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1110 College NE
Grand Rapids, MI 49503



Filtering by Tag: Montessori

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!

Happy Birthday Maria Montessori!

Elizabeth Topliffe

You say it’s your birthday
It’s my birthday too, yeah
--Paul McCartney

Today, Stepping Stones Montessori School celebrates the birth of Maria Montessori on August 31, 1870. Maria Montessori was a scientist, an observer, an innovator, and possessed the poise and persistence to transfer her observations into actions and methods.

In her day, Maria Montessori was a radical thinker. Many of her observations and conclusions have been proven with medical technology decades after the fact. Some of those conclusions include:

  1. Cognition and physical movement are intertwined.
  2. Children’s needs differ at points of natural development, providing sensitive periods for learning specific tasks and ideas.
  3. Adolescence continues through age twenty-four.
  4. Extrinsic rewards get in the way of becoming self-motivated.

We invite you to share in this special day by sharing a favorite quote from Dr. Montessori or to share why the beauty of the Montessori classroom resonates with you. Here are a few from our faculty:

 “An education capable of saving humanity is no small undertaking: It involves the spiritual development of man, the enhancement of his value as an individual, and the preparation of young people to understand the times in which they live.”

--(From Education and Peace)[submitted by Beth Goodrich, Lead Guide in the Dogwood Room]

“We discovered that education is not something that the teacher does, but that it is a natural process which develops spontaneously in the human being.”

--(From The Secret of Childhood) [submitted by Holly Olejnik, Lead Guide in the Hawthorn Room]

“There is no description, no image in any book that is capable of replacing the sight of real trees, and all the life to be found around them, in a real forest. Something emanates from those trees which speaks to the soul, something no book, no museum is capable of giving.” --

--(From From Childhood to Adolescence) [submitted by Margaret Venema, Co-Lead Guide in the Willow Room]

“Let the children be free; encourage them; let them run outside when it is raining; let them remove their shoes when they find a puddle of water; and when the grass of the meadow is wet with dew, let them run on it and trample it with their bare feet; let them rest peacefully when a tree invites them to sleep beneath its shade; let them shout and laugh when the sun wakes them in the morning.”

--(From The Discovery of the Child) [submitted by Jenn Porter, Lead Guide in the White Cedar Room]

“The most important period of life is not the age of university studies, but the first one—the period from birth to the age of six.”

--(From The Absorbent Mind) [submitted by Emily Jacobson, Lead Guide in the Tulip Tree Room]

“The person who is developing freely and naturally arrives at a spiritual equilibrium in which he/she is a master of their own actions, just as one who has acquired physical poise can move freely.”

--(From The Montessori Method) [submitted by Jan Reed, Co-Lead Guide of the Willow Room]

“Joy, feeling one's own value, being appreciated and loved by others, feeling useful and capable of production are all factors of enormous value for the human soul.”

--(From From Childhood to Adolescence) [submitted by Elizabeth Topliffe, Head of School]

Big Goals

Elizabeth Topliffe


“I only see my goals, I don't believe in failure
'Cause I know the smallest voices, they can make it major”

--Lukas Graham

by Elizabeth Topliffe, Head of School

We talk about our goals often here. We encourage students to talk about the pictures in their minds. At Stepping Stones, rather than telling students what to do and how to do it, our guides are trained facilitators. Our job is to help students share their mental pictures, build those pictures into reality, and help students understand the practical realities that go into the work of achieving their goals.

With the approval of our Strategic Plan on March 16, the entire Stepping Stones community is now working from a shared picture. We are clear about where we are going. We have specific strategies to get us there.

With these goals and strategies, we are ready to take on the difficult work of making our picture a reality. We know how to work hard, and we relish both the work and the success. Let’s face it, we’re good at that.

So, let’s celebrate both! Please join us on Thursday, April 27 at 7 PM for a celebration of the final Strategic Plan. We’ll gather at the Downtown Market for beverages and light hors d'oeuvres. There will be conversation about the Strategic Plan and opportunities to help us achieve our goals. Please plan to attend this event!

If you’re wondering about that shared picture, here is a pretty broad overview. As our strategic planning process moved forward, we determined four areas for focus in the Plan. They are:

  • Governance & Financial Model
  • Supporting a Vibrant Montessori Experience
  • Harnessing Our Community's Passion
  • Becoming the Voice of Montessori in West Michigan

I want you to know the purpose of and highlights from each of these goal areas because they encompass a lot of work and initiatives.

Governance & Financial Model—As we worked on the Strategic Plan, our committees continuously looped back to our need for a professional governance model, solid financial processes, and operational strength. Stepping Stones was founded as a parent-run school, and we honor that history. At the same time, our school is in transition to a mature and effectively run school. With an eye toward long-term sustainability, Stepping Stones will work in the following areas to build a strong operational structure: board policies that support strategic board governance, leadership development, creating a budgeting and tuition model, and ensuring the administrative structure to support that. We will also review salary structures and planning for contingencies.

Supporting a Vibrant Montessori Experience—As I mentioned in my last note, the strategic planning process revealed that Stepping Stones is Montessori to the core. Our school has consistently provided excellent, authentic Montessori education in Grand Rapids. The experience of our students is at the heart of who we are. We will continue to build on this strength by: reviewing our scope and sequence, ensuring that our programs reflect our key values, developing our program into the adolescent years (junior high), and ensuring that our facilities support our programs.

Harnessing our Community’s Passion—Our parents, alumni, and community are strong, generous, and loyal to our school. I’m astounded how often an alumna speaks highly and passionately about their school experience at Stepping Stones. They remember materials and work. Former students laugh about their musicals and operas with comical stories and occasionally photos. To equip the school for its future, Stepping Stones will develop an advancement office to employ proven, professional processes to engage and involve a wide range of people.

Becoming the Voice of Montessori in West Michigan—The Grand Rapids community enjoys a rich commitment to schools of choice and alternative education.  Stepping Stones enjoys a niche in the community as the only secular private school that holds high levels of Montessori excellence. To continue our growth, ensure the future success of the school, and to enrich our community’s understanding, Stepping Stones will become a resource for families and West Michigan seeking Montessori expertise.

These goals are big, and our future depends on our entire community’s focus on them. Our picture of the school’s future was built  by many community members—current parents, former parents, alumni, staff, and board members. The picture we drew together is better than any single picture we could have created. I’m excited to share more with you!

Stepping Stones Montessori School nurtures global citizens and guides each child to realize their unique potential.

This mission is carried out in through our core values and our community identity. Stepping Stones Montessori is:

  • Established in Partnership 
  • Rooted in Montessori, and
  • Focused on the Child.