Upper School News
In reflecting upon my ten years in the Mounds Park Academy Upper School (US), I have a keen sense of how the school has grown and changed while striving to maintain the core mission of its founders. For example, the building has grown to meet the significant demands of the school over time (some of us remember varsity basketball games in the Kreischer Gym, Middle School games in the Nicholson Center, and the US Biology classroom being located in the center of the intersection now occupied by a lower school French classroom). In one survey of room usage, we found that every classroom in the building was in use for over 90 percent of every school day. So, most teachers could be found doing their lesson preparation in shared classrooms while other classes were in progress in the room. Students could be found crammed into hallways and rooms with little or no place to be with their friends or study with one another. The immediate need for relief within our physical space launched the building of the entire Upper School area. The science classrooms, the Hart Commons, the Lansing Center, the enclosed courtyard, the expanded locker areas and wider hallways serve as examples that were all designed to address the needs for improving the experience of the entire MPA community. It is hard to imagine not having made the changes we did. More to the point, change has always been a part of what happens at MPA, and the coming year will be no exception. At the core of our community is the desire to enhance and cultivate enduring relationships with everything from people to important ideas.
The last decade has also brought major changes in mobile technology, advancements in all areas of science - including the exploration of cloning, a continually orbiting manned space station, and the prospect of almost all forms of electronic device being connected to the web. While there is a certain amount of cliché involved, it is safe to say that the world continues to evolve and change at a rapid rate. A 1965 paper, published by Intel co-founder Gordon Moore, established that processing speed accelerates (doubles) about every 2 years. The semiconductor industry has used "Moore's Law" as a key indicator for research and development of all things electronic. Interestingly , the cost of the technology available continues to fall for the consumer as products eventually saturate the market place while the expense of research and development of the technology continues to rise. So, in order to survive, many companies form partnerships and turn to the information super highway for knowledge that is shared. I would argue that the shifting attitude toward sharing and collaboration is one of the other hallmark changes of the past decade at MPA.
What makes a Mounds Park Academy education so valuable is the remarkable balance between being excited about ideas and the range of possibilities while still being grounded in the mature ethical decisions of our day. We in the Upper School are excited about the following plans and priorities for the upcoming school year:
- The introduction of a new academic advisory program, beginning for students in Ninth Grade, which will match a small number of classmates with a member of the Upper School Faculty;
- Following up on this year's new Robotics course, the introduction into the schedule of three new electives for the 2013-14 academic school year: Persuasive Communication, Advanced Topics in Calculus, and Yearbook II: Graphic Marketing;
- The beginning of a three-year process to introduce three new Advanced Placement courses to the curriculum: World History, English Language and Composition, and Biology; and
- A full review of the Upper School master schedule, to ensure that it best serves our programmatic goals now and into the future.
It is my belief that MPA will remain the vibrant place that all of us commit ourselves to every day. We do have a remarkable community, and I invite everyone to join me in moving us into the future.
2013-14 Upper School Director
MPA did very well at our 5th and final Math League meet of the season on Monday, Feb. 11, finishing in 2nd place with 80 points, only 3 points behind SPA, but ahead of Blake for the 2nd meet in a row!
Matt Ehren tied for division champion for the season. He will continue on to the state tournament in March. Alex Grabanski finished 8th in the division for the season.
We had some outstanding individual performances today as well. We had a perfect score in each individual event. Michelle Galbavy earned a perfect 7 points in the A event on puzzle problems. Liam Lu earned a perfect score in event B on geometry. And Matt had perfect scores in event C on counting and probability and event D with problems adapted from last year's AMC-12.
After Matt, with a perfect 14 points, Connor Olson earned 10 points, followed by Alex Grabanski and Schuyler Rosefield with 9 points. I bought Schuyler, Alex, and Connor each a Coke before we left. Apparently it worked. Michelle and Liam earned 8 points. I probably should've bought each of them a Coke as well.
This score should move MPA up a few spots in the overall state rankings, so MPA may earn an invitation to the state tournament. We should find out later this week.
- Coach Daniel Ethier
In the photo above, from left to right are Josh Sullivan, Liam Lu, Alex Grabanski, Schuyler Rosefield, Matt Ehren, Connor Olson, Meghan Zhou, Karsten Dahlberg, Margaret Lee, and Michelle Galbavy.
Ten Mounds Park Academy seniors were inducted into the National Honor Society in a ceremony on October 16. Pictured from left, MPA's new NHS members are Callan Schackor, Vincent Thao, Trevor Killeen, Rebecca Millberg Cameron Meyer-Mueller, Christen Saul, Sarah Anderson, Charlotte Colantti, Hena Vadher, and Malone Mischke.
National Honor Society members are selected by a faculty committee based on guidelines established by the National Honor Society. NHS members demonstrate outstanding scholarship, character, leadership, and service to others. Congratulations to these outstanding students!
Congratulations to the four Mounds Park Academy seniors who have been named National Merit Scholarship Semifinalists. Trevor Killeen, Betsy Krenkel, Benjamin Neumann-Chun, and Connor Olson are among the approximately 16,000 Semiﬁnalists announced yesterday in the 58th annual National Merit Scholarship Program.
These academically talented high school seniors have an opportunity to continue in the competition for some 8,300 National Merit Scholarships worth more than $32 million that will be offered next spring.
Attention Upper School students:
Interested in learning more about the MPA 2013 trip to England and France?
This amazing trip is open to all US students!
Find out details about the trip, including a travel itinerary here.
We will be having an information session next Wednesday, August, 29th at 5 p.m. in room 159.
Please note: The deadline is September 15th.
To enroll login at: www.EducationalTravel.com/Login
Group Username: MPA
Group Password: englandfrance
Please do not hesitate to contact us with any questions or concerns.
Upper School Director
One of many things that make MPA special is the constant striving to make experience a basis for learning. This is more than simply being able to answer the age old student question, "when am I going to need to know this?" While not every lesson taught can be readily integrated or immediately applied to the life of every student, there is little debate about whether experiential learning is valuable or that educators try to make learning meaningful. John Dewey was quoted as saying that "The belief that all genuine education comes about through experience does not mean that all experiences are genuinely or equally educative." Doing something does not simply mean that learning is inevitable. However, at MPA, we have two events in the spring that are integrated into the high school that represent the truest form of experiential learning: the grade 10 Deep Portage trip in February and the senior Service Fair in June. These are just two of the opportunities that our students have to make their world richer and more connected whether it is in nature or through helping those that need their help.
This year marked the 23rd year the tenth graders at MPA have gone to the Deep Portage Learning Center in Hackensack, MN. Biology teacher Seth Lindenfelser, math teacher Michele Maturen, world language teacher Ginna Schultz and Assistant Upper School Director Randy Comfort served as the four adult chaperones for the students on the trip this year. Although the groups stayed in the main lodge, they spent most of their 2 days outside enjoying the northern Minnesota winter wonderland. The students were divided into four groups and took turns doing the following: cross country skiing, snow shoeing, orienteering, winter survival skills, the Bass Pond study of water bacteria, indoor rock climbing wall, night hikes, a class sharing and campfire circle and the Pioneer Olympics. Highlights of the trip were plentiful as the class had a chance to bond together, learn about an area of their home state, and have some fun. (For more information on the Deep Portage Conservation Reserve, visit their website: http://www.deep-portage.org/).
On June 4, the senior class will put their service projects on display for the 5th annual Service Fair. The Fair runs from 1 to 4pm and all members of the MPA community are invited to come celebrate the work of our seniors. Stop by and ask questions of our students and let them describe their service experience for you or take one of their handouts to read about what they learned in their process. This is the culminating event for seniors that allows them a chance to highlight their effort, but can also serve to inspire younger students to think of service as a way of being. The achievement of their service work is not measured in college acceptances or GPA, but rather in how they made a positive difference for any community they are a part of.
It is a strong belief of the upper school faculty that communicating effectively is a hallmark demonstration of learning. Not coincidentally, this value is articulated as part of the MPA mission statement. Ask our students about their experiences in order to find out what they have learned.
Assistant Upper School Director
While Mr. Wagner has moved on to research and write a new book about how teachers cultivate in their students the ability to innovate (Creating Innovators, 2012), too many people continue to linger on the issue of defining what skills students will need while the 21st century speeds past. In the year 2012, we need to be fully invested in meeting current students' needs, not talking about what they will need. We also need to be prepared to adapt to new understandings as they present themselves.
Wagner's interest in innovation is a good example of a new understanding. One can see how his appreciation for innovation grew out of what he identified three years ago as the three skill areas of agility and adaptability, initiative and entrepreneurialism, and curiosity and imagination. Teachers at MPA have likewise embraced the value of an innovative mindset and responded by revising curriculum (e.g., Biology, English 9), introducing significant changes to current courses (Photography, Yearbook, World Literature), teaching wholly new courses (Robotics, World History 9/10), and recommitting to courses that foster student innovation (Physical Science, Public Policy).
What does all of this have to do with the student experience at MPA? Long-term MPA commitments to experiential education, to technological facility, and to a student-centered classroom anticipated many of the "new" ideas of the last twenty years. At the same time, the 600 year old renaissance of the classical commitment to the liberal arts is still at the core of a contemporary college prep education and it remains at the core of an MPA program.
Precisely because of their commitment to the old and the new, which is embedded in a student-centered, college preparatory mission, MPA teachers remain committed to finding new ways to connect the enduring understandings and skills of their disciplines to the new demands of the present. The proof is in the students who can marry understandings of the past to those of the present.
Upper School Director
Upper School Director
In Physical Education at Mounds Park Academy, experiential education has always been common practice. Physical Education classes involve more than teaching skills. We allow students to strive to do their best physically, provide them with an opportunity to grow personally, and promote a healthy, competitive spirit. The social setting of a Physical Education class allows students to be responsible, cooperative, and understanding.
Most class periods begin with movement exploration with fitness as an integral outcome. We vary what we teach with hopes that each student can find a niche activity as a means to achieving and maintaining a high fitness level for the present and the future. Often, work on a skill or a group of skills will follow with the idea that the students will take these learned skills, incorporate them with strategies, and then use them during team and individual play.
One of main goals of the Physical Education Department is that each student leaves MPA
Relationships between students and teachers are nurtured daily in physical education classes and in athletics at Mounds Park Academy. Our community is enhanced as special bonds are created between teacher coaches and student athletes. This is evident as a large number of graduates return to the MPA campus for homecoming, sporting events, and alumni functions, often seeking out the teachers and coaches that played a vital role in their MPA experience.
Experiential learning at Mounds Park Academy is established in both our Physical Education and our extra-curricular Athletic programs, and learning by participation enables our student athletes to achieve the mission of the school of becoming independent thinkers.
- Scott Peeler
Upper School Director
All MPA students take theatre classes, beginning in first grade. By the time they reach the ninth grade, a wide variety of elective theatre classes are open to them. Additionally, extracurricular opportunities in theatre open up to students in the 6th grade (Middle School Play, Winter Show, and the Spring Musical). In short, there's a whole lotta theatre going on!
"The Theatre Department provides a comprehensive drama curriculum and an extracurricular program of theatre productions and activities which promote self exploration through the use of all theatrical elements- music, language, movement, and the visual arts. The department seeks to develop an understanding of artistic ideas and an appreciation of the concepts of form and style, while fostering and aesthetic awareness and appreciation for the arts." The preceding mouthful is our department's mission statement, and it clearly indicates that we believe that we have important work to do. What may not be as clear is the fact that "making theatre" is active, vibrant, and challenging, with a decided emphasis on "doing."
The Winter Show process is a good example of how the page-to-stage process works. Actually, the Winter Show is a class and a production; the course meets during the fall semester, and auditions for the class are held in late May-early June. Up to 20 students are admitted to the course and are also members of the cast and stage management members. The class focuses on a specific social/historical issue, which is related to themes in the chosen script; very often, the topic is controversial. Students are immersed in the issue through research, interviews, guest speakers, field experiences, and shared reports presented in seminar style. Lively discussions ensue (everyone has opinions to share!), questions are posed, and a lot of brainstorming and possible solutions are offered. The class concurrently participates in student-led vocal and physical warm-ups, improvisational work, and teacher-led acting exercises. Casting for individual roles happens during first quarter, as well.
During second quarter, seminar reports wrap up, and classroom focus shifts to discussion of the play itself, which is fully mounted and presented during two weekends at the end of January. Rehearsals after school begin shortly before Thanksgiving, and class work centers on developing characters, movement training, and more improvisation that zeroes in on focus and concentration. Rehearsals lock in on blocking, building trust, character work, learning the arc of the play's action, timing, choreography, vocal work, and physicality. Students are urged to develop their own ideas and to stretch their contributions as far as possible. Actors and crew take care of headshots, program contributions, creating musical scores and soundtracks, lobby displays, making costumes, building scenery, painting, hanging and focusing lights, and a myriad of other details that need to be done. Students are given the opportunity to work with professional designers, costumers, painters, choreographers, technicians, and musicians who come in as paid guest artists to support the production. By the time we reach production week, every person involved in the Winter Show process has made deep contributions to and a serious investment in the project. When performance time arrives, the entire show is handed over to the students who take control from front-of-house to warm-ups, to technical production, to acting, to striking the set after the final performance. Hands-on? We couldn't do it any other way!
- Barb Bradley
Upper School Director
The handout reads "Resolved: Mark Twain's novel Huckleberry Finn should be banned from the high school classroom."
And students talk --
"I don't believe any books should be banned..."
"I don't believe in censorship...."
"What's wrong with Huck Finn? It's just a kid's book after all."
"Huck Finn is one of the most banned books ever? Why is that??"
Then with the flip of a coin, two three-person student teams find themselves on either side of a debate that has followed Twain's novel from its first publication in 1885 to this moment in our classroom.
One team will indeed have to argue for this resolution to ban the book, and in doing so they will have to gather evidence from compelling sources - students who find the novel's 215 repetitions of a racial slur demeaning, parents who wish to protect their children from racism, teachers who are uncomfortable negotiating the race politics of the novel or of their classrooms, school boards who must struggle to find the balance between local control and intellectual freedom.
But looking at this issue from multiple points of view allows our students to see, through someone else's eyes, the racial issues Twain renders and satirizes in Huck Finn's antebellum South, and for all time, not only in that historical setting but also in our contemporary society.
Experiential learning in the English classroom looks different from what we expect in the hands-on problem solving of building a balsa bridge in physics or mixing chemical reactants to uncover the unknown compound in chemistry or designing a rotating graphic image in math. In English we solve problems, too, problems of language, as we arrive at deeper and more complex readings of "texts" in print, image and sound and as we create more insightful and thought-provoking texts of our own.
Our students need multiple experiences of language to discover meanings and to make their own. Why? Because we are storytelling creatures who depend on our listeners, no matter how close or far-flung they may be. When a YouTube video goes viral, we want to know it; we want to see it, to share it. When we read a good book, hear a great song or love a new film, we want to tell someone. When social networking brings people together to express their political and social desires, we experience the power of language to create community. In all its forms, in all its manifestations, language is our shared "hands on" experience.
Yet, experiential learning in English, often project-based learning, requires multiple skills of imagination, intellect, visualization and composition - in the visual representations of the Good and Evil project in 9th grade English, the demonstration of masculinities in Men's Studies or the case studies on literary theory and world cultures in the World Literature elective. Students learn by doing with their hands and with their minds.
In the MPA English classroom, teachers take as a basic assumption that reading, writing, listening and speaking are not merely skills to be learned but experiences to be lived, and that these lived experiences engage us in the most human activity - communication. We believe that through our students' creative and cognitive processes, they can vicariously experience what they haven't yet or may never experience in their own lives; that in trusting their own imagination and the imagination of others, they will understand more broadly and more complexly lives beyond they own. In these ways, we teachers believe that students can develop greater empathy for individuals who are not like them and deeper insight into cultures that are not like theirs - sometimes a global or historical community or a contemporary, even demonized "other".
When our students inhabit the psychological dilemmas of Hawthorne's characters in The Scarlet Letter, they learn experientially, recognizing the psychosomatic sickness of body and mind caused by unresolved anger and guilt and the crisis of low self-esteem caused by social ostracism or bullying. By applying the critical lens of psychological criticism, students grasp the ways that literature provides tools for deeper self-understanding.
When our students create a living storyboard of the opening scenes in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, they learn experientially by physically inhabiting a silent improvisation. They transform themselves into the necessary objects and characters, turning our classroom into a progression of storyboard" frames created from how they have learned to imagine film production.
When our students circle up and lead their own full class discussion of The Great Gatsby, they learn experientially from each other, without teacher intervention, by proposing intellectually rich questions, tossing their ideas into the arena, by agreeing, disagreeing, expanding, by finding "proof" in the text. Ultimately, they build an inclusive and respectful conversation, helping each other contribute in a lively process of give and take.
When our students take responsibility for the initial editing of each other's essays in the process of peer-editing, they learn experientially by applying their own intellectual and linguistic wisdom to the problems of content, structure, logic, expression and style in their classmate's work.
When our students design a visual representation of Aeneas's journey to the Underworld and tie that to quotes that illuminate the personal or cultural insights he gained, they learn experientially as they apply those insights to their own lives - plus, they manage to fill the entire 16-foot white board in the back of the room.
When our students risk sharing their own creative work - short stories, poetry, one-act plays, they learn experientially from their peers in the artists' workshop mode of constructive critique, a roundtable of honest and supportive feedback.
Language forms us, shapes our consciousness, gives us voice, defines our humanity. We live in an ecosystem of language and of community, as natural to us as water is to fish in their schools. We share our stories - in fiction, in scientific inquiry, in poetry, in journalism, in the lyric essay, in documentaries, in theatre - produced in print, on the stage, the screen, on blogs, through analog and digital media - in the hope that we and our students will become infinitely more humane and generous beings.
We believe in experiential learning because we know that experience changes us. And that debate about banning Huck Finn? In the abstract, I would never consider banning a book, but for the first time in my life, as a student and an educator, I heard an argument that persuaded me to consider banning Huck Finn, an argument articulated from the thoughts and hearts and passionate voices my student represented in this position demanded of her by the flip of the coin. I could never support censorship, but I heard and understood the deep logic and emotion of why some people whose lives have been different from mine might want to - and that changed me.
Experiential learning doesn't make us right or wrong, nor does it gives us access to some absolute truth, but it does enrich our common humanity and give us a chance to understand our differences and to live well for our common good.