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Junior High

Welcome to the 2021-2022 school year at the Children's House Jr. High!

Among the silver linings of the global pandemic has been a groundswell of appreciation for nature. Parks and natural areas have seen exponential growth in visitation, and, for a period of time urban dwellers witnessed wildlife wandering the once busy streets of major cities. Here at the Children’s House Jr. High we have, since our inception, embraced a curriculum deeply embedded in ecosystems of Northern Michigan. This year, we will have the opportunity to venture within and beyond our land lab at the Timbers Natural Area and explore an even broader sampling of Michigan’s natural communities. When the weather cools, we will return to the classroom to begin our journey through US history, starting with the American Revolution this fall, extending through the Civil War this winter, and culminating in the Industrial Revolution next spring. Chemistry, ecology, geology, and mathematics will weave their way through our studies of history and culture, creating a tapestry of integrated learning experiences that provide meaning and purpose to everything we do. Of course, the Jr. High wouldn’t be the Jr. High without adventures, and 2021-2022 is no exception. Detroit, Atlanta, and Chicago are in our sights, and you never know what other opportunities might arise! So grab your hiking boots and prepare your luggage; it’s going to be an unforgettable school year at the Children’s House Jr. High!

-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


Room Parents
Jenny Terfehr
Sarah Bancroft-Treadway

Quick Links
JH Handbook Addendum
Weekly Transportation Form

Kristina Weidenfeller Tree Sturman


Classroom Highlights


What a fabulous trip!  We definitely were able to get a full appreciation for train transportation from a first person point of view.  We used Amtrack, Ventra, Metra, PATCO, Light Rail, and the “El,” not to mention several buses.  Reading maps, reading platform signs, determining direction by finding the end of the line, figuring out schedules, and buying tickets were only a few of the learning experiences.  We stayed in apartments, a hotel, and a Quaker Meeting house, and slept on a train.  We drove to Chicago, rode the train up to Pittsburgh, then to Philadelphia and  flew back.  Along the way, students shared their research in parks, at museums, at monuments, major waterways, architectural landmarks, and in train stations.  We learned about how people thought, worked, and lived during a time of great change and challenge- clothing, food, culture, entertainment, invention, industry, living conditions, job conditions, and human rights.  We learned that with any great change comes things that make our lives better, and make our lives more challenging.  It’s the same theme throughout history, and each time we learn something new.  

After reflecting on our trip, we began our last workshop of the year- Water.  Students are collecting information from various locations that work with water, as well as collecting water quality data.  They are using this information to create their own ArcGIS story map.  

Ask any JH student and they can tell you how many days are left. The struggle to stay present, and not mentally on the beach, is real.  Luckily for us, playing on the beach for recess is an option.  Last week when the temperatures soared, we were able to take advantage of the beautiful bay we live near and enjoy the cool breeze off the water.  Even though the time is quickly coming to an end, we have so much left to do together.  Finishing books, completing our Water Workshop, writing speeches, organizing portfolios, Grandparents’ Day, Graduation, and the Dance of the Cosmos (and all the steps between here and there).  It’s getting close, but we’re not there yet.  Hang on for a little while more!



From the invention of the steel plow to the challenges of rapid population growth, our intrepid researchers are learning about the exceptionally diverse effects of the industrial revolution in our country (and in many cases, on the rest of the world).  Students have been working over the past few weeks to identify topics that interest them, develop research questions, find resources, and organize their findings into a standard research paper format.  Their topic guides the production of the itinerary for our upcoming trip.  The study of theater is bringing us to the Auditorium in Chicago, the study of farm innovations are taking us to the Museum of Science and Industry, whereas the study of mental health will take us to the Read Dunning Memorial Park- and the list goes on.  At each location, the researcher will share their knowledge in a tour format to the rest of the class.  

Reading is the word of the day!  We are reading Around the World in Eighty Days as our read aloud book, Fair Weather as our class book, and then each person has a choice book for book club.  Around the World in Eighty Days is a great example of the writing in the 1870s- just as easy access to the globe was becoming more and more of a reality, while still being considered science fiction.  Fair Weather, combined with the variety of historical fiction choice books, is providing language and vocabulary of the time period along with various perspectives.  

Everyone is working diligently to not only complete their studies, but plan their itinerary! That is all for now- we need to get back to work!!


Chemistry has been full of exciting hands-on and immersive experiences.  Students began their journey with learning about elements and minerals that work together to create pottery as well the glazes.  Students created their own glazes, pure colors, and variations.  After glazes were fired, they worked in their glaze groups to choose their favorite color that they will then use to dip their pieces (both wheel and handbuilt).  

In addition to the chemistry of pottery, students learned about the chemistry of coagulation, fermentation, and emulsion.   Hopefully, by now, you have their “sour” living in your fridge, available for making sourdough bread at a moment’s notice.  Besides fermentation in sourdough, we also received tours at The Workshop with Pete Kirkwood, and Cultured Kombucha, with Courtney Lorenz, both explaining the function fermentation plays in their businesses.  

As part of our chemistry workshop, we’ve been reading Michael Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilemma. Through examining the various methods of growing and raising food, we’ve been able to connect the rocks and soil of pottery making to the nutrients and chemical reactions in cooking. 

Last week we enjoyed Student-Led conferences.  It is always a wonderful experience to see each student’s educational experience through their eyes.  The process of self reflection and self awareness begins to become more evident as they approach their last conference as an 8th year.  They are able to connect their interests to their learning style and then demonstrate it in their authentic voice. 

This week kicked off our study of the Industrial Revolution with an overview of the timeline, as well as mini-research on inventions and feats of engineering.  As we continue, we will look more closely at the role many areas in the Great Lakes, and all along the route to the east played in this period of great change.


We did it!  Moving trucks, dollies, trailers, boxes and many hands successfully packed, carried, unpacked and set up our new location.  The students worked together to organize the space and make it beautiful.  In just one week, it already feels like home.  In addition to moving in, they also hosted all of you, a few board members and then just this week presented to 5th and 6th year families.  Not only did they give tours of their space, but they shared presentations on the work that they are currently doing, and work that they have done in the past. 

As to be expected, we are working on logistics.  Anyone who has ever built a home or moved a business knows that no matter how much planning you do, there are always changes that need to be made.  Thank you for all of your patience and grace as we work to “dial it in.” 

This week we are back in full swing!  Students are busy creating.  Creating historical fiction stories based on their area of interest.  In addition to learning about technological advances of the time, field medicine, or the Underground Railroad they are also working to find out how people dressed, talked, shopped, and traveled during the Civil War.  How did they write letters?  What did they pack for a trip?  What were schools like? What did they eat and how did they get the food? As always, we are so excited for them to share their research and their stories!

In math, Ryan has incorporated geometry, linear algebra, and proportions into a Civil War game that has the feel of the Oregon Trail, using actual Civil War military specs for transportation.  There are truly not enough words to describe it, please ask your child about it! 

Last but not least, all hands are on deck for trip planning! Food planners (both to go restaurants and grocery lists), job groups, photography, community harmony (aka conflict resolution, but on the proactive side), and of course our trusty accountants are working hard to confirm all of our destinations as well as keep us organized, happy, and well fed. We have one binder to “rule them all,” in which the students keep all the information, phone numbers, maps, schedules, and budgets that we use. Excitement is building! 


Our Classroom Highlights are front-page news this week!  If you haven’t already read or heard about it, we are moving downtown on Friday!  It’s been a long process, but we are excited to finally be on our way.  The past week and a half we have been focusing on getting our study of the Civil War up and going, as well as packing boxes and talking about how we will best organize and use our new space.  

The first day back was split between these two purposes.  In the morning we met with one of our dear community members, Scott Schwander.  Mr. Schwander is a gift to our classroom community.  Over the years he has contributed amazing resources and presentations related to the Civil War as well as Indigenous peoples. This past Monday, we visited Oakwood Cemetery with Mr. Schwander and heard the stories of mothers, fathers, sons and daughters of Traverse City during the Civil War.  We learned how not everyone made it home to be buried, and not everyone buried was recognized with a headstone. The stories of those who came before us are similar in struggle and success, the only difference being the era in which they lived. 

After warming up in the mausoleum and thanking our guide, we headed downtown to visit our new space as a group, for the first time.  We warmed up, enjoyed our lunches with enough space to distance ourselves, and then met to brainstorm, hope, and dream together about building a new home together.  The more voices and the more ideas shared and heard creates the best opportunity for universal ownership of the space.  

Since our first day back we have continued to progress with both tasks.  Students are packing and discussing logistics for the move. Students are also researching areas of interest during the time period of the Civil War.  As they contemplate all the possible avenues for research, they are also contemplating a fictional character that they will create to tell the story of their research.  So far we have ….well, I don’t want to ruin the surprise.  Let’s just say, we have a very creative crew.  

Happy New Year to all!  We are excited for our new digs and all the possibilities!



Presentation week!  We’ve had a whole host of folks showing up in our classroom this week- from George Washington to Molly Stark, we’ve been meeting new people each day.  With each person comes the story of their colony, their life, and their position on the idea of revolution. Through their stories we’ve learned basically what a mess it was here for over 200 years among all of the stakeholders involved.  Their stories have also painted the backdrop for the stories of the following 200 plus years. 

Even though the energy feels like it is ramping up, we are winding down to the end of this second workshop.  We are looking forward to starting fresh in January with our study of the Civil War, and our preparation for our next trip which will take us south to Georgia and Alabama. 

Thank you all for sharing your wonderful young people with us!  Enjoy the winter break- may you be surrounded by the ones you love! 


Winter has arrived- something any classroom would know without even looking out the window.  Excitement is up, focus is down and the argument over when different holiday seasons start is now moot.  Luckily for us, the part of the workshop where the students are working on their individual projects is in full swing.  

After learning about all the different folks that traveled across an ocean to come to our continent for a variety of reasons, students chose an early colony to research with the task of “telling the story” of that colony.  From Roanoke to New Sweden, we’ve been learning about what drives someone to leave their home and take a chance in a foreign land. 

In addition to presenting their colony’s story, they are also choosing a persona to recreate. Each student will be responsible for researching an individual alive at the time of the Declaration of Independence, someone who was living on the land where their colony had originally settled. After sharing the story of the early colonists, they will then speak as a resident about their feelings, and convictions regarding the proposed break from England. (be prepared for last minute costume needs, thrift shopping, rifling through closets, etc.)

It was nice to have a small part of our community traditions return in the form of Stone Soup.  We gathered with the elementary to watch a wonderful rendition of the story acted out (with props and costumes) by Sandra’s lower el class. The 8th years shared a moment as they recounted memories of their time at the Children’s House before dropping their last stone in the pot. We enjoyed a highly distanced, yet elegant lunch complete with flowers, music, and placemats! We have so much to be thankful for, and being together feels like one of the most important.  


The past few weeks have been jam packed!  

The last week of October, we were lucky enough to travel back to Detroit.  It’s been two years, and we missed it so much!  We started our trip out with the Motown outdoor exhibit based on Marvin Gaye’s, What’s going on? Students learned about how the Motwon artist expressed through music what he saw going on in the world in 1971.  Our second day started off with an exciting visit to the Ford Rouge plant where students learned about Henry Ford’s dream vertical integration, and what the factory focuses on now, as well as watching Ford F 150s being produced. Next we were off to the Henry Ford to experience a collection of items and exhibits representing innovators of industry, society, and government. Finally, we enjoyed an Underground Railroad walking tour beginning at the Sailors and Soldiers monument, through stations on the railroad, and ending at the river with a story of a family escaping to freedom in Canada. Our last morning in Detroit, we started at the Detroit Institute of Art with the Diego Rivera mural, which depicts the Rouge factory circa 1932. 

The Detroit trip was the first trip of the year where the event planners, accountants and photographers truly became responsible for making sure we were taken care of and that the experience was documented for posterity.  We had a few hiccups, but nothing overly critical.  Each trip allows the classroom community to identify what went well and what needs improvement. One trip down, three to go! 

The most incredible part of the Detroit experience was the interest and enthusiasm with which the students approached each location and tour. Nothing warms a guide's heart as much when a student  makes sure that you go see Rosa Parks bus, or tells you the tour you just finished was the best tour they’ve ever been on. As with all of our trips, the experiences touch on multiple workshop topics throughout the two year curriculum.

In the first week of November, students finalized their student led conference reports, and put finishing touches on their portfolios.  In other formats, conferences can be grueling; student-led conferences are an exception.  The experience puts the learner in the “driver’s seat” for their educational journey.  The parents and guides act as support and reflection to the student’s learning process. There is nothing quite like hearing a 12, 13, or 14 year old say, “I am really proud of this.  I think I did a great job!” 

This week a small group of students presented our work at the Long Lake Township General Meeting. Although we were placed near the top of new business, public comment was first.  The students got the opportunity to listen to 10-15 residents of the township share their concerns with the board.  One topic that was highly represented was that of a possible private canal project that is currently being evaluated by Egle.  The residents overwhelmingly spoke out against it, referencing issues ranging from ecosystem protection to protecting what they consider a treasured place for future generations. It provided a glimpse of how local government works. After public comment, our students were able to present information about their ecosystem studies, math activities, and writing at the Timbers to the board; an amazing experience in itself.  

The Revolution has begun!  Or at least the study of it…  The next period of time up until the beginning of Winter Break will cover the lead up to the Declaration of Independence, and the fight to begin the United States of America. 

Art & Music
This Fall the Junior High’s Art and Music schedule looks a bit different. We have been meeting twice a week for an hour each time in a 4 week cycle. Half the students go to Art and the other half come to Music. This first cycle was Songwriting. The students could work solo or in a collaboration with one other student to write a song. We discussed the basic elements of a song, structure, harmony, instrumentation, lyrics, etc. They picked their own genre of music (country, pop, blues, disco, etc.) and then let that decision guide more of their decisions. I have been really pleased with how they have taken up this challenge and created some really fun songs!


The Perfect Work Cycle
One student writing on a bench in the courtyard,
 one reading silently in the nook
4 collaborating on a math assignment, 
one working silently on his own, 
two designing a budget for travel, 
one reworking a logo for microeconomy.  
All engaged. 

It has come to that time in our workshop when all the experiences, lessons, and information gathering come together into application. What does it all mean? How do we analyze our data? Organize our information? Demonstrate our understanding?  
From many parts, the whole emerges. The students have been looking at the world through multiple lenses; as scientists, artists, and mathematicians. They have been learning how each of those lenses process their data and observations in order to share with others. Students are mapping waypoints in ArcGIS, while detailing ecological information for each transect site. They are looking at that same spot as an artist, a writer. How does a writer capture and share the same spot? Same place, different tools.
Each student brings their own unique interpretation and style to the work. You will have to come to conferences to see your child’s version!  

In addition to the workshop projects, students are busy preparing for our Detroit trip, for the Robotics competition, and getting TCH Organics up and running. The executive board defined employment opportunities, recruited, and completed hiring. Each department is well staffed and headed in the right direction. Hopefully your inbox will soon be the recipient of advertising materials! 

It’s been such a great start to the year! We look forward to more great things to come! 


As you are actively aware, we have been traversing Traverse and the greater Northern Michigan region for the past four weeks. Our (the guide’s) perspective on highlights is usually quite different from that of the students (we remember the data collection, they remember Ryan losing his phone). For the past four weeks, we have been watching students work together in all sorts of groupings for all sorts of purposes. We have watched them work, play, debate and joke while forming their own community’s history and structuring its ecosystem, all the while evaluating existing diverse ecosystems around them. Watching their community form has been our highlight- and through a quick survey of the group, overall it has been their highlight as well. Some mentioned details like capturing a water snake, sailing on the Inland Seas, “riding the boat” to Beaver Island, or even trying to fit part of the class in the old Beaver Island “jail,” while others more generally cited driving around together (the Maroon Loon), exploring with their friends, or just “hanging out.” As guides, we may have added working with an Entomologist, a Biologist, talking with the 94 year old grandson of a successful fisherman in his grandfather’s old fishing shack, or partnering with the HS science classes at Interlochen to install the beaver deceiver.