Natural Grounds/ Environmental Education

Highland Community School is committed to educating for sustainability. Research shows that in order to develop a strong sense of responsibility for the natural environment, we must regularly connect with a piece of land under the guidance of a caring mentor who displays concern for the environment. To create that reality for Highland students, Highland launched the Natural Grounds Redevelopment Project (Natural Grounds). Natural Grounds is a plan to transform our 2.5 acre school playground into an green laboratory for students with a comprehensive education component. We aspire to develop a robust environmental education program including an outdoor educational green landscape, stormwater management system, water conservation, urban sustainable food production & nutrition, and renewable energy. From bioswales to hoop houses to natural playground equipment, we are creating a space where children can connect with the environment on a daily basis.

With a full time Science and Environmental Education Coordinator, we are able to offer a wide variety of activities that plant and cultivate the seeds of a strong environmental ethic in our children. The Natural Grounds project is a demonstration of how living systems can serve the triple bottom line:

  • Economic: The problems that the next generation will be challenged to solve will require Science, Technology, Engineering & Math (STEM) yet we struggle as a country with literacy in these subjects. Our environmental education program brings STEM education to life and provides young people with the necessary academic skills and the environmental awareness to prepare for leadership roles in the STEM field in the future.
  • Social: The evidence is clear—spending time outdoors is good for children’s minds, bodies and souls. Green spaces on the school grounds connects students to the natural environment on a daily basis.
  • Environment:  We believe that this project will have a ripple effect, inspiring children to take care of the environment that sustains us.

Visual Arts

The mission of the visual art program at Highland Community School is to develop the child’s imagination, nurture skills, and teach concepts for self-expression.  Highland’s visual arts program is a sequential program which includes the basic elements and principles of design, art appreciation, visual awareness, and is fundamental to a child’s intellectual growth and self-expression.  We synthesize traditional elementary art education with a child’s Montessori education.  The curriculum is designed to complement the work they do in the classroom, wherein the fundamentals of art are woven into lessons that complement a child’s classroom work.      

Performing Arts

“The most inventive theater in Milwaukee.” -OnMilwaukee

“Some of the freshest local theater.” -Milwaukee Magazine

“We are in awe, Highland Community School…what you are doing is amazing and incredibly beautiful.” -Third Man Records

Highland’s performing arts programming has received national attention, along with a Certificate of Commendation from the State of Wisconsin. We see performing arts as not just an important tool for life, but as yet another way to bring our diverse community together. 

Students interested in the performing arts have a variety of opportunities awaiting them at Highland. All Highland students engage in weekly class sessions with Mr. Barry, the performance art director. The goal of these workshops is to help children see themselves as contributors to a team effort involving live performing. Young children will often engage in full-class singalongs, and older children will take part in full-class theatre games and team building.

Students in the elementary and adolescent programs have even more intermediate and involved opportunities to engage in the performing arts:

  • Lower elementary grades (1 – 3) participate in the Highland Community Circus, a one-of-a-kind talent show that helps children conquer stage fright and create their own unique and creative performance.

  • Students in upper elementary grades (4 – 6) work to put on an original play each spring; and participating students may elect to work in backstage run crew, set design crew, or in acting. (For some great reviews of past shows, look up our school on The Milwaukee Record’s website. 
  • Adolescent grades (7 – 8) are able to participate in up to four productions a year in Studio H, our signature blackbox theater. Adolescent productions include Comedies, Radio Dramas, Shakespeare, and productions written and directed by students.

Montessori Model United Nations

At Highland, we believe in our students— in their ideas, their energy and their capacity to change the world. So we invest in their leadership. Each year, our 6th graders participate in the Montessori Model United Nations Conference (MMUN), a global conference where students act as ambassadors from countries across the world. In preparation, they spend months researching policy, geography, history and current events. They grapple with difficult issues and develop their researching, writing, debating and presentation skills. After months of hard work, students travel to New York City to act as delegates at the United Nations Assembly Hall. They spend long hours developing resolutions with their peers and each student delivers a speech in the hall. This experience of negotiating and cooperating with peers from all over the world gives them a perspective on leadership that is impossible to match in the classroom.  Through this process, a deep passion for serving others is stoked.  Highlanders develop interesting plans for everything from getting medicine to areas in need to increasing renewable energy. Without this program, these students may have never had the opportunity to explore these ideas from a leadership perspective. Highland is committed to making certain all of these students have the opportunity to share their ideas and learn new ones from their peers from around the world.