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Karin's Upper Elementary Class

“It is necessary, then, to give the child the possibility of developing according to the laws of his nature, so that he can become strong, and, having become strong, can do even more than we dared hope for him.”

--Dr. Maria Montessori

Welcome!  With great excitement and anticipation of miraculous things to come, we embark on this new school year together.  We begin each year by sharing Montessori’s Great Stories, keeping in mind that the children’s own stories continue to unfold before us.  We are immensely privileged to nurture their growth, share in their development and celebrate each unique individual for who they are and who they are becoming.  Thank you for sharing your children with us for another year filled with adventure, discovery, and love.



Karin Church, Upper Elementary Guide
Virginie Kanner, Classroom Support

Room Parents
Leah and Matt Davis

 Back to School Parent Letter

Karin Church

Classroom Highlights


March has started off with a whirlwind of activity that keeps our community buzzing with energy.  The children handled their Human Growth & Development talks well and are practicing clear communication with peers and friends to resolve any differences of opinion.  The energy continued to grow as the 6th years prepared for their departure to New York - and now here we are!  Prior to our departure, however, the 4th and 5th years finally presented their Michigan study.  It was quite a send off!

Now as the younger students finish up their studies and enjoy the different dynamics of a smaller classroom, the 6th years will participate in the event they have spent the past seven months working on.  Their excitement helped them power through a challenging day of travel and still gasp in awe at the lights of Times Square.  If you’re curious about this adventure, you can access the Closing Ceremony from the United Nations General Assembly this Saturday from 8:30-10:00 am.

March also gave us an opportunity to meet and discuss your wonderful children.  It was so nice to meet with the rest of the team that supports the growth of these amazing young people!



We’re excited to welcome you into the classroom next week for Parent Visiting Days on either March 1 or March 3. (Sign up here).  Please let me know if you need to make different arrangements because it is always a valuable experience for you to join your child and have them show you a glimpse of their life at school.  Having them prepare to share with you and then seeing them in action helps you experience those aspects of school life in which they excel and those that may pose more of a challenge.  When we meet for conferences the following week, we can compare notes and I can answer any questions that may arise.  (Please sign up for conferences on Waypoints or here.)

Sometimes I wish, however, that you all could be a “fly on the wall” and see, hear and feel the excitement of the children, especially on special occasions, such as Secret Valentines and the 100th Day of School.  The care with which the children approached this exciting tradition and day was exemplified by the creative, thoughtful cards and treats they shared.  It’s in these moments that you see the beauty of the multi-age community; all of the children, from 9-12, coming together to experience the thrill of a special event and the camaraderie of a common goal.  The 100 balloons were an over the top treat this year!

These “play days” allow the children to comfortably interact and collaborate with each other as they did recently to help us review parts of speech.  Using our library’s playful grammar books to spark their creativity, small groups prepared presentations, skits and/or songs.  Our own TCH Schoolhouse Rock!  Perhaps you will hear more about adverbs and adjectives at home or try to function without pronouns for a bit.  (We usually make it for only a few minutes.)

Finally a “Thank You” to all of you for helping your children make the most of these special days.  I imagine some of you were involved in Valentine making, treat baking, or game packing.  Your support is seen and greatly appreciated.



We couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful day to visit the Michigan Legacy Art Park.  The sun shone through the hardwoods onto the sparkling snow, while the children took in their surroundings: sculptures, fleeting clouds and a bald eagle soaring high above it all.  Troy and Tim helped us consider different perspectives, contemplate art in nature, and review our understanding of angles, symmetry, and abstract art.  We talked about Fibonacci sequences in nature, and the children tested their penguin sliding skills down the trails.  Back in the classroom, we continue our connection to this amazing place by participating in Michigan Blue, a collaborative community art project that will be on display during the summer and into winter.  Ask your Art Park artist what Michigan Blue means to them.

Our art skills and self-reflection are also being exercised as we recently contemplated our habits, those we’d like to say goodbye to and those we’d like to cultivate.  Our hurtful habits were written down, shared with all (so we can help each other stop them), and burned outside in the snow.  (Burning things is definitely fun!)  Our helpful habits will be turned into artwork to be displayed with those helpful habits of years past.  Together, we hope to hold each other accountable and support each other as we strive to practice those skills that help us feel good about ourselves and how we interact with others.

Your young people should feel good about how they interact with others because these compassionate humans recently sent Special Valentines, chock full of positive thoughts, affirmations of strength and funny jokes, to a young person they’ve never met who is battling illness.  Their immediate willingness to send love to another ties in beautifully with the third Montessori Great Lesson: The Coming of Humans.  In that lesson we recognize humanity’s special gifts, one of which is the ability to love even those we have never met.

Parent Visiting Days:  Round Two is coming up at the beginning of March.  Please sign up here or contact me with questions.



Although upper elementary does not officially celebrate the 100th day of school on February 15, we have decided that we might just need to and have begun to prepare for this special day by reading 101 Small Ways to Change the World by Aubre Andrus.  Each morning, different learners read about things each of us can do.  It feels somewhat like the game, “I’m going on a vacation and I’m going to bring,” but instead we say, “I’m going to make a difference, and I’m going to unplug small appliances, turn off lights, reduce, reuse, recycle, pick up litter . . . .”  Hearing each idea in a new voice makes our collective learning more fun and effective.

We are also reading together bi-weekly in small reading groups, discussing themes, vocabulary, and style.  The 4th and 5th years are sampling quality fiction from authors such as Langston Hughes and Richard Peck.  The 6th years are learning about American history, reading One Nation, Many People, a textbook that balances many views and fosters the development of critical thinking.  All of this reading fits nicely with the recent launch of Battle of the Books!

Reading as a family, especially during these winter months, can create lifelong memories and a shared love of literature.  I can still vividly picture my father reading The Hobbit to all of us in front of the fire.  Travel to distant lands, meet unusual people and learn about yourself and others, together.  Take turns reading, try out different voices, laugh and cry.  Reading builds many important connections.  Battle of the Books teams make this evident.

Michigan Legacy Art Park outing, tomorrow, 1/27 - warm clothes, snack, water, home lunch.  Please click here for details.  Thanks!



How wonderful it was to start the New Year with all of our community together: 23 young learners, 2 older learners.  One week in and we have already begun to lose some members to illness, but, we’re keeping fingers crossed, washing hands, and sneezing into elbows, hoping that most of the absences that occur during these gray months of winter are due to vacations to sunnier climates.  Those of us sticking around this part of the world will do our best to make the most of what northwest lower Michigan has to offer!

So far, Philip and John from Quarkmine have made winter more fun by introducing robotics to our enthusiastic group.  “I love how they let us figure out how to solve the challenges” and “I like being able to work with other teams to plan our strategies” were two reflections shared after the first session.  If you have not heard positive feedback about the robotics experience yet, I would be shocked.  These gentlemen are master teachers, varying the approach, upping the ante, and guiding the children to discover this exciting world by working together and sharing their successes.

In addition to exploring robotics, we have continued learning about the living world by classifying organisms into six kingdoms and learning how their characteristics make them more similar or different to others.  We’ve heard many fungi (“fun guy”) jokes and have marveled at the extremophiles, the archaea, some of which can live in hydrothermal vents at 235 .  

Finally, as mentioned in December’s highlights, we have a couple trips planned to enrich this winter’s learning.  Please click here to learn more about our outing to the Michigan Legacy Art Park on Friday, January 27.


Our collaborative study on Michigan not only provided new learning opportunities about our home state but prompted a guest speaker invitation related to the natural resources portion of our project.  On Monday, Patrick Cotant, Fletcher’s dad, joined us to share about his work at the Department of Natural Resources.  We learned about the different divisions and their functions and renewable resources and sustainable practices.  The children listened intently and then erupted in excitement over the Smokey the Bear goody bag!  (I hope this is just the beginning of special guests who are human - we’ve had three dogs and a hamster, so far.)

Sustainability is an important term that the children have been discussing in various contexts.  A month ago we spent our Ruby Bridges Walk to School Day sharing our values and connecting them to the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals.  Two learners are guiding our discussion of where we want to focus our efforts and what actions we will take to make a difference in the world.  Stay tuned in the New Year to learn what these bold, young changemakers have decided to do.

In addition to class projects, the New Year will bring exciting experiences in- and outside of the classroom.  We will start January with some robotics offered by Quarkmine and end with a trip to the Legacy Art Park, connecting our Michigan study with art.  Early February we will experience winter at Sleeping Bear Dunes.  Be on the lookout for further information as we approach these outings.

Best wishes for a healthy, happy Winter Break, enjoying time with family and friends.



Back together again, we shared highlights from our time away from each other first thing Monday morning.  Stories of time with family, delicious food, restful sleep, and a lot of play, were shared with each other in group and echoed the themes of the List Poems we had written after our delicious Harvest Feast before the break.  It’s amazing how powerful simple lists of important moments can be.  This might have been the first poetry reading that did not have rhymes!

As the 6th years strive to complete their big work of writing Position Papers on their MMUN topics, the 4th and 5th years have been asked to learn about our fair state of Michigan.  Similar to the 6th year group studies about the United Nations and their respective countries of Chile and Estonia, the younger learners are tackling a part of the whole picture and contributing their understanding to this group endeavor.  Some aspects are familiar and accessible to 9-11 year olds, such as flora, fauna and landforms; others are more of a stretch: what is the service industry, the judicial system and the Northwest Territory?  We look forward to sending all learners home with the satisfaction of completing big work before Winter Break!

In addition to the Position Papers, you may have seen that the 6th years have launched their business with the help of Victor D’Ercole of T.C. Mirror and Shower Door. After touring the facility and learning about the process, they discussed cost, pricing, and timing in order to prepare their advertising and order form.  Please see Waypoints for the link and for an additional Winter Break activity on 12/30 to help them earn necessary funds for their trip to New York in March.

So grateful for all of you who donated books to our classroom through the Horizon Book Fair, for Julie Boss, Matt Davis, and Steve Hoffman for helping with the Harvest Feast, and for the Schultz family for taking care of Santa over break!



Teamwork.  Community.  Compassion.  These three words come to mind often as I observe this group of young people navigate their days.  Math fact groups strive, together, to master multiples.  Partners practice new concepts and give each other spelling tests.  Friends edit each other’s studies and listen intently to presentation rehearsals.  Sad faces are greeted with caring inquiries and understanding offers to be there when the other is ready.  What a world we would live in if we all took lessons from these young people in our midst. 

These same three words came to mind last week as we met to discuss your young people.  I can’t thank you enough for trusting me to spend my days with your children.  You, as the home team, enrich our lives in the way you engage your children at home, setting expectations aligned with those of our community and fostering the growth of skills, confidence and grace in your child.

This coming Monday, November 14, in celebration of Ruby Bridges Walk to School Day, our classroom team will focus our compassion on ways in which we can make a difference in our greater community.  Your children’s homework this weekend will be to talk with you about what you value as a family and how those values might be shared with others through our actions.  

Once again, sincerest gratitude for your ongoing commitment to teamwork, community and compassion.


Wow!  It’s the end of October and we’re already celebrating Pumpkin Fun Day upper-el style this coming Monday.  To show that we’ve worked hard and are ready to celebrate, the children have been wrapping up their first studies of the year.  Soon we’ll be learning about Australian Shepherds, Border Collies, Leopard Geckos, Green Anacondas, Violins, Unique Sports, Italy, Platypus and Tungsten - and that’s just the beginning.  

When we aren’t listening to presentations or celebrating birthdays (5 in October!), we read aloud.  Last week we finished Ban This Book by Alan Gratz.  The group appeared to love this book and the underlying message of how important it is to stand up for what you believe in.  They were also surprised to learn that all of the books mentioned have been banned at some point, somewhere in our country.  Many in the group were offended that someone would take issue with Captain Underpants.  Our new book is one of my favorites, Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli.

We’re excited that we were able to welcome many of you into the environment to work with your children.  As you know, the children care for the environment.  They change jobs each week and perform tasks that range from dusting and vacuuming to gecko and plant care.  At the end of last week, Santa’s habitat needed some attention, so Santa came out to explore for a bit.  The children silently watched him crawl around the quilt, visiting each of them and attempting to go beyond his prescribed boundary.  They did a beautiful job caring for him in the way that he needed to stay safe and keep his tail intact!

Looking forward to welcoming all of you next week for Conferences.  If you haven’t signed up yet, please do so at your earliest convenience here.



Opportunities for growth abound when we are able to support children in all the many ways of learning.  When our learners are encouraged to collaborate, each participant’s experience is enriched and given an additional layer of skill-development: the ability to problem-solve and gracefully work with others.  This past week, collaboration occurred in birthday celebration baking, design challenge engineering and off-site water monitoring.  Learning and laughter filled our days.

Our September birthday bakers chose a “simple” tart recipe. Three days, a lot of patience, and healthy senses of humor, later, they proudly shared delicious apple tarts with all of us and felt the satisfaction of a job well done.

Last Friday, teams used the design process to build the tallest tower using only 40 straws and a yard of masking tape. “Gravity affects everything!” was one astute observation. The tallest tower reached over 6 feet. Some were taller but couldn’t stay up for the 5 seconds required.  In addition to confirming the strength of gravity, the learners agreed that working together was the best way to achieve their goals.

Finally, this week’s outing to the Boardman River Nature Center emphasized the power of hands-on learning. Spending the morning at Jack’s Creek testing water quality and writing poetry proved that an outdoor classroom is the way to go. (We definitely lucked out weather wise!)

We’re looking forward to having you all visit at the end of the month, so your children can share their work with you.  Parent Visiting Days are the mornings of Wednesday, October 26, and Thursday, October 27.  Please sign up here.

Also, it’s not too late to sign up to help feed Santa or to bring him home for one of our breaks from school.  If you’re interested in either or both, please sign up here.  Thank you Ziters and Hoffmans!!!


Having created the universe the first full week of school, the children were ready to tell the Second Great Story: the Coming of Life.  A group of enthusiastic actors played the roles of the sun, air, water and rocks, each blaming the other for the chaos that needed life to arrive to restore order.   Gathered around the timeline of life, the children shared their wonders about the wide variety of life that arose from the oceans and eventually traveled onto land.  Perhaps some of them will tell you the story when you visit?

With life created, botany and zoology groups could meet to discuss the importance of plants and the similarities and differences between vertebrates and invertebrates.  Other disciplines of science are being explored independently, and some of you will be the lucky beneficiaries of colorful slime or be able to hear about the rocket-building process.

We also started our spelling groups, established necessary math fact practice and instituted Math Mondays.  As I touch base with the parents new to our community, I may ask that you support this aspect of your child(ren)’s learning in addition to providing nightly reading time at home.

Finally, the beginning of the school year is not complete without a group trip to the library to gather books for research and a Class Picnic.  Big thank you’s are due to Jen Lake for transporting our researchers and Leah and Matt Davis for organizing our Class Picnic.  

P.S.  If any of you are interested in supporting Santa the Leopard Gecko’s penchant for crickets, please feel free to sign up for a week  here.  He’s been consuming about 51 large crickets per week.  Thank you!!!


As we began to build our community last week, it was heartwarming and soul-fueling, but not surprising, to observe the returning 5th and 6th year learners not only warmly welcome the new 4th years but heartily embrace those learners who are new to our school.  They were already putting into action the words of their draft Declaration (a.k.a. classroom agreement) to “be inclusive and respectful” and “make new friends.”

The beginning of the year is filled with ways to get to know each other and the creation of systems to help our community function in a manner that feels good to all.  Thus, one group of learners accepted the task of drafting our Declaration after receiving community member input.  Another group chose to learn about our new leopard gecko, Santa, to help us optimally care for him.  (I imagine you’ve all heard about Santa?!?)  Yet another group decided to research how to create a meaningful Land Acknowledgment for our class, and a final group created a gorgeous wheel of jobs to help us properly care for our environment.

With systems on the way to being in place, it was time for the Creation of the Universe, the First Great Story in elementary Montessori classrooms.  The mentor teams brought our universe into existence, demonstrating the different states of matter, how they are affected by temperature, and closing the entire spectacle with the eruption of a Mentos/Sprite volcano!  It was all quite exciting.  Perhaps your young learner will tell you the story when you visit in October?

Looking forward to seeing you all at our Class Picnic at Silver Lake Park, Sunday, September 25, 2022, from 2:00-4:00 p.m.