Great River Charter Montessori School

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Great River School
Great River Charter Montessori School.jpg
Engaging Intellect, Shaping Character, Building Community
1326 Energy Park Drive
Saint Paul, Minnesota, 55108
United States
Coordinates 44°58′12″N 93°9′19″W / 44.97000°N 93.15528°W / 44.97000; -93.15528Coordinates: 44°58′12″N 93°9′19″W / 44.97000°N 93.15528°W / 44.97000; -93.15528
School type Montessori charter school w/IB for 11/12 grades
Opened 2004–2005
Staff 24
Grades 1–12
Enrollment 420
Campus type Urban

Great River School (GRS) is a Montessori charter school in Saint Paul, Minnesota, United States. It functions as a primary school, junior high and a high school.[1] It is known for being community-oriented, and creating confident, kind leaders. Founded in 2004 on leadership, service, and peace formation, Great River fosters independence, critical thinking, respect, responsibility to self, to others, and to the earth. It has been recognized as one of the best high schools in Minnesota.

The school has a very strong, academically rigorous program. Because it is a public school, entrance is by lottery if there are more students who want to enroll than there are spots. Typically, the enrollment period is over on the first Monday of February with the lottery the next day. Since 2007 there has been a waiting list to get into Great River, simply because so many people want to attend. On a regular basis, both the Junior and Senior High students meet in their respective groups in a community meeting to discuss various topics that impact the whole community. The elected student leaders lead this meeting, and the school talks about "important" issues.

One unique example of how Montessori is being applied to a high school is the way in which the High School Student Government was set up in the fall of 2005. During the fall trip, a group of students that showed an interest in student government met and brainstormed ideas about how the system should be set up for the future. After long discussions, the end result was a student-written constitution detailing the jobs and responsibilities of the cabinet and the senate. Students created a new government with twenty students, ten Advocates and ten Intermediaries. The Advocates work with the students to write bills and get things done. The Intermediaries work with the staff on programs and upcoming events throughout the school. In the first two years of the new student government, the off campus lunch bill and wireless policy were passed. This new Student Government is still going strong today.

Key Experiences[edit]

In the fall of each year, Junior High students go on an Odyssey Trip. The first year the Odyssey East traveled to Williamsburg, Virginia and Washington, D.C. by charter bus and camped along the way, while visiting important historical and cultural sites. The Odyssey West in 2006-2007 traveled to Jackson, Wyoming where they stayed at the Teton Science School. The major stops along the way were Badlands National Park, Devils Tower, and Yellowstone National Park. In the fall of the 2007-2008 year, students traveled to Williamsburg again camping along the way and visiting different sites including Monticello, Shenandoah National Park and Jamestown. The fall 2009-2010 brings a new direction to the Odyssey. While the opportunity for experiential education outside the classroom and community building is important, the distance and time on the bus will be less. Now the Odyssey West goes to destinations such as Badlands National Park, Wind Cave National Park, and Devils Tower and the Odyssey East goes to Mackinac Island and Greenfield Village.

The High School students have had a short experience in the fall of each year. For the first few years, all high school students went to the Lake Country Land School near Glenwood City, Wisconsin, to work on the farm, do service work, learn about farming, canning and other important tasks. In the fall of 2007, the 11th and 12th graders went on a 5-day tour of 14 colleges in the Upper Midwest. Beginning in the fall of 2009, all senior high students will have a more comprehensive program to anticipate. All 9th & 10th graders will go to the Land School; 11th graders will participate in a college tour in the Upper Midwest and 12th graders will participate in a leadership experience such as canoeing on the Namekagon River in Wisconsin, preparing them to consider their life after GRS - post secondary education and beyond.

Every January the Junior High (Adolescent 1) students have a "J term" when they put together a play in a month. For 4 years, the high school also did J-term. Past High School J-Term classes have been Film, Photography, Canoe-Building, Theater and Music. There were also workshops during two afternoons which covered anything under the sun: sliding, crafts, yoga, egg painting, peace and justice movement building, dancing, etc. As of the 2008-2009 school year the high school will have a May term instead of J-term.

Each spring, the Junior High ends the year with a bike trip (about 100 miles). The bike trips have started in several locations, in Red Wing, Minnesota the first year, Cass Lake and Wisconsin and more recently being in southern Minnesota and western Hennepin County, Minnesota. Nearly all students ride all 100+ miles with few flats and many great memories. For the first 4 years of the school, a longer trip in the spring gave the older students opportunities to explore more of the US. In the spring of 2007, students traveled west to Estes Park, Colorado to a YMCA outdoor education facility. During the spring of 2008, high school students traveled to Louisiana to do a service project planting mangrove trees. Along the way, they will visit cultural landmarks such as the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tennessee. In the 2008-2009 school year the school had three trips, and the students got to go on two of them. the three trips were to Lake Itasca in Minnesota to canoe down a stretch of the Mississippi, the second trip was a trip up to the northern lakes of Minnesota, and the third trip was to the Lake Country Land School, where students, among other things, got to burn down a building. Beginning in the spring of 2009, students (with guidance and support from staff), planned and participated in 12-day long spring intensives designed for and by the students. Intensives included the study of dance, film, photography, the arts (combined with a trip to Chicago), backpacking (a 10-day trip on the Superior Hiking Trail), volunteerism in the Twin Cities, language (12 day trip to Costa Rica) and more.

The Upper Elementary (fourth to sixth grade) has also started having key experiences. They have gone to Laurentian Environmental Center in Britt, Minnesota and Camp Widjiwagan in Ely, Minnesota.

The A3 (11th/12th) have an independent focused learning environment where each student signs up for their classes weekly. This helps the students prepare for the challenging schedules of college and how to manage them, along with a large amount of homework.


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