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Karin's Upper Elementary Class

As the new and returning members of the Upper Elementary Southwest community prepare for a spectacular year together, we adults acknowledge how very fortunate we are to spend our days with your amazing children. Our love for them will guide our support of their learning and foster a love for themselves, each other and the incredible universe that is our classroom. Among many possible opportunities for learning this year, we will bake bread, care for a sturgeon, and investigate macroinvertebrate diversity in neighboring streams. We hope you’ll join us for some of these activities. Remember, our door is always open!

“ . . . speak to everyone of the child and of [their] secret; unveil the truth; proclaim [them] for what [they are]; . . . the builder of humanity, the creative and transforming energy which can act on the hearts of men and can offer new elements for the solution of social problems.”
~ Maria Montessori


Karin Church
Karin Church, Upper Elementary Guide
Tony Colombo, classroom support
Room Parents
Sarah Bancroft-Treadway
Tom Young

October 9, 2019

We are all so fortunate to live in an area that allows us to learn about the Great Lakes firsthand, either by sailing with the Inland Seas on Suttons Bay or building remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) off of Discovery Pier. The 4th year children embraced the icy temperatures and wavy waters with enthusiasm and curiosity, classifying fish and zooplankton, testing water quality and searching through a benthos sample for signs of life. As for the 5th year children, they designed, built and tested their ROVs, discovering the challenges and pleasures of collaboration and gaining a better understanding of the design process and the concept of buoyancy.

Back in the classroom, the 6th year children of both upper elementary classes worked together to learn more about the countries they will represent at this year’s Montessori Model United Nations: Japan and Fiji. They listened to the national anthems and learned about the countries’ histories, forms of government, educational systems, and much more. They also worked to launch their TCH Coffee Co. subscription business by finalizing their online order process and proofing their label design.

We hope you will all consider subscribing to their business and not only receive delicious coffee on a weekly basis but also support a noble cause! See you next Wednesday, October 16, for Parent Visiting Day

September 25, 2019

Being a guide in a Montessori classroom provides a daily opportunity to observe children experience the world first hand. A lively group explored different kinds of succulent fruits based on their seeds and flowers and then shared the resultant fruit salad with the rest of the class. Scientists conducted an experiment that prompted wonder and laughter beyond the goggle-wearing gaggle, and bakers, with the expert help of parent Jed Wakeham, crafted a gorgeous loaf of bread, after properly measuring the ingredients and discussing the important role of yeast.

We also have the freedom to leave the classroom and visit our neighboring community, permitting the children to learn more about their place and their role in caring for it. This week’s trip to two sites along Kids Creek allowed the children to conduct water tests for, among other things, the presence of coliform bacteria and the percent saturation of dissolved oxygen. They also investigated and classified macroinvertebrates that call Kids Creek home.

Thanks again, Jed! We’re looking forward to more Jed Bread in the future! Thanks also to all of you who came to the Class Picnic - the kickball game was raucous to say the least!

In Spanish we began by listening to a story, Al bebe le encanta la pizza. This was the jumping off point for our food studies. This term we will master food vocabulary and learn how to express our culinary likes and dislikes. We will culminate the unit by writing a letter (Yes, in Spanish!) in response to a pseudo-invitation to dinner at Señora’s house. Meanwhile we are in animated conversations about the culinary preferences of ourselves and our classmates. “Que asco!” (Kay Ah-scoe) is a favorite response in this unit.

September 12, 2019

Smiles, laughter, wide eyes, and big hugs graced our halls and classroom this past week. The first few days of school provide myriad opportunities for learning about each other, our environment and ourselves. This lively group of young people arrived ready to create a community in which each member feels loved, respected, happy, and able to learn. Our snack, lunch and job systems are in place and our class Declaration and Dozer Declaration are well underway.

This year the children have been asked to start by using their scientific observation skills to record objective characteristics about themselves. They also need to reflect and listen to their own voices in order to share details about who they are at this stage in their lives and what interests they have and challenges they face. We’ve marked heights on our wall and compared shoe size and hand span. We’ve also talked about what we want to be when we grow up. This snapshot in time will allow the children to capture who they are at the beginning of this year and see how much they change or not over time.

Thank you to all of the parents who were able to make it to the Back to School Night and MMUN Meeting. It was lovely to see you all, share some laughter, as well, and begin our year together. Looking forward to a raucous kickball game at Silver Lake Park on September 23!

June 6, 2019

It’s hard to believe that we are already sharing our best wishes for summer because it feels like we just welcomed you all back to an exciting year of learning. From sailing with the Inland Seas to releasing our sturgeon in the Black River, this year has been filled with myriad explorations, varied opportunities for growth, and quite a few laughs. May you make the most of these summer months whether you’re staying here in glorious Northwest Lower Michigan or venturing to lands far away. Also, know that we are looking forward to hearing all the details of your adventures when we gather again together in the fall. Enjoy!

May 22, 2019

Yes, the end-of-year whirlwind is in full swing! Camp. Field Day. Graduation. 5th year students are gathering information about tent placements, food preferences and supply requirements for this year’s camping trip. 4th year students are “thinking big” as they plan activities, food and music for Field Day. 6th year students are reflecting on their time at TCH thus far, crafting speeches for the ceremony and gifts for the classroom before they move up.

All this while we wrap up this year’s first Student Showcase. Although research was still the preferred method of sharing one’s strengths, it has been a thrill to observe the many ways to share one’s work and supplement it with visual support. There has also been an outpouring of support for each other, whether in writing a bibliography, hot-glue gunning a structure, or putting the finishing touches on a topographical map.

And to think we fit in a squid dissection to boot! Thank you, William Kanner, for leading our Human Anatomy and Physiology students through the amazing world of the squid. He even returned with prepared slides, which helped us see the similarities between squid gills and human lungs. How fortunate we are to live in such a generous community!

May 8, 2019

Following a project through to completion often feels even more satisfying when it has been accomplished through group effort.  Fifty-nine elementary and junior high-aged young people accepted the responsibility of caring for another living being.  Watching Superior grow since September from 20 cm, 34 grams to 39.5 cm, 191 grams, provided the children with quantifiable evidence that their hard work of daily feedings and cleanings and weekly water chemistry testing and tank changes were well worth it.

Prior to Superior’s release last Thursday, the children shared their hopes for our sturgeon’s next phase of life.  “May he grow old and become a grandpa someday,”  “May he live a peaceful life and die of old age,” “May we cross paths with him sometime in the future,” were some of the sentiments shared.

At the ceremony before the release, the children listened intently to hopes for their future shared by an elder from the Eagle Clan of the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians.  In addition to thanking them for supporting the sturgeon restoration effort, the elder hoped that they would keep Superior in their hearts all throughout their lives, knowing that he may live to be 100 to 150 years old, and remember to cherish the environment, especially the water in which he lives, as precious, indispensable parts of our living earth.

Special thanks to Shelly Derrer, Kimberly Hetherington, Audra Jackson, Virginie Kanner, Kristy Koehler, and Christine Magiera for joining us on the adventure!

April 25, 2019

“Can we read outside?!?” The children are clearly pleased to be able to spend more time outdoors, sending positive thoughts at group that Spring is here to stay and that no more track meets are cancelled. Their desire to work and play outside will send us outdoors as much as possible, so please help them to remember to wear or pack proper attire for these days of April showers.

To balance our individual showcase learning, we have been taking weekly trips back in history to the time of the Spice Trade and the Columbian Exchange. The children joyfully read details and characteristics about a spice, located its place of origin, and then sniffed samples, sometimes with pleasure and sometimes without. Later, we made guesses as to whether different plants, animals or pathogens originated in Afroeurasia or the Americas and imagined what it would be like today if that biological exchange had not occurred.

Finally, we continue to brainstorm improvements to our classroom systems. A proposal for a new lunch set up system was welcomed with enthusiasm; these problem solvers aren’t satisfied with the status quo if improvements can be made. They are also working in daily fact groups to tackle their multiplication facts. Those ten minutes a day are a thrill to observe, as the children turn this rote learning into playful games.

April 11, 2019

It’s great to be together again after Spring Break, especially since there are signs that the season is finally arriving.  (Fingers crossed!)  The children returned, ready to delve into their chosen work for the Student Showcase, all of which will be shared with you in May.  They took trips to the library, brainstormed with each other about how they could expand or narrow their topics, and began to share their discoveries with each other with excitement.

Although it’s only early April, we practiced looking at time together to plan out the course of their work.  On individual calendars, the children thought about how much time they’d like to take to gather notes, write rough drafts, work with editors, rewrite their next drafts, and create their visual support.  They also recorded when they have other activities, such as Kitchen Classroom, Della Terra, and outings, such as the Sturgeon Release and the trip to Interlochen.  We certainly have a busy two months ahead!

At home, please feel free to support your children by having them share with you what they have been learning about their topic and where they are in the process.  The more they share, the more comfortable they become with their new knowledge.

March 22, 2019

“The Bureau requests the presence of the delegate from the Republic of Fiji at the podium,” stated the 6th year Chair during this year’s model MMUN. Prior to inviting the 5th year students to deliver their topic speeches and share their country studies on Fiji and Pakistan in the afternoon, the 6th year students spent the end of the morning work cycle rearranging the furniture in our classroom to mirror the formal set up of their Committee rooms in New York. They made placards, set a speakers’ list, and coordinated a rotation of duties (e.g., chair, vice chair, rapporteur). They even set up seating arrangements for the audience in the loft, providing note cards and pencils for jotting down questions and comments. They played their roles as the facilitators of the Committee sessions beautifully and provided a meaningful opportunity for their friends to get a taste of what next year’s MMUN experience will be like.

Speaking of playing roles beautifully, all of the students have transitioned into Theatre Week gracefully and with enthusiasm. The 4th years are working hard with Beth Ann, Tony, and Amanda to come up with creative combinations for this year’s Alphabet, and the 5th and 6th years are joyously learning lines for their original skits, written by the Jr. High, with the help of Rachael Harrell and Stacia Sexton. We’re looking forward to celebrating their artwork with you at this Thursday’s performances and send best wishes to you all for a restful, yet fun-filled, Spring Break!

March 7, 2018

Thank goodness Steve is a good sport in guiding the children, because lately he has been asked to try out new games inspired by the children’s Human Anatomy and Physiology and Botany research. Last week the children learned the names of the organelles in animal cells and raced around the gym gathering them to build a complete cell. This week they needed to gather sunlight, CO2 and water to help their plants feed themselves through photosynthesis. Steve’s willingness to help the children share what they’ve learned in these imaginative ways is greatly appreciated.

It is easy to understand, however, why Steve is open to these innovations because it is so much fun to learn with these children. They willingly dove into a group discussion of the many empires that rose and fell during the Middle Ages, reading and sharing details about each and helping others learn where they were on a world map. They also respectfully listened to Sekou Sundiata’s poem “Shout Out”, sharing what captured their attention and taking a stab at their own poem in this style.

Thank you for coming in to work with them on Parent Visiting Day and for making the time to meet with me to discuss their progress. This year is flying by so quickly, thus it feels especially important to slow down, recognize, and celebrate the incredible growth each and every one of them is making. See you Thursday, March 21, at 6:00 p.m. for this year’s theatre performance!

February 21, 2019

There is nothing more thrilling than to observe children experience a genuine sense of satisfaction in their capabilities and strengths after completing months of hard work.  The 6th years embraced their MMUN project from the get-go and did not let up even when faced with the prospect of delivering their Opening Speeches to large groups of strangers.  Dim Sum did not deter, neither did subways, or slushy sidewalks; this group of adventurers tackled new settings and possible obstacles with positive attitudes, joyous camaraderie, and hilarious senses of humor.  I’d travel around the world with this group of individuals any day!

Returning home was also a pleasure as the 4th and 5th years welcomed their leaders with a colorful “Welcome Back” poster, ready to listen to the plethora of tales.  They had spent their week building plant and animal cells, creating “Lost Pet” posters in Spanish, and working on experiments with each other.  The 5th years have also created a model model UN of their own to get a taste of the work to come.  Although they have found it challenging, they, too, have not been discouraged by the hard work and are already developing the skills of supporting each other in this invaluable collaborative work.

Many thanks to Jamie, Steve and Tony for being amazingly adventurous and patient travelers, as well as to Kim Schrader for making sure our trip to NYC and participation in the conference went as smoothly as possible.  Looking forward to visiting with all of you at conferences next Wednesday and Thursday, 2/27 and 2/28, respectively!

February 7, 2018

The measuring tape stretched almost the entire length of the classroom, as the botanists imagined a 27-foot leaf of Welwitschia mirabilis.  Together they had just used sunshine, water, and carbon dioxide to make glucose for their plant and oxygen for us (well, they used cardstock materials to do so) and were continuing their investigations of Kingdom Plantae.

 In Kingdom Animalia, the zoologists are comparing the vital functions of two vertebrates from different classes, while the physiologists are illustrating the systems of the human body.  Regardless of the specialization, these young biologists are curious and creative, which always makes for fascinating discussions.

 In the next two months, your children will be sharing with you details of the traditional upper elementary Secret Valentines.  They will also be preparing for Human Growth and Development the week of March 4-8 and Theatre from March 14-21.  Please be on the lookout for further details in the near future with respect to these two important components of our curriculum.

January 17, 2019

Happy New Year! It most definitely has been a brilliant start to the second part of our school year with the addition of Dozer in the classroom. Before we left for winter break, the children had prepared a new job chart to include a “Dozer walker and pooper scooper.” So far, there have only been fun walks through the snow, along with grooming and providing of water and treats. He’s received many positive thoughts, too, focused on his happiness and ability to stay as our class pet.

We were also able to celebrate 2019 by listening to thorough, well-written, and clearly presented studies on space. Two students did a beautiful job dividing up the solar system, gathering information from many resources, and fielding challenging questions on the day of their presentations. A very inspiring way to start the year!

Finally, as preparations for the 6th year trip to New York in early February begin to gel and the experience becomes even more real, the 5th years asked if they could practice and create a model MMUN. Two delegations dove right in to the challenge of working together, communicating clearly, and setting realistic deadlines, as they learn about Pakistan and Fiji. Although the 6th years are focused on their own adventure, they look forward to leading the 5th years in their committee discussions upon their return. Should be fun!

December 13, 2018

The 8th delegation of TCH Montessori Model United Nations participants successfully reached a major milestone in the completion of their Position Papers, which they uploaded to the conference organizers in advance of their participation in February. The 6th year students beamed, as they shared with their younger classmates the joy they felt after hard work well done. One advised every peer to do a country study before they reach their 6th year; another acknowledged the number of drafts was record breaking but well worth it. Bravo, young delegates! Now on to Opening Speeches!

As a group we have been discussing human history, especially certain notable occurrences between 1200 BCE-500 CE. We marveled at a more than doubling of the world population and imagined how iron and domesticated animals would make agriculture more efficient and allow for other pursuits. We also discussed trade and communication today and how easy it is to learn about and obtain goods from different parts of the world. We compared today’s networks of exchange with those available when the Silk Road was in full swing.

Sending specials thanks to DiAnn Service and the many Battle of the Books parents for opening up the world of books even wider to our enthusiastic readers. Reading a good book on a snowy afternoon is pretty magical, especially with the knowledge that we’re all enjoying the same simple pleasure together. Best wishes for the holidays to all. See you at the Sing-a-long!

November 29, 2018

The Harvest Feast has come and gone and the excitement for the holiday season continues to build in our vibrant class. Being able to gather in the gym with over 130 members of our community for Stone Soup is a tradition that felt even more special this year as we sang Harmonia Mundi in a circle, led by three of our 8th year students.

Gratitude for each other and for all that we have, such as family, friends, plants, animals, shoes, security, and shelter, to name a few, was shared earlier in the morning before we helped finish setting up the gym for the feast. The afternoon introduced a new focus for our gratitude: the Newbery Challenge! The children received a Newbery book to read, ponder, and discuss in our weekly Newbery Book Club. The excitement was palpable and then the room became almost silent. All one could hear was the gentle turning of pages, as the children entered their new worlds.

In addition to books, books, and more books (two Battle of the Books teams have already met – how wonderful!), knitting, pearling, and crocheting have brightened our room with all the colors of the rainbow. Special thanks are due to Primary Parent, Jana Coughlin, for sharing her skills and a lot of yarn with our enthusiastic handworkers.

Thank you also to Allison Cavanaugh and Sarah Bancroft-Treadway for helping make this year’s Harvest Feast as lovely and enjoyable as it could be!

November 8, 2018

What a pleasure it was to meet with all of you to share your children’s work and celebrate their growth! We are so fortunate to be able to collaborate with you and your children, fostering a community focused on nurturing each individual’s strengths and developing the necessary skills and curiosity to become a life-long learner and active contributor to our world. Thank you for making the time to meet!

Thank you also for supporting your children’s desire to express themselves in ways that were comfortable for them and our greater school community. Pumpkin Fun Day was festive and filled with themed coordinate work, pumpkin poetry, Halloween history, fantastical geography, and spooky word problems. One child answered the question of what she liked best about her day with an enthusiastic, “Everything!”

These next few weeks will be filled with presentations on the many areas of learning that have been taking place in our classroom. Brook trout and flight are on deck, as well as monarch butterflies. We also look forward to learning more about our 6th years’ MMUN topics, as their research takes the form of Position Papers. This school year is now, most definitely, in full swing, and we look forward to all that that momentum has to offer.

October 25, 2018

As the children begin to complete their first studies of the year, we celebrate the diversity of topics and excitedly await their presentations. Today we learned about the tiny, but talented, dik dik, one of the smallest antelopes, which boasts a proboscis nose. Soon details of sloths, monarchs, Thailand, flight, brook trout and planets will swirl in our imaginations, as the respective researchers speak of their discoveries and answer questions from an interested audience.

Through this research-based approach, the children are able to learn how zoologists use scientific classification, what principles of physics allow for flight, where our earth fits into the solar system and vast cosmos, and why different cultures do things the way they do. In addition to traditional research, some studies allow the children to connect with experts in the field, such as a chef at a local pastry shop.

The studies will continue throughout the year, so, if any of you are interested and willing to share your interests, specialties, professions, etc., with our researchers, please let us know. When the children can make those concrete connections, they deepen their understanding and develop an appreciation and gratitude for those who share their passions with them.

See you next week at conferences!

October 11, 2018

One of the joys of being able to support the children as they pursue their interests is watching their strengths in action, confirming, on a daily basis, all the varied strengths we have and need in the world.

From our organizer of the entire class outing to the “Monster Fish” exhibit at the Dennos Museum to our resident author, whose first publication will be released soon, each child shines in his or her own way, enriching our community and inspiring others to do what makes them feel strong and confident.

In addition to guiding them in their desired pursuits, we help them find meaning and purpose in those activities that would not be on top of their lists of favorite things to do. Through practice, patience, and perseverance, often those otherwise neglected works become less burdensome, sometimes, enjoyable, and maybe even an untapped strength.

Thank you for what you do at home to support the development of these young explorers, naturalists, mathematicians, linguists, artists, musicians, diplomats, etc., etc. We look forward to welcoming you into our classroom for Parent Visiting Day, next Wednesday, October 17, from 8:30-9:30.

September 27, 2018

How fortunate we have been to have summer weather stay with us through the first official week of autumn. This warmer weather has allowed us to fully appreciate our outdoor classroom and welcome wild visitors in for a short time or an extended stay. The garter snake comfortably explored its temporary habitat, allowing all to see its beauty, and the American Dagger Moth caterpillar appears to be making plans to overwinter on our back porch. Who knows what its new Woolly Bear neighbors think.

With this abundant love of nature, it’s no wonder the sturgeon was welcomed with “oohs and aaahs” from all. It has yet to be named, and we’ll have to wait 15-20 years to know whether it’s a boy or a girl, but the children are enamored with its prehistoric body. The upper elementary and junior high classes will care for our guest on a daily basis, feeding, cleaning, recording water temperature, and, on a weekly basis, conducting water tests and weighing and measuring the length and girth. Weekend care is also required, so please contact us if you are interested in helping out in this way!

In addition to learning about the world outside our back door, the children are delving into studies about such varied topics as the black plague, trilobites, baking, and the solar system. We’ve also enjoyed learning more about each other, celebrating the arrival of a baby sister and the cool autographs of Olympic softball players. This group of young people has established a supportive, playful community, as evidenced by the raucous kickball game Monday night. Thanks again to Allison Cavanaugh and Sarah Bancroft-Treadway for planning such a wonderful event. It was truly a pleasure to see all the families together!

September 13, 2018

Music, laughter, and good intentions have filled our classroom’s walls this first full week of school. After playing games to get to know one another better, such as name alliteration and Human Scavenger Hunt, our group set out to establish the type of community we would like to be. Discussions about feeling appreciated, being respectful, and coming to school to learn about the universe and to make friends were conducted with all seriousness, recognizing the importance of establishing guidelines to create our ideal place to be.

The children have also created lunch set-up systems and daily jobs, and mentors have guided mentees in choosing work, sharing favorite lessons, like Greek and Latin Roots and zoology mash ups. Through our daily Nook News, we have learned about the importance of pets in one’s health, the debunking of some yeti theories, and the most recent discovery of the largest Mersenne prime number.

An observer in our classroom would find it difficult to tell which children recently joined our school because their new friends have embraced their presence so warmly in our class. We hope to welcome their families in the same fashion at our class picnic and enjoy being back together again on Monday, September 24, from 5-7 pm, at Silver Lake Park. See you then!!!