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Middle School Director's Notes

A message from Director of Middle School, Ilse Norris:

Dear Visitation Middle School families,

On May 23, Mrs. Horttor’s religion classes braved the mosquitos and worked outside in the Community garden called Hanky’s Garden. They planted flowers such as marigolds to deter veggie-loving creatures, vegetables and fruits such as strawberries, and herbs such as thyme, basil and rosemary. The garden project is part of the Design for Change initiative that is spearheaded by Tara Schletz, our Enrichment and Global Education coordinator. The ultimate goal of this garden is to grow enough food to donate to the local food shelf and thus help alleviate hunger. Special kudos to Caroline Little for digging up all the plants from the Lettuce Grow hydroponic garden, housed in the Middle School commons, to be planted outside in the community garden!

What’s more, the Middle School religion classes decorated birthday boxes to be used by the Sisters of North Minneapolis for birthday parties they organize for underprivileged children in their neighborhood who otherwise would not have a party. Our very own Upper School students, who occasionally help with these parties, have said that these afternoons are some of the most memorable experiences of their high school careers. It is heartwarming to know that our small gestures can bring such joy. In the true spirit of Mother Teresa, “Not all of us can do great things, but we can do small things with great love.”

In sixth-grade Social Studies classes, students have been learning about the Women's suffrage movement and the right of women to vote in elections. They learned about peaceful protests and the first amendment, particularly freedom of speech and freedom of assembly. This topic came at the tail end of an Introduction to Civics unit as they are heading into the US history course next year. As part of this unit, the sixth graders considered some school rules and restrictions and the water bottle policy emerged as a point of contention. Mr. Monroe and Ms. Kretzman helped guide them along the way but the arguments, decisions and concessions were all student-driven. They staged a peaceful protest on Thursday of last week and handed me an official petition, signed by the entire sixth-grade class, with the request for a meeting to discuss amending the water bottle policy. The meeting took place on May 31. I was impressed with the students' arguments, based on science and research. The Middle School leadership committee, composed of Ms. Buethe, Mrs. Horttor and myself are going to weigh their arguments. Look for the final water bottle policy in the updated student handbook!

On Monday, May 22, the seventh-grade classes got a visit from their Lower School prayer buddies. They were invited to come and watch a play about the apostle Paul and his four journeys. The 7th graders did a great job presenting and, judging from their faces, the Lower School students were in awe of their grown-up buddies and hung on their every word. Cross-divisional activities like these underscore the fact that leadership opportunities happen organically at Visitation and give Middle School students a chance to connect and bond with the Lower School kids.

On May 30, the WEB leaders facilitated the last Middle School assembly of the year. The highlight was the world language music videos that showcased snippets of what the students had been learning in Chinese, French and Spanish classes. Some students are quite the performers in front of the camera and looked like they should attend gymnastics or drama camp this summer! At any rate, they looked like they had a great time putting it together and the music videos were enjoyed by all!

We got word that seventh grader Anna Iverson was the Chapter Winner of the DAR American History Essay Contest. Anna and her parents were invited to attend the Chapter meeting in Northfield on May 6, 2023, where Anna read her Essay and was presented with her awards. Congratulations to Anna and good luck at Regionals!

A few weeks ago, I wrote about Caroline Little who won the AIAA Trailblazing Stem Educator of the Year award, one of three in the country! As part of the award, she was invited to attend the gala in Washington DC. In her speech, Ms. Little said that “[...] my students are explorers and adventurers of our universe. Their unbridled enthusiasm for all things aerospace inspires me to push the boundaries of my teaching. They are leading the way as we prepare for a new era of space exploration, and together we are the Artemis generation.” As part of the Trailblazing Award, she will be able to attend a space launch sometime during the coming school year. 

Looking ahead: 

On Thursday, June 1, we will celebrate our eighth graders as they graduate from Visitation Middle School. The schedule for the day is as follows: 

  • 8:15 - 9:15 a.m.-- 8th-grade breakfast (students and Middle School faculty only), planned by the 7th grade and Parents' Association
  • 9:30 - 10:30 a.m. - Middle School Award Ceremony in DeSales auditorium
  • 10:30 - 11:30 a.m. - 8th-grade Graduation practice
  • 12:00 p.m. - 8th grade dismissed (except for the Decorating Committee; dismissed at 12:30 p.m.)
  • 6:00 p.m. - Graduation Mass in the Chapel (park in the Main Lot and enter through the Heart, Door 5)
  • 6:45 p.m. - Class photo on the steps in the Heart
  • 7:00 p.m. - Graduation Ceremony in the DeSales auditorium 

Please submit an RSVP with the number of attendees for mass and ceremony as soon as possible.

On Friday, June 2, the 6th and 7th graders are going bowling at Cedarvale Lanes. There is no cost to students, but concessions will be available for purchase at the bowling alley. Please complete this Permission and Release form by Wednesday, May 31. Attire is out-of-uniform. Students will be back in the Middle School Circle by 10:45 a.m., in time for dismissal. Have a wonderful summer!

Finally, I want to wish you all a wonderful summer! May each new day bring you happy memories to cherish when you return in the fall! I'm going to miss your presence at Visitation but I'm happy that you have this opportunity to enjoy the lazy days of summer with family and friends, and hopefully visit some of your favorite places!

As always, it was a privilege to partner with you and work with your daughter in this wonderful school!

With gratitude,
Ilse Norris
Director of Middle School