Friday, December 5, 2014

G i v i n g

Last week, we mailed out a letter with a postcard for you - our dear families. We are an institution that cares for people.You are the network that makes this school possible. We need your support to care for our whole community!

When we speak of our generous community, we recognize that we are a public school and we provide our programs of travel, attention, and nurturing care to all students - without obligation. It is our generous community that allows us to engage in programs that any public or private institution would boast. Financial support makes these programs possible for all students. If you can give, thank you for giving generously. If financial support is not in your family budget right now, we thank you for sending post cards to the 5 friends and family that love your student. Each one of those friends giving $30 helps us to our goal. Your participation, and recruiting those who care for your students, is key to our success! 

Our annual fund allows us to provide the kind of engaging and amazing travel for key experiences, and low student to teacher ratios that build the foundation of our community. 

Meeting and exceeding our goal this year will allow us to dream big for the future - to plan for improvements for facilities for learning and play, physical active spaces for elementary, technology, travel and real world engagement for adolescent students. 

Great River is thankful for all the support we receive. You - the generous community - make the travel, attention, and extra care of our program possible. Thanks for sharing the story of our success with your network, and strengthening the foundation of our community. 


Friday, November 7, 2014

Join us in supporting the mission and vision of Great River

Dearest Community,

Great River cares about creating the best environment for a whole student to thrive. 

You are committed to choosing and supporting the best environment for your child. 

I invite you to recognize the ways your child has grown as a result of the community and opportunity at Great River and support what you value.  Great River School thrives because of your financial support. We are ambitious about providing the highest quality learning environment and opportunity, and an authentic alternative to traditional public institutions. We utilize our funds to exceed expectations of what a public Montessori education can mean - for materials, for student well-being, for travel and experience, and for a future that includes a strong Great River Montessori model for education.

Please take this traditional holiday season of gratitude and gift giving, and extend the opportunity to support your student to everyone who cares about their unique opportunities. Ask extended family and friends to support the school as on behalf of your student. We are an ambitious school with an ambitious mission to offer an alternative to the traditional school institution. 
Join us in the kickoff for our 2014-15 annual fund. You will hear from me once a week for the next six weeks describing how Great River School achieves excellence, and how supporting Great River will build on our strengths. Join us in our aspirations, join us in supporting our mission!


Friday, October 3, 2014

Montessori and Peace: our mandate, our mission

seeing the big picture
in Montessori materials
While many schools set goals based on student performance, Great River is an institution that speaks of success in regards to student development. Our mission as a Montessori school goes beyond individual education and into a social mission of developing a peaceful world, one child at a time.

As a Montessori institution, Great River carries a much larger responsibility on behalf of students, families, and the world at large. Montessori wrote of this task:

"An education capable of saving humanity is no small undertaking: it involves the spiritual development of [humans], the enhancement of the value as an individual, and the preparation of young people to times in which they live." [Maria Montessori, Education and Peace]

rewarding work from an earliest age 
World peace is quite an undertaking. Education, as articulated by Montessori,  goes beyond student content knowledge. Beyond the boundaries of the classroom there lies an important goal that includes all of humanity. The goal is a future more full of justice, more welcoming to life, and more peaceful than the world we currently live in. Children, as our future leaders, are the ones who will carry out that mission. Our children have an immense task ahead of them!
Because of the amazing capacity of growth and transformation of the child, Montessori philosophy recognizes the opportunity we
have to offer an environment that strives to give the experience of 
that peaceful world. From the youngest ages we witness children interested in order and meaningful work. The earliest child experience is rooted in constructing meaning out of the environment. This desire to find order and a place in the world continues through childhood and into adolescence. 

finding a place in society
Our task at Great River School is to offer an environment that not only meets the baseline expectations of excellent education (content learning) but also the highest aspirations of humanity. Peace, order, inspiration, finding resolution to conflict, giving opportunities for meaning and real purpose to the work day - these are the baseline expectations of Great River School. Our students - as they contribute to real tasks, and engage in the real world through field trips, agriculture, expedition, and classrooms filled with artifacts from the world - are living an experience that aspires to a more peaceful world. 
ready to see the world

Our approach to building community begins with the smallest of tasks - preparing for a festival, contributing individually, and working together to lift, paint, make, cook, set up, celebrate, clean, and reflect together. The way in which we pursue a global change really does begin with the smallest of conversations - "How are you this morning? How can I support you?" 

We are all together in contributing to the aspirations of this school, and every day our students, our volunteers, and our families are working toward a more peaceful world, by supporting this vision of empowering children to construct themselves through an environment that is prepared with boundaries, support, and high expectations for the whole person - to learn, yes. But also to engage with kindness, and to seek justice.

As we look at our school, I challenge us all to ask the "why" and "how" questions. Whether we are planning a gathering, or observing a classroom, or observing a child exploring the world at home... There is a moment available to us where we may ask "Why is this environment suited to peace? Suited to the children who live here? How are they empowered? How can they feel supported in constructing independence and generosity here?" These questions grow into the adolescent program with a challenge for our older students "Why is this work meaningful to me? How can I apply myself toward a world that is more meaningful, more just, and more peaceful?"

These are the questions that guide us at Great River School. I thank every parent and family that has joined us in the journey and aspiration of generating a more peaceful world, starting with every young agent of change that walks into our school each day.

Making and contributing
working together

beginning with peace and
order in the smallest of
gathering to celebrate
our harvest!

contributing to a large project

all ages working together

Friday, September 5, 2014

The life of a school is always under transformation. We grow with the lives and personalities that flow through our school. We learn from each other, and gain from our conversations and shared accomplishments. The life of this school is constantly rooting and flowering - moments of deep and unseen growth, and moments of public and recognizable achievement. 

This past summer, I was witness to a miracle. My 4 year-old son learned to identify milkweed; he meticulously searched for the yellow and white striped prize of a monarch caterpillar.  Together we watched the caterpillar munch the leaf and create its chrysalis.

Inside that chrysalis, the caterpillar wasn't just reforming a physical structure. The caterpillar completely dissolved and reformed from a cellular memory. And, near the end of the process, the opaque and mysterious chrysalis became a clear window holding a bundle of orange and black wings.  We would peek at our jar and see a miracle - a completely reformed creature ready to fly, built from the persistent chomping of that striped caterpillar. 
As we send our students into their classroom environment this autumn, they bring to life the being of the school. Our adolescents experience an awakening on each key experience as they enter a time of adventure and new horizons. Our elementary students bring life back to the reformed classroom environment, and just as the butterfly pushes the fluid of life into its wings to fly, our students bring life to the Montessori materials, articulating within and manipulating the classroom materials as the room comes alive.

As we enter our 11th autumn as a school, I reflect upon the chrysalis that we form each summer to review and take stock of our work and to clean between the cells that make up the entity of our school. In our chrysalis in the summer, our school is placed in a state of seemingly lifeless stillness. Rooms are silent and empty. Sounds echo through the hallways. Our chrysalis pulls us inward each summer as a school, and allows us to develop and refine our beautiful potential. We have transformed in some new ways this autumn: improvements to our facilities and thoughtful adjustments to the way we administer school functions. Our board is hard at work supporting strategic initiatives and committees which further our teaching practice and our practical plans for the future. 

Welcoming the life, the students and faculty, of the school back represents the moment of our transformation. Our butterfly moment is when the faces that will make up the life of the school return and all both new and returning recognize each other as part of the same being - as part of Great River School.  It is this moment forging our experience together that we feel what it means to value community, character, and intellect. 

Our mission is to create an environment that supports the whole person - and in witnessing the school enter its chrysalis and re-emerge this past summer, I am consistently amazed at the beauty emerging from the stillness. Our whole person exists both individually through each heart that walks through the door, and also in our whole school - where we have established a culture of trust and perseverance that carries from year to year, persisting through the many transformations we undergo. 

Here's to a wonderful reawakening of our being as a school this fall - welcome back!