Lower School News
At this exciting juncture in MPA's history, I am honored to have been asked to step into the role of Lower School Director starting in July. I believe that my 28 years with MPA - teaching in the classroom, serving as assistant lower school director and faculty evaluator, experiencing MPA as a parent of two MPA alums, and continuing a lifetime of learning as a graduate of a masters in educational leadership program and a stint at the Stanford Design School - have uniquely prepared me to take on this new role. I take up the reins of the Lower School with a passion for excellence and an unwavering commitment to help the MPA community become the best that it can be.
As I contemplate my goals and priorities for 2013-14, I want you first to know that I value each student and family in Lower School and will work hard to ensure that the needs of all are met on a daily basis. My office door will always be open, and I want to hear about your concerns, your interests, and your goals for your children. So please don't hesitate to drop in to say "hello" and to let me know what issues are on your mind.
I am bursting with new ideas, so let me share some of my plans and priorities with you as I embark on this new challenge.
- I plan to create a curriculum and iLab to teach and reinforce innovation, creativity, and problem solving. High-level and independent thinking will be stressed. We will select a design challenge as a Lower School to work on throughout the year. I will partner with teachers to make these concepts relevant to classroom studies.
- I pledge to collaborate with teachers to build consistency and continuity across all curriculum areas. This work will involve strengthening communication among teachers around curriculum goals and objectives, both within the grade level and between grade levels and subject areas.
- My goal is to create a cohesive Lower School and to foster a stronger bond among students within our division. This will include starting a Monday Morning Meeting, developing a LS walking program, and planning exciting special events. Stay tuned!
- I plan to support teachers in developing programs that meet the needs of students. This will include setting up book clubs, math clubs, or reading clubs. It will mean challenging those who master the classroom curriculum easily and supporting learning styles that might require more innovative approaches.
I am confident that we will have a great "new" beginning in Lower School. I am so grateful for the support of the LS teachers, and I look forward to partnering with them to make LS the place to be and become! I welcome any questions, comments, or ideas that will help LS at Mounds Park Academy flourish.
I can't wait to get started (actually, I already have!).
A few weeks ago, Anne Atchison (Fifth and Sixth Grade Dean of Students) and I collaborated on an e-comm for our Middle School community about the changes in our culture's perception of bullying that we read about in Susan Porter's new book, Bully Nation: Why America's Approach to Childhood Aggression is Bad for Everyone. Since that time, we have received many positive comments about that post and its content; therefore, we are sharing a Lower School version with you, the Lower School community. Should you have any questions or comments, please feel free to give me a call or send me a note.
In her recently released book, Bully Nation: Why America's Approach to Childhood Aggression is Bad for Everyone, Susan Porter set out to uncover why bullying has increased among children, but her findings were not what she expected. What has changed, Porter discovered, was how our culture thinks and talks about aggressive childhood behavior. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services at their stopbullying.gov site defines bullying as aggressive and repeated behavior that involves an imbalance of power. "Kids who bully use their power--such as physical strength, access to embarrassing information, or popularity--to control or harm others."
There is a distinct difference between being a bully and being mean. Bullying is an act of violence; being mean is an act of humanity. We can't and do not expect lower school children in their normal healthy development to be consistently kind, nor should we hold them to unrealistic adult standards. What we should do is avoid fixed mindsets and labels like "bully" and "victim" and focus on growth mindsets that include learning, accountability, and forgiveness.
Porter writes, "Using the term 'bully' is an easy way out, and it allows adults to avoid the very hard work of helping children change their behavior. This is not just an issue of semantics, as any parent of an accused child can attest. It's about believing in growth or not." She states, "We must admit that our approach to childhood aggression is flawed. Our children are not worse than they used to be, nor are they less resilient. But we adults seem to be. Instead of being so quick to label them, we must teach them how to deal with their aggression and pain appropriately and to develop compassion, impulse control, and resilience in their relationships. And we must learn to do the same."
At Mounds Park Academy, we would like to work together as a community and to invest our time and effort into teaching our children to develop compassion and empathy and to learn how to face adversity and develop resilience. In this endeavor, we must take care to distinguish between what is true bullying, which is relatively rare, and what is typical, albeit still unacceptable, inappropriate social interactions between children. We need to be committed to teaching our children about social growth and strength of character. There is great value in learning to cope with and conquer adversity, conflict, and failure, along with celebrating successes. And, as a number one goal, we must demand a growth mindset and commit to doing the hard work of helping children grow emotionally and socially. This is our commitment to your child while at Mounds Park Academy and we ask that you join us in that commitment beyond these walls.
If you have ever wanted to run away to the circus or dreamed of gathering with like-minded people to discuss books, then MPA has the perfect opportunity for you. During the week of March 4-8, 2013 the annual Book Festival is coming to town.
The book festival kicks off with the opening of the Middle School café located in the Kreischer Gym, while the gallery will be re-purposed as the three-ring circus main stage for lower school students. Author Jacqueline West will discuss her series, Elsewhere: The Shadows with middle school students on Monday March 4th and Michael Hall; author of My Heart is Like a Zoo will delight lower school students and families on Friday, March 8th during Family Night.
Family Night is the culmination of the Book Festival Week and takes place on Friday, March 8th, 2013. Registration for the evening will be sent home to lower school families in the next few weeks. The evening will include a barbecue dinner in the MPA Big Top tent in the cafeteria, face painting, crafts, a photo booth and a presentation/book signing by featured author Michael Hall.
This is a great event for families with children of all ages and is widely attended. However, if you are still not convinced you should attend, and you're asking yourself "Why should I give up a Friday evening at home?" Consider these reasons why fourth grade students believe you should come to the greatest show on earth.
Reasons You Should Come to the
Big Top Book Festival
"You can dress up related to the theme and share books with the people you love."
"You can pressure your parents to buy you more books."
"You get to meet authors of your favorite books."
"There are lots of books to peruse; you get to see your friends while your parents hang out with other parents."
"Awesome books for all ages and great food."
"You can get your face painted, need I say more?"
- Marina Dale
PreK-8 Assistant Director
Our Lower School students have their special space in the Gallery where they gather and explore the many books. This year's theme is "Circus"!! Join us during Family Night on March 8th to meet Michael Hall and enjoy his presentation. Pre-order books are also available! Lower School students partner with Upper School students to read together, prepare Readers' Theaters, and create art about their favorite books. We are now taking t-shirt orders until Feb 13th.
Are you ready to sign up for conferences? If so, grab your smartphone, iPad, laptop or PC. For the first time, MPA Lower School families will be using an online system to sign-up for Parent-Teacher Conferences.
The MPA Lower School holds two sets of conferences during each school year. At each conference, you have a 25-minute conference with the homeroom teacher. Our second round of conferences will take place during the week of February 4 - 8. Thursday, February 7 is a night that many families with students in both Middle School and Lower School choose because we host conferences until 8pm that evening for both divisions.
Below you will find a link to a website where you can sign up for the date and time that works best for you. The link will be active and available to you from 12:00pm on Thursday, January 10 through 12:00pm on Thursday, January 17. Once you select a specific date and time, that time is yours and is not available for other parents. After completing the process, feel free to print a copy for your records.
You will need to log in with your PowerSchool password to begin the online scheduling process. If you need help with your login or password, contact Ann Caspar at email@example.com or give her a call at (651) 748-5565. Thank you for your cooperation and support as we make history together!
Before you begin, here are a few items to remember:
The website is only accessible via the link below. You cannot access this link through the MPA website.
Before requesting times, please check your child's activities schedule for any conflicts.
1. Click on the link <conferences.moundsparkacademy.org/start/mpaprek-6>.
2. You will need to log in with your PowerSchool login and password.
3. If you have more than one child in PreK-6, in order to prevent double booking, we encourage you to use the link account feature to create a single appointment schedule for those students.
4. Click on the scheduler link.
5. Select your child to bring up the time frames and teachers. From this grid, you may select the open time that works for you.
6. When you have finished making appointments, print your appointment schedule.
If you have technical issues, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Perhaps, like me, you've opened your child's take-home folder one day and find a white envelope with your name written on the outside. Unsuspecting, you open it and find a copy of the Lower School Stop, Think and Plan form which details an incident involving your student making poor choices on the playground which led to hurtful words and actions. Perhaps then, like me, you begin calmly asking your student what happened only to have them reply, "I don't know," or "I don't remember." As your questions continue, the volume of your voice (as well as your blood pressure) begins to rise. Ultimately, you give up the calm approach and say to your child, "You know better! Words should not be used to hurt people." Or my personal favorite, "What were you thinking?" The conversation ends with you sternly telling your child you never want to receive another one of these forms again!
Although I have removed any names to protect the identity of my children, I'm certain this scene has a sense of familiarity to Lower School families. I must confess that before I began working in the Lower School, I had a preconceived notion that when a Stop, Think and Plan form arrived home in what I referred to as the "envelope of doom," it was a direct reflection on my parenting skills. However, now that I have had the opportunity to administer the forms on numerous occasions, I am proud to say I have learned to not fear the Stop, Think and Plan form, but instead to appreciate the opportunity it gives me as a parent to talk with my children about making mistakes, which we all do.
From making healthy food choices at lunch to following teacher directions in the classroom, our students make hundreds of good decisions every day. Unfortunately, as parents we sometimes focus on the mistakes our children make, often forgetting that these mistakes are an important part of the learning process. Although hearing about your child's mistakes can be one of the hardest aspects of parenting, watching them learn from their mistakes can be one of the most rewarding.
The Stop, Think and Plan form was designed with the goal of helping students recognize where their choices and behavior went awry. When a student has made a poor choice, the teacher or I will take time to coach the student through the situation and complete the Stop, Think and Plan form. The process of completing the form helps the student focus on what happened and how they contributed to the problem. Once the student and the adult have summarized what transpired, the focus shifts to how the student can react differently the next time they face a similar situation.
Taking time to help students understand the mistakes they make is a natural part of the learning process. So, when the "envelope of doom" arrives in your student's folder, please remember that neither your student's homeroom teacher nor I see these incidents as a reflection on your parenting skills. I hope you stay calm, talk through the situation with your child, and ask them not so much about what they did wrong but what they learned.
- Marina Dale
PreK-8 Assistant Director
Back in October, I created a post for the Middle School division about some criteria points that can be used as evidence of an extraordinary Middle School. Since that time, I have collected some additional data that I believe provides evidence of an extraordinary Lower School as well.
When I created that first post, I was looking ahead to the admission season and our second year of being able to award a Malone Family Foundation Scholarship. Just last year, Mounds Park Academy was awarded a $2 million grant from the Malone Family Foundation. This grant funds scholarships for gifted students whose families are not able to afford the full cost of a Mounds Park Academy education.
As we began thinking about the current criteria and possible standardized assessments, I couldn't help but think about the MPA program and its commitment to a challenging curriculum. I am excited about my findings and hope you enjoy them as well.
When Newsweek ranked its Top 20 High Schools, they looked at ACT scores and SAT scores. Middle Schools and Lower Schools do not have ACT and SAT results. So I dug further. What makes a National Blue Ribbon School a Blue Ribbon School?
One criterion is that the school is in the top fifteen percent of the schools in the nation in reading and math. One way to measure this stat is school achievement scores on the CTP 4. We currently administer the CTP 4 to students in grades three through seven. When looking to become a National Blue Ribbon School, they ask schools to report results in grades 4, 5, and 7. Our results and the comparisons are below.
Grade Scale Score at 85th Percentile MPA Scale Score
Grade 4 331 338
Grade 5 342 339
Grade 7 350 352.6
Grade Scale Score at 85th Percentile MPA Scale Score
Grade 4 293 316
Grade 5 322 328.9
Grade 7 354 365.5
These results provide evidence that a focus on the entire child, a commitment to fine arts, and a desire for academic achievement can all flourish in one program. That one program is MPA. And, as I have said in the past and continue to see on a daily basis, the MPA Lower School is an extraordinary place to grow and learn!
Mounds Park Academy
Gauld writes, "After 35 years in the character education "camp", I've learned two things:"
1. Character is inspired rather than imparted. (We don't pour it in, we draw it out.)
2. You must influence the influencers. (And family is the biggest influencer.)
If you have looked at the MPA Lower School website, you may have noticed a link to our CHAMP Blog. The K-4 Character Happens At Mounds Park program is a program that likewise believes those two things. This program has taken specific steps to bring these beliefs to life.
If you visit our CHAMP Blog you will find a Home to School Connection as one of the links near the top of that page. This page gives parents book recommendations, activities, and advice on the topics we are focusing on in our classrooms.
In our CHAMP Philosophy statement, we list both Key Attributes and Major Goals. Our first key attribute is a partnership between school, parents, and the broader community. This is not just a coincidence. We understand that working together is the only way to succeed.
As a school, we are not perfect. As parents, we give our best efforts but are likewise not perfect. That is a good thing. If we as a school and you as parents, together, interact in positive ways, demonstrate self-control, and model support of others, so will our children.
Malcolm Gauld points out that many schools tend to reach for a character education program to fix a problem. After they perceive the problem is fixed, it goes back on the shelf. At MPA, we take a more long term look at inspiring character. Just this year, we have added more literature to our monthly focus and use lunch time announcements to inspire our students.
Gauld used a poem by Charles Reade to end his article. This poem is such a great fit for MPA, that I will do the same.
Sow an act and you reap the habit;
Sow a habit and you reap a character;
Sow a character and you reap a destiny.
Thank you for partnering with us to create a school that truly inspires students.
Panther Pride Lower School Fun Run
Grab your running shoes and show some MPA pride by participating in the annual Pre-K through 4th Grade Homecoming Fun Run on Saturday, September 22, 2012
9:45 a.m. - Pick up race number and t-shirt (Lansing Center Lobby)
10 a.m. - Races Begin (McKeown Track)
Three separate races will be held. All registrants will receive a free Fun Run T-shirt & Panther water!
Please complete the registration form and return to the Lower School Office by Thursday, September 20th.