At home, you teach your children values. Shouldn’t their school do the same? Respect and integrity are integral components of the Mounds Park Academy mission, and character development is woven into the MPA experience.
Lower School faculty carefully crafted and implemented a formal character development program called CHAMP (Character Happens at Mounds Park) in Lower School. Each month PreK through fourth grade students come together to learn about character traits such as friendship, cooperation, compassion, respect, self-control, responsibility, inclusiveness and integrity. What’s unique about MPA’s character development program is that students teach each other about character during monthly assemblies. In addition, service learning is embedded in the CHAMP program. Students learn the importance of giving back and helping others. Making Birthday Boxes for a local shelter is an example of service learning. Students raise money, purchase items for birthday boxes, assemble birthday items in a cake box so children less fortunate can celebrate their birthday. Our CHAMP curriculum has made a difference at MPA. Students strive to apply the character traits they’ve learned in school to their own lives.
In the Middle School, character education is woven into every facet of a student’s day. Mounds Park Academy students are incredibly kind, intelligent, and imaginative, and our faculty and staff work hard to model good citizenship and to maintain consistently high expectations for students. We believe that informal, ongoing messaging, practice, and reinforcement are critical, and use common language in our work. By challenging students to take risks and push themselves now, in a safe environment, we seek to foster a lifelong habit of ethical, active citizenship, as well as give students the confidence to navigate unknown opportunities and challenges.
Our program is individualized and relevant to our unique student body, thereby fostering student ownership and compelling students to dream big and do right. All Middle School students attend monthly character education assemblies, participate in small group discussions in advisory and other classes, and engage in self-reflection exercises and goal-setting activities. Students build an ePortfolio in which they place artifacts that demonstrate their growth and accomplishments in the nine pillars, and eighth grade students work with faculty mentors to shape a presentation that showcases their character strengths and reflects on their challenges. The upper school peer leaders also focus on these qualities during their monthly meetings with seventh and eighth grade students.
As a result of this work, the MPA Middle School continues to score above the INDEX mean on the Mission Skills Assessment, particularly in the areas of creativity, curiosity, ethics, resilience, and life satisfaction. This test is given to nearly 90 independent middle schools across the nation to measure non-cognitive skills.
The transition to Upper School at MPA begins with a Grade 9 Seminar in which students supported in their academic and life skills development. Whether a students has been at MPA for many years or is brand new to the school, this seminar will guide him or her in character development, ethical decision-making with technology, time management, dealing with stress, and more. In 10th grade, MPA students embark on a Respect Retreat and a team-building trip to Deep Portage through Youth Frontiers. In their senior year, students gather for assemblies to learn from professionals regarding serious issues such as self defense, personal finance, chemical dependency, and life after MPA.
All Upper School students must volunteer in the community for a required number of hours, and they may choose an organization with a mission that is important to them. Seniors complete a Senior Service Project, which is the culmination of many years of service learning and understanding the importance of giving back. A celebration towards the end of their senior year allows students to share their service learning experience with the MPA community. Many seniors also cultivate their character through projects in MPA's Public Policy course. They choose a policy to research and represent, and Minnesota laws have been passed with the help of the diligent students. Examples of public policy projects have been support of Minnesota's smoking ban, submission of a law prohibiting all cell phone use while operating a motor vehicle, and organization of a rally at the State Capitol to raise awareness of Minnesota's weak anti-bullying laws.