Many Rivers Montessori Reflects on Their First Year with a Permanent Campus

Brandon Weathers
Updated: June 06, 2019 06:23 PM

Many Rivers Montessori is concluding their 5th year as a school. The first 4 years were spent in two separate rental spaces. Friday will be the close of the first year in their permanent location in the Woodland neighborhood in Duluth.


When talk of a new school began, a lot of excitement was generated. 7th grader Agnes Barthel said, "A lot of the kids were really excited to get lockers, and we just have more space now, and everyone was looking forward to it."

Head of School Mark Niedermier also said that space was something they were happy to have more of. He said, "In our old building, we were so strapped for space, we held our Spanish classes in the hallway."

The building itself was more new to them than it was new, and it present a few challenges. "Anytime you move into a 100 year-old building, there are surprises, even with the best of planning," Niedermier said.

Part of their renovations included knocking out walls to turn two traditional classrooms into one larger classroom space. “It turns out, when you take out walls between classrooms, the thermostats don’t work how you expect them to do. So we had to do a lot of HVAC fine tuning that we hadn’t expected.”

But Niedermier and the students agree that the space also presented a lot of opportunities. "Last year, we did have a field, but it wasn't as large as the one that we have now," Agnes said, "and we have this amazing playground that we can play on." 8th grader Paul Kliewer likes how close the school is to the Hartley Nature Center. “We go there a lot, like on Fridays, and we do different stuff there, like we did a map and compass course there," Paul said.

The expanded classrooms are better suited for a Montessori learning environment. “In Montessori education, one of the things that are important is called practical life where children are learning how to be competent young people," Niedermier said.

Children ages 3 to 6 are part of the Children's House program. These classrooms are equipped with household appliances and outdoor patios where children can interact in ways the previous space didn't allow. Niedermier said, "These young children are learning about becoming capable individuals by loading that dishwasher, loading and unloading the washer and dryer, just having those things incorporated into the classroom.”

Many Rivers has seen a boost in their number of students with the new campus. "Last year we closed out the year with 137 students, we now have 162, and we're optimistically looking at 180 or so for the fall," Niedermier said.

The permanent location also brings Many Rivers closer to being a fully accredited independent school. "We were putting off the site visit that's needed for full accreditation until we were settled into our new building. And so, it's really exciting to be able to move forward with that and become a fully accredited rather than provisionally accredited school."


Brandon Weathers

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