabbit holes, find more information than they are looking for, only to climb back out, refocus, reorganize, and then continue. This ebb and flow of experience, immersion, reflection, construction- the energy to be present and concrete, but then pause, and be reflective and abstract, is the sustainable, intrinsic journey of learning.  It’s not the “fast food” version of learning, where you get a prepackaged meal, that you can consume quickly, while thoughtlessly driving; it’s the version of learning that’s more like a long sit down meal, with multiple courses, thoughtfully enjoyed and savored with time for sharing with friends.  

compass_montessori_junior_high_traverse_city_22224_4_1.jpgOn the horizon, this deep exploration of 23 topics will be shared out in a multitude of ways, where the rest of us will be able to learn about the interests of the rest of the group.  By chance, we had a guest, brought to us by a former Compass graduate, Lauren Pauly, who works as a staffer for him.  Congressman Jack Bergmann visited our classroom, and answered questions about the role of the legislature, how representatives connect to their constituents, and what campaigning is like. He is a seasoned presenter, and as such, not only did we learn about government, we also had the opportunity to discuss his refined skills of connecting to and engaging with an audience.  

With that, we head into our final week of project preparations and completion!  We look forward to sharing this amazing work with you at conferences in a few weeks!

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

compass_montessori_civil_rights_trip_to_the_south_2924_5_1.jpgLast 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

compass_montessori_civil_rights_trip_to_the_south_2924_9_1.jpgWe 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.

compass_montessori_civil_rights_trip_to_the_south_2924_4_1.jpgThe 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. 

compass_montessori_civil_rights_trip_to_the_south_2924_3_1.jpgAfter 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

compass_montessori_civil_rights_trip_to_the_south_2924_10_1.jpgWe 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. 

compass_montessori_civil_rights_trip_to_the_south_2924_1_1.jpgOur 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

compass_montessori_civil_rights_trip_to_the_south_2924.jpgBefore 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..” 

compass_montessori_civil_rights_trip_to_the_south_2924_1.jpgWe 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. 

compass_montessori_civil_rights_trip_to_the_south_2924_2_1.jpgAfter 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.? 

compass_montessori_civil_rights_trip_to_the_south_2924_6_1.jpgIn 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. 

compass_montessori_junior_high_art_show_at_the_alluvion_art_intermester_11_1.jpgJanuary 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.  

compass_montessori_junior_high_art_show_at_the_alluvion_art_intermester_2_1.jpgJessica 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.  

junior_high_art_show03.jpgPhil 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.  

compass_montessori_junior_high_art_show_at_the_alluvion_art_intermester_10_1.jpgMetacognition, 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! 

compass_montessori_season_spectacular_121523_2_1.jpgIt’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!  

compass_montessori_season_spectacular_121523_3_1.jpgAlthough 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!

compass_montessori_junior_high_traverse_city_12823_1_1.jpgThey 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! 

compass_montessori_junior_high_traverse_city_12823_2_1.jpgSelf 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.  

compass_montessori_junior_high_art_show_at_the_alluvion_art_intermester_9_1.jpgStudents 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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