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1110 College NE
Grand Rapids, MI 49503



A Rookie's Guide to the Auction for the Love of Learning

Leigh Ebrom

Stepping Stones Montessori’s Auction for the Love of Learning is one of the school’s most important fundraisers. The Auction’s proceeds go directly towards operating costs—such as teacher salaries, classroom materials, and staff training. But just as importantly, it’s a lot of fun! If you’re new to the school (or haven’t attended an SSMS Auction), here are some things you need to know.

The Auction for the Love of Learning is scheduled for November 4, 2017, from 6:00 PM to 10:00 PM. Tickets are available online or at the school.

The Basics

Why Do We Have an Auction?

Believe it or not, tuition alone does not cover the cost of a Stepping Stones Montessori education. We raise additional funds for our budget through the Auction. We also have an annual fund campaign in the spring, and alumni families continue to remember us in their annual giving. But our school's budget depends on the money raised at the Auction. Rather than promote several wrapping paper sales, magazine drives, or fundraising races, we prefer to get together as a community at a single fundraiser.

Are Kids Invited?

The Auction is an adults-only event. Stepping Stones Montessori loves children. Our kids are fantastic. But every parent needs a night out. The Auction is a great excuse to get away, meet some equally cool parents, and support your children’s education.

When Should I Get There?

The Auction begins at 6:00 PM. While you do not have to show up at 6:00 sharp, it’s in your best interest to get there earlier rather than later. The evening begins with the silent auction—and tables will begin closing by 7:15 PM. Additionally, some of the sign-up events fill up quickly. If you show up really late, you’ll miss the opportunity to bid or sign up for these items.

The live auction will begin at approximately 8:00 PM. However, you do not have to stay for the entire event. Feel free to show up (and leave) whenever you want.

What is the Dress Code?

Do you think we're going to tell you what to wear? This is not a black tie event and you’ll see guests in everything from suits to jeans. We welcome everyone (even auction emcees dressed as hot dogs).


Where is the Auction Located?

The 2017 Auction for the Love of Learning is at Blandford Nature Center.

Do I Get an Assigned Seat?

We don’t have assigned seats in our classrooms-- why would we have them at the Auction? Feel free to mingle with other parents, staff members, and alumni.

Can I Get an Uber?

Absolutely. If you have a little too much fun, we encourage you to call a taxi or request an Uber. If necessary, we’ll bring your auction items to the school for pickup on Monday.

Can I Buy a Ticket at the Door?

Yes. If you decide at the last minute to attend, you may pay for tickets at the door. However, our Auction Committee prefers that you pre-order tickets so it can order enough food and drink.

Is Dinner Included?

There will be heavy hors d’oeuvres, but dinner is not offered.

You Mentioned Getting an Uber. Is There a Bar?

Absolutely. There will be a cash bar with beer and wine. Drinks are obtained by buying drink tickets. You can use a credit card to purchase drink tickets, but cash is preferred.

What’s Up for Bid?

Every year, there are amazing items at the Auction. Our staff, parents, and alumni donate really cool stuff and experiences. For many, the holiday season is fast approaching. There has to be someone on your list who would love homemade jam, a vacation in Leland, Michigan or monthly flower deliveries. 

You will also have the opportunity to bid on classroom art projects. These aren’t your standard macaroni-and-glitter pieces. They’re thoughtful (and sentimental) works that your kids helped make. In the past, classroom projects have included painted canvases, elaborate string art, and a student-built "free library."



Additionally, the Auction always has a series of sign-up events and items. At the Auction, you will see a series of sign-up boards with various activities and items listed. They typically include dinners, classroom photo books, and the always popular "Night with Friends"-- a December evening where your SSMS-enrolled elementary students get to hang out at school and have a pizza party. (Meanwhile, you can enjoy a dinner date, shop, or enjoy some peace and quiet.)



Finally, this year's Auction will include a wine pull. At check-in, you can buy a bottle of wine (or two) for $20 each. All wine pull bottles are all worth at least $15 and a few will be particularly special. You will receive your randomly chosen bottles at checkout. 

Check out the Auction Catalog for more information about this year's offerings.

Are the Sign-Up Events Just for "Veteran" Parents?

Every year, the school offers a series of sign-up events. For these events, you simply sign up and pay the stated price. Most of the events have limits on how many people can be included, so it's worth arriving early. There’s an Amazing Race–style road rally. You can enjoy a "Beer with Matt." It can be intimidating to sign up for a night out with strangers, but don't be shy! Our community is really friendly and fun. 


Can I Just Browse the Auction?

We don’t expect everyone to spend a lot of money at the Auction. Our catalog includes a wide range of price points: items range in cost from $15 to thousands of dollars. While this is a charity event, it is also a night of community building. Feel free to show up, have a drink, and browse.

I Can't Attend. Can I Still Participate in the Auction?

While we do not offer online bidding, consider donating. You and your loved ones can also buy 50/50 tickets! The tickets are a great way for your out-of-town friends and family to support Stepping Stones. Last year’s 50/50 winner received over $4,000—and you do not need to attend the Auction to participate in the raffle. If you're interested in buying 50/50 tickets, contact us.

How Do I Get Tickets?

Tickets to the Auction can be purchased at Stepping Stones or online. We're looking forward to seeing you there!

Why a Farm School? Parent Education Event with Hershey Montessori's Laurie Ewert-Krocker

Katie Powell

As Montessori families, you understand the importance of the prepared environment, which provides optimal conditions for the development of the whole child by meeting his or her social, emotional, cognitive, and physical needs. At our event, Impossible Without Me, Dr. Steven Hughes described how modern neuroscience is validating what Dr. Maria Montessori observed over 100 years ago--that brain development does not stop at adolescence. In fact, adolescence is characterized by big changes in the social, emotional, cognitive, and physical state of the child as he or she becomes a young adult. Like children, young adults can only develop to their full potential if we prepare an environment that meets their unique developmental needs.

As we think about the prepared environment for our middle school program, we are always evaluating our choices in this context. Before moving forward with any decision, we must be able to say, with confidence, “This is what we provide because these are the aids to development that adolescents need.” Maria Montessori envisioned adolescents building a community on a farm, because she believed that a farm environment provided the aids to development that adolescents need for their natural human tendencies to unfold across the third plane.

developmental needs of adolescents.png

The model for a Montessori adolescent community organized around the principles Dr. Montessori puts forth in her book, From Childhood to Adolescence, is Hershey Montessori’s adolescent community in Huntsburg, Ohio. Laurie Ewert-Krocker was instrumental to starting this exceptional program, where she remains on staff as the Upper School Program Director. We are thrilled to be working with Laurie to develop the curriculum for our middle school, and we want to provide you with the opportunity to benefit from her expertise on adolescent Montessori education as well.


Please join us for a parent education event featuring Laurie Ewert-Krocker on Saturday, October 7 from 4pm to 6pm at our school. Laurie will be speaking about her 25 years of experience at Hershey Montessori School and will be available to answer all of your questions about why Montessori adolescent education works best on a farm.

We are planning to host a community event for our families on River Ridge Farm, where our middle school will be located, in late November. We want to make sure you get all of your questions answered by Laurie while she is here, so we will be hosting this event at our main campus and we would prefer for this to be a parents-only event.

Welcome Back!

Elizabeth Topliffe

Don’t know much about history
Don’t know much biology
Don’t know much about a science book
Don’t know much about the French I took
But I do know that I love you
And I know that if you love me, too
What a wonderful world this would be
— Sam Cooke, Wonderful World

Welcome back to school. I say that every year. And just like every other year, I flinch a little when I say it. Stepping Stones Montessori School is so far from what most of us think of as “school”, and it feels cliché to say “Welcome Back to School” when we are so much more.

My observations of the first few days back definitely include “school”. Students are proudly reading aloud. Children are eagerly engaging with work on shelves—land forms, trinomial cubes, practical life, and outdoor play.

I’ve also observed so much more. Students’ faces light up with pride while carrying in some amazing book projects. Their trepidation about making a presentation to the class is replaced by a look of belonging once other students go out of their way to help them know that it will be okay.

Upper elementary students have been interacting and playing with Children’s House students, running and enjoying games together.

A few parents, initially anxious about the first few days, have relaxed and eased in to life in this community.


At this time of year, I reflect back to my own memories of pre-school and elementary school. I was curious what other people remember from school. So, I started asking lots of people—colleagues, parents, friends—what they remember about school. I have yet to find someone who includes academics in their answer. Not one person.

Friends remembered events like school plays, games at recess, friends, and field trips. They remembered lunch boxes, backpacks, and the path walked to school. Former colleagues recalled science projects, salt maps, and art projects.

Admin staff mentioned being part of a MEAP Party or the MEAP Pep Rally (for those of you new to Michigan, MEAP stands for Michigan Education Assessment Program—a standardized test given to Michigan students prior to 2008). My own school experience lacked the parties or pep rallies surrounding standardized tests, so I felt a little left out.

I remember friends. Kellie Stanley, Teresa Kistler, Stephanie Drummond, Lori Goldberg, Philip Christensen, Eric Dumas, and a sea of people who only own first names in my memory—Pia, Tamra, Kevin, Josh . . . . I remember teachers, especially the teachers who made an impact on me (both positive and negative). Mrs. Richter, Mrs. Emory, Mrs. Lovelace, Mr. Fox, Mrs. Parsons. . . . .


Most people, including me, remembered music. They remembered the songs they sang in choir. They could sing every lyric of the songs they learned with friends—whether it was “Jingle Bells, Batman Smells”, “Deck the Halls with Poison Ivy”, or something much nicer like “My Favorite Things”. (As an aside, exactly why does Batman still smell all these decades later?)

We remember very little of homework, grades, tests, or even learning. Those things were likely part of our school life. They just were not the things of memories.

Instead of welcoming you back to school, I welcome you back to the Stepping Stones community. Welcome back to memory making. Welcome back to a school where the art room actually smells like art. Welcome back to projects. Welcome back to a home where other parents are around to help each other out. Welcome back to a place where professionals care about your entire family.

Welcome back to music.

Welcome back to time outdoors.

Welcome back to the place where memories are made—together.

My best,



PS—If you know the lyrics to any of these songs, we should hang out:

“Rhinestone Cowboy”


“Delta Dawn”

“You Make me Feel Like Dancing”

“Blinded by the Light”

“Disco Duck”

“I’m Your Boogie Man”

“Da Doo Ron Ron”