Welcome to Upper Elementary Maple - The Children's House

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Welcome to Upper Elementary Maple

“The child who has felt a strong love for his surroundings and for all living creatures, who has discovered joy and enthusiasm in work, gives us reason to hope that humanity can develop in a new direction.”

-Dr. Maria Montessori, Education and Peace

Hope and excitement abound as we gather again this year to learn from, grow with and enjoy each other in a community we are creating, nurturing and strengthening on a daily basis.  By being aware of our purpose, embracing our goals, and supporting each other’s development, Maple Classroom will explore much of what the universe has to offer, such is the nature of Montessori’s cosmic education for the elementary child.  Thank you for sharing your learners with us and participating in this portion of their journey to reach their full potential.

Karin Church



Room Parents
Emily Riddle
Sarah Bancroft-Treadway


 Back to School Parent Letter

Karin Church, Upper Elementary Guide
Karin Church, Upper Elementary Guide
Virginie Kanner, Upper Elementary Support
Virginie Kanner, Upper Elementary Support

Classroom Highlights


Thank you! We had such a wonderful time welcoming you into our community for our first Maple Mystery Museum. The children pushed themselves in many ways to prepare for this event. Some stretched their artistic skills with their portraits, others put forth great effort in reading and writing when asked to expand their studies, and many went out of their comfort zones socially and emotionally by being asked to talk to so many people. All of the children accepted these challenges, rose to the occasion and were excited to do so. 

Now, the 5th years will help us all stretch ourselves a bit more out of our comfort zones as they prepare to help us go camping next week. Your children may feel challenged by sleeping away from home, by eating unfamiliar meals, by being asked to set up and take down tents, and by being expected to prepare and clean up meals. We all grow during this time together, but, having spent all year together, we know that we’re safe with each other and in good hands for such an adventure.

We also look forward to welcoming Grandparents and Special Friends tomorrow. The children have been able to prepare work they’d like to show and have helped clean and beautify our classroom environment for this visit. They have also been joyously singing in preparation. After such a busy week, please help your children get the rest they need to be able to make the most of this exciting time of year!

Last, but not least, I’d like to thank Virginie for being an amazing assistant for these past two years. She will be heading home to help out her family next year and will be greatly missed by all. (The children are already trying to figure out how to get her back into the classroom from time to time.) Elle est inoubliable.


With our festive celebration of May Day behind us and 100 trees planted in honor of Earth Day, we have officially welcomed spring and feel like this last full month together will be gone before we know it! To make the most of this time, we plan each day together and do our best to support each other in the learning process so we can all feel good about the work that is accomplished.

In addition to finishing up biographies for our Mystery Museum afternoon on Monday, May 20, at 2:45, the learners are practicing words for their last spelling tests and reading chapters or articles for their final reading groups. They are also making sure new math concepts are clear in their math dictionaries to ensure that this tool helps them remember how to practice their new skills. (We often send home math practice to maintain your children’s skills throughout the summer. Please let me know if you’d like to support your child’s learning throughout the summer in this way.)

Work outside of the classroom continues as well, as children from Maple collaborate with younger learners in Thistle to bake muffins on Tuesdays and Fridays or support their younger partner’s exploration with clay under Alison Hoffman’s guidance in Open Art.  Every Tuesday, small groups of students also head out to the greenhouse to water, plant or roll compost bins. FInally, this year we are excited to build our first riverbed behind the classroom in collaboration with the 3rd years from Willow. Having just planted trees along the Boardman-Ottaway River last week, this experience will certainly support the team’s approach to building a riverbed to effectively demonstrate the work of water to their fellow classmates.



As always, our learners are busy working together in a variety of ways, such as supporting multiplication fact practice, giving spelling tests, editing descriptive essays and completing group projects.  Lately, in addition to their individual work, you’ll find them focused on their Ruby Bridges projects and their role in helping us learn about Ancient Civilizations. 

Our Ruby Bridges teams have been happily working together to prepare what they plan to share with you all this Thursday, April 25. In preparation for the Solar Panels component, our class visited the Interlochen Center for the Arts sustainability department and toured the greenhouse, hoop houses, bee hives, chicken coop and gardens. We  were inspired by what we saw and reminded of all that we already have at our amazing campus. 

Also last week, our Thistle classroom connection team was able to participate in a morning of making collages with their primary partners. They based their artwork on what their younger friends love about nature. Thank you, Alison Hoffman, for supporting this team in making artwork and strengthening bonds among the children. The next hope for this collaboration is baking and playdough making.  Stay tuned!

Finally, we have been using our Topsy-Turvey Tuesday mornings to go back in time and learn about Ancient Civilizations. Each mentor group will take a turn learning about a civilization and sharing their new knowledge with the class. So far, we’ve learned about the Sumerians, Harappans and Phoenicians. The children have been amazed by some of the similarities we share today with peoples from 5,000 years ago. 


Back together again, Maple classroom buzzes vibrantly with the energy coming off of spring break and entering into spring weather. We’re harnessing this energy to celebrate Poetry Month, dive into final studies, and prepare for the Ruby Bridges Classroom Project Fair.

Although we enjoy poetry throughout the year, April is the month to focus on this creative way to express oneself. Learners are taking turns sharing a poem a day, and our read-aloud book is Locomotion by Jacqueline Woodson.  I always love starting a new book and hearing the hush come over the children as they are drawn into the magic of a good book, even in verse.

As for the new studies, you may not hear a lot about them because the children will be inviting you into the classroom in May to “guess who” they learned about. We continue to emphasize the importance of reading the resources and sitting with the new knowledge for a bit before writing down key words. Reading and contemplating takes time and quiet; the buzz of conversation has to stop sometimes, and these good friends are practicing this important skill and supporting each other’s learning.

On Thursday, April 25, we are excited to share with you the different activities that have come out of our Ruby Bridges Walk to School Day back in November. Groups of children are focusing on the project they chose for this year and are deciding how best to convey their message and learning. I have especially loved this year’s approach because we have been collaborating with Thistle Classroom in primary. If you didn’t know this already, your young people are amazing with even younger people.  


Thank you, families, for joining us for Visiting Day and conferences.  Having an opportunity to see what your children are doing and then sharing our perspectives and observations of their growth and development is an invaluable part of our partnership.  I greatly appreciate your candor, wonders and points of view.  This teamwork will provide the best support for your children and help us finish the school year in a strong, productive, positive way.

Speaking of teamwork, we look forward to welcoming you for this year’s theatre production where you will see many teams in action.  The 5th and 6th years have been writing, directing and performing skits, and the 4th years have created the traditional Fourth Year Alphabet. They have also been playing games that encourage them to rely on each other, pay attention to each other’s communication skills and basically, have a lot of fun.

When we return from Spring Break, we’ll be able to settle back into our routines and revisit and practice concepts we may have forgotten in all the excitement of March.  Final studies will be undertaken, Ruby Bridges projects will be shared, poetry will be celebrated, ancient civilizations will be explored - all with a camping trip and summer vacation visible on the horizon each time the sun shines!  

Grood: Thank you families for contributing returnable cans and bottles to raise funds for solar panels.


February closed with powerful experiences for all of our community. The 4th and 5th years used their imaginations at the Denos Museum, writing detailed stories inspired by their chosen artwork. The 6th years took full advantage of their time at the MMUN conference and their days exploring New York City. Thanks to the UN Ambassador from Bulgaria, we were able to visit the General Assembly Hall. When they were reunited, the children excitedly shared their experiences with one another.

We can now safely say that March Madness has arrived in Maple Classroom, as we see the effect of warmer weather, signs of spring, and multiple activities, such as Human Growth and Development discussions, Parent Visiting, a tuba performance and a maple syrup outing. The sleepier, slower winter months are giving way to vibrant spring energy, and the children are scrambling to complete studies and follow up before theatre starts and spring break whisks them away.

In addition to completing studies, we look forward to supporting them individually in the completion of their biology work, collaborative reading questions, and creative book reports. Collectively, mentor groups will share their learning about different hominin species next week. It will be spring break before we know it!



Connections.  This year we decided to intentionally build connections within our community.  We have welcomed several family members into our classroom and have learned about what they do, why they do it, and how we might want to do something like it too.  These human connections have sparked broader connections to our Cosmic Education curriculum - it makes sense that it would because one resounding truth that arises from this approach to learning is that everything is connected.

Our exposure to architecture: the variety, process, and materials, has allowed our learners to look at the built world through a new lens.  They have decorated their buildings, contemplated what purposes they will serve and are collaborating to create a Maple City that meets their needs and expectations.  This activity has also connected us to perimeter, area and volume lessons, as well as city planning and social justice concepts.

At our request, the children used their new songwriting knowledge to create a verse, chorus and hook for their songs about measurement.  (We realize the topic may not have been the most inspirational, but they actively participated in writing and performing songs about liters, gallons, meters and feet.)  These performances occurred in the classroom before the wonderful Talent Show, helping the children realize how brave each performer was to share their skills with our greater community.

Finally, international connections are being made this week as the 6th year delegates meet with delegates from around the world to address and strive to resolve interconnected global issues at the Montessori Model United Nations.  We look forward to bringing these delegates back into our community to share about the connections they made with other children and with their understanding of how the world works and how everything is connected.

Grood: Ziter Family! Lindsey for lighting up our lives with candles and Adam for helping us participate in Meals on Wheels.  Thank you Mona and Donato Daddario for your commitment to Meals on Wheels, as well.

Future connections:
Jeff Riddle, February 29
Parent Visiting Days Sign Up, March 5 & 7
Human Growth and Development, March 4-7 (see attached letter)
Theatre Week, March 13-21, performance 3/21 at 2:00 (see attached letter)


A foundational principle of the Montessori approach is that education serves as an “aid to life.”  When possible, we provide hands-on experiences with real materials to support comprehension of important concepts.  Even though our world continues to change and technology increasingly supports our daily tasks and answers many of our wonders, we believe that a practical, concrete approach will deepen our learning in a valuable way.  

This month, for example, we are focusing on money and measurement.  Where did money come from, what is the value of our different coins, how can we know how much we owe and what change to expect in return?  For measurement, we are exploring the standard and metric systems and learning which units to use for length, volume and mass.  An outing to the neighborhood store, baking at home, or building a birdhouse are ways your children can experience firsthand the importance of knowing the value of money and the different units of measurement.

In the classroom, your children are using their measurement skills to conduct various science experiments.  Here they use the scientific method to hypothesize what will occur and then follow the procedure and record their observations to determine if they were right.  Slime may be an unwelcome substance, but it does provide opportunities for conjecture, measurement, observation and, perhaps, a little fun, too.  

Grood: Thank you Charlotte Smith and Brittany Luea for providing the children with real world measuring experience for architecture.  Kudos to the King Family from Santa!

Coming up

  • February 12 - Caroline Maier visit
  • February 12-14 Secret Valentines; February 15 Talent Show 2:00
  • February 20-24 6th Year MMUN Trip; February 20 4th & 5th Year Dennos Museum Outing
  • March 5 and 7 Please sign up here for Parent Visit Days


“Should kids have longer recess periods?” was the question we answered together to practice writing an opinion essay.  The resounding answer was, “Yes!”  Reasons given were improved mental health, social skill development and increased focus due to the energy release.  We had already reviewed the difference between a fact and an opinion and the importance of supporting your opinions with facts.  Now the children are exploring individually one of three prompts: best sport, important friendship traits, or favorite season.  It’s been interesting to observe those children who know how to express their feelings with certainty and support their reasons with examples and those who hesitate to form an opinion, perhaps for fear of making a mistake or thinking there’s a “right” opinion.  We will continue to work on this important skill of expressing what you truly think as opposed to writing based on what you think others want you to say.  You may want to ask your child what they are writing about and why.

Another area where we practice developing opinions and supporting them with evidence is with our quiet reading books.  We are so fortunate that many of our learners are participating in Battle of the Books and exposing our community to eight examples of quality literature.  Even though some children are not participating, they will have access to these books and will be strongly encouraged to read them to support the battlers and broaden the scope of their reading selections.  Ask your child which books they’re enjoying and why.  Why are they funny?  Why are they cool?  Why should others read them?

Last, but not least, opinions abound in our robotics workshop.  What should the team’s brand, colors and weapon be?  Should we create a song?  Do we need sequins, feathers and fairy lights?  Here we have observed the development of important communication skills in this opportunity to persuade others to embrace your vision.  The children are experiencing the challenges of collaboration and seeing the power of speaking positively and listening to others versus ordering others around, excluding them or allowing them to withdraw.

Grood:  Thank you Maier and Riddle Families for helping us feed Santa!

Coming up:
February 5 - Jenn Smith facilitates UN Sustainable Development Goal discussion between Maple classroom and Futerra.
February 8 - Charlotte Smith and Brittany Luea help us explore architecture.
February 12 - Caroline Maier shares music and songwriting with us.
Secret Valentines - February 12, 13 and 14;
Talent Show - February 15

PLEASE help us bring Meals on Wheels back!  You will receive a flyer and can sign up to help here.


Happy New Year, Maple Families!  Although we were perhaps a little sleepier than usual, these first weeks of 2024 have started off well.  The children are reviewing lessons, organizing work folders, and reconnecting after our time away.  As is our tradition, they are also reflecting on habits they have that keep them from being who they want to be and focusing on cultivating habits that will get them where they want to go.  Ask your child about their Harmful and Helpful Habits and how we are supporting each other to achieve these goals.

We are also starting this New Year with a Robotics workshop.  Every Friday for five weeks, Philip Leete and John Gilligan from Quarkmine will be helping teams brand and battle their robots.  Your children may ask to bring some of the materials you are recycling or crafts from home to help decorate their robot and create their brand.  Teams will have some time during our work cycles to collaborate with each other and prepare for the various milestones.  Thanks to many of you, a good number of Maple classroom learners already have experience with robots and can help others enjoy this experience.

New year, new studies.  Thank you for joining us for the first presentations of the year.  The children have now chosen new topics and many have already traveled to the library to collect their resources.  To broaden their learning, we require them to choose from a topic area different from their previous study.  Stay tuned for presentations on Stan Lee, Isaiah Thomas, London, Venice, Puerto Rico, turtles and tortoises, to name few.  Although the topics aren’t new, the 6th years get to use their Position Papers to write Opening Speeches to share with their families and fellow delegates in New York.  They will also start planning their trip, such as creating an itinerary, choosing restaurants and sites to visit, preparing a packing list, and drafting an agreement for how they will comport themselves while away.  So much to look forward to in this new year.

Grood: Big thanks to Ben Maier for providing an amazing clay experience at his studio.  Also, thank you Feeley Family for taking Santa over break and Janiszewski Family for providing crickets!

Coming Up: Sledding Party, 2/03, 10:00-12:00

MMUN Update: Family MMUN meeting, 1/23, at 3:30; 6th Recovery Day, Monday, February 26.


Returning to a winter wonderland accentuated how important it is to acknowledge our amazing natural world and express our gratitude for all it has to offer.  Our Harvest Feast day was filled with so many activities that we needed to read the Haudenosaunee Thanksgiving Address upon our return.  Taking turns reading aloud, we thanked the living and nonliving parts of our world and strengthened our connection to them. 

This intentional statement of appreciation for our environment tied in beautifully with the engaging, meaningful work Vonn’s mom, Jennifer Lacy Smith, helped us undertake.  She divided the learners into three groups, each with a different task to implement the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.  The product engineers brainstormed different packaging options, suggesting design and materials modifications.  The chemists explored how to protect life under water by exploring alternate ingredients and aiming to reduce water usage.  Finally, the marketing team strived to achieve inclusivity in the marketing materials and within the team itself.  I think the adults present would agree that your thoughtful, compassionate, creative children are destined to improve our world and help us achieve these important goals.

Our Ruby Bridges Action Plans also serve as examples of your children’s abundant kindness and innovative problem-solving.  Our Student Council members proposed the resumption of the weekly Meals on Wheels deliveries and plan to meet with CHiPA representatives soon.  Another team is proposing improvements to our school to address climate change concerns.  All of us also decided that we wanted to invite other schools in Traverse City to join us in this special day of celebration.

Bi-weekly grood:  Thank you, Jenn Smith, for an amazing presentation and for providing Santa with crickets.  Big thanks to all of the sports, robotics and Battle of the Books coaches, too, for enriching your children’s lives and helping them building connections

Coming up:  Looking forward to seeing all of you at 11:30, December 15, for the Seasonal Sing.



If you have not yet made it to the Michigan Legacy Art Park in Thompsonville, please have your child take you there on one of these lovely fall days.  Our visit was not only filled with inspiring works of art and breathtaking views but thoughtful questions and powerful moments of contemplation about Michigan’s history and our responsibility to consider all perspectives.  When you visit, have your child show you the community artwork they may have participated in last year.  We’ll take part again this year, and the artwork’s theme is Raindrops, highlighting the important role water plays in our world.

Last week, a 5th year crew presented Ruby Bridges’s story to Thistle classroom in primary.  They invited these younger members of our community to join us for Ruby Bridges Walk to School Day, which took place November 14.  On this day, we reflected on Ruby Bridges’s bravery and made plans to improve our world in our own way.  We reviewed our fundamental needs lesson and tied our wonders to the 6th years’ MMUN work.  Ask your children what some of the proposals are for this year of service.  

Also, last week, we were able to meet and discuss your wonderful children.  We look forward to welcoming you back in again soon as many of your children complete their first studies.  Be on the lookout for invitations to their presentations.  You can also help them study for our first annual Learning Journal Spelling Bee as well as their individual math fact challenges.  

Bi-weekly grood: Gratitude for parent drivers, Sarah Bancroft-Treadway, Brad Kik and Brittany Luea, as well as immense grood for the Treadway Family, Santa’s holiday caregivers.

Coming Up: Please check these links for Santa’s Helpers and Community Connections.


“Narwhals, narwhals, swimming in the ocean,” was sung happily in the classroom and on the playground, after we finished our first read-aloud book, The Lifters by Dave Eggers.  This book not only provided hours of engaged listening by your learners while they drew, felted, or finger-knitted, but it offered opportunities for deeper discussions into what it means to be kind, whether we are obligated to help those in need, and if humans require purposeful work to feel fulfilled.  The premise of the book tied in beautifully with our discussion of the Fundamental Needs of humans, which linked directly to the 6th years’ MMUN topics.  

We have also had the pleasure of reading A Place Called America by Jennifer Thermes.  This book enriched our American history discussions, enhanced our identity map sharing and allowed your children to find similarities and differences among their families.  Using creative, colorful maps, this book helped us learn about all the many humans that have lived in North America over the years.  

Because books can amplify connections to the real world and build bridges between our imaginations, we are asking your young people to keep track of their quiet reading books and share what they enjoyed about them.  We hope this practice will help them expand their choices and encourage them to explore different genres.  Ask them about the books they're reading and those we’ve shared together in class.  See if they’ll help you choose books for our school on Horizon Book Day.

Bi-weekly grood: Thank you Luea Family for Santa’s crickets!  So grateful to see all of you working with your children.  

Coming up: Conferences on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, November 8, 9 and 10, respectively.


This year we were able to celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day in the best way possible.  Eric Hemenway, an Anishinaabe/Odawa and Director of Repatriation, Archives, and Records for the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians of Waganakising, visited our school and helped us learn important history by sharing about himself and his culture.  He told the story of the birch tree, shared memories of harvesting an ash tree to help his mother make a basket, and served as a humble role model for the importance of reciprocity by recounting his experience with birch bark boxes.  Ask your children what they remember from Eric’s visit.  Their thank you notes were touching and their engagement genuine.

Now six weeks into the school year, the daily flow has been established and the hum of work fills our environment.  Mixed-age groups learn about equivalent fractions, practice spelling words, and explore the differences and similarities of vertebrates and invertebrates.  In addition to these mixed-age lessons, each year has a special project.  The 4th years are creating a book for the inaugural year of Maple Classroom.  The 5th years will share with Thistle Classroom in primary about Ruby Bridges and our celebration of Ruby Bridges Walk to School Day. Our 6th years are deep in their Position Papers, learning about global topics, such as desertification, peaceful uses of outer space and sustainable food systems.

We have also initiated our Science of Kindness experiments, discussing how scientists have been researching the impact kindness can have on our emotional and physical health and wellbeing.  Your young learners are gathering data from their first experiment and recording observations of how they feel after completing an act of kindness.  If you do not happen to be the recipient of their kindness, ask them what they chose to do.

Bi-weekly grood: Big thanks to Adam Ziter for sharing his experience as a firefighter and EMS provider and to the Danbrook and Ziter families for Santa’s crickets!

Coming up:  November conference sign-ups are available.  Due to my son’s Senior Soccer Banquet on Thursday, November 9, I am offering afternoon conferences on Wednesday and Thursday, in addition to all day Friday.  I hope you are reading Waypoints each week and have synced our Family Calendar with your personal calendar so that you stay up to date on everything happening here at school, especially our learning opportunities that are designed for you. 


I sincerely hope none of you were awakened at 2:50 am on September 23, the time of the Fall Equinox.  The children excitedly discussed the change of seasons and how the tilt of the Earth and our revolution around the sun create the shorter days as we head towards winter.  We also discussed light pollution in preparation for our Friday trip to Sleeping Bear Dunes and marveled at the blinding brightness and stark darkness in different parts of our world.  They enjoyed traveling virtually using the The World Atlas of Artificial Sky Brightness.

We’re also traveling together every Tuesday with a game two of our learners created.  Pairs of children will take turns rolling dice, one with cardinal directions and the other to determine distance.  We started in Traverse City, traveled southwest to learn about the Pacific Ocean, and are now in Cherskiy, Russia.  Our Tuesday morning work cycle is longer than the others, so we’ll also travel into our imaginations as the children present their studies throughout the year.  Next up, the 6th years take us to the Republic of Chad.

Finally, our gorgeous weather has provided many opportunities for our learners to venture outside and observe their immediate surroundings.  They each have a “sit spot” they will visit regularly to observe and record the changing seasons.  They started making field journals in which to record data, sketch observations and gather specimens.  So many of them are truly connected to these “sit spots” and have kept the same ones since lower elementary.  Many of their observations are quite poetic, and their trips outside seem to center them, allowing for greater focus upon their return.  Perhaps they’ll choose a sit spot somewhere outside at home?

Bi-weekly grood: Thank you Schultz and Danbrook families for bringing crickets to Santa.  Thank you, Katelin, for teaching us about Yooperlites!

Coming up: Sign up here for Parent Visiting Days, Thurs. and Fri., 10/26 and 10/27


Many would be surprised that these learners have only been together for about three weeks.  Their kind, welcoming, playful approach to each day made the task of drafting our classroom agreement, our Declaration, seamless.  In honor of our classroom’s new moniker, we each signed and decorated maple leaves to adorn the tree.  The words of our agreement are written on the grass.  (See below!)

Because knowing what is important to each other will better help us follow our agreement to respect each other, we have created Identity Maps.  Each learner has written a short paragraph and drawn pictures of those things that make them who they are.  Skis, dance shoes, family members, pets, flags to represent a family’s ethnicity appear on the different maps.  It’s such a pleasure to see the variety of qualities and interests that each child cherishes.  When we can get to know each other in this way, we can embrace our similarities and respect our differences.

Also, in keeping with our Declaration, the children have been pursuing work in a variety of areas.  All are reacquainting themselves with their factors and multiples and have received their first spelling words.  Most have started gathering information for their first studies.  After they complete the writing process, we look forward to learning about bearded dragons, pugs, wolves, China, weather and some of the elements, to name a few.  The 6th years have also shared their learning about the United Nations and have begun researching the Republic of Chad, the country they will represent for this year’s Montessori Model United Nations (MMUN). 

If you’re not hearing many details from your children, ask them how they start and end their days.  I’d like to end this by sharing a grood:  I am grateful for Brittany Luea for accompanying the 5th years on their ROV outing and sharing pictures, for Sarah Bancroft-Treadway and Emily Riddle for organizing a lovely class picnic and sharing pictures and for the Sandler family for providing Santa with crickets this week!


Hi, I'm happy to have the members of the Maple classroom in the gym each day just prior to lunchtime. So far, we have enjoyed playing some tagging games and practiced badminton and some toss and catch. The learners in this class seem to get along well and show up each day excited to play. I hope to provide them all with a chance to develop physically, emotionally and socially. If you ever have questions or would like to know more about our time together, please let me know. 

Thank you, Steve Maas