upper school students outside for biology classby Renee Wright, Lower School Director

Editor’s Note: On the first Thursday of each month, you will find a guest blog post here from one of MPA’s division directors. We hope you enjoy reading their thoughts and reflections about life at MPA.

The March break stimulates thoughts of spring in Minnesota, stirs up feelings of excitement, and renews the soul. Spring has always been my favorite season, marking the end of a brutal winter and the transition into warmer temperatures. As a child I watched for puddles to appear and looked for the first sighting of a robin or baby bunnies or ducklings in our backyard as a sign that spring was on its way. Spring seemed so mysterious to me as a child, and as an adult I continue to feel the same. The transition from winter to spring magically transforms nature, which impacts the human spirit.

Much research has been conducted around the effect spring has on humans. In 2012, one study found that when college students looked at images of cute baby animals they were better able to focus on tasks in a lab. Research has also found that taking walks slows the heart rate and makes people feel more relaxed. Additional research shows that sunshine and warmer temperatures contribute to better mental health and more happiness. A 2005 study from the University of Michigan linked spending 30 minutes or more outside in sunny spring weather to higher mood and better memory. This study also found that spending more time outside in the spring clears the mind and makes students more open to new information, improves learning, and contributes to creativity.

There is much evidence that spring impacts students here at Mounds Park Academy. As students returned from Spring Break, they seemed even happier and more motivated to learn. Our kindergarten teacher, Ms. Petersen, reports higher student energy, stronger engagement, and increased curiosity. She reflects, “Kindergarteners emulate the earth, preparing for the newness of a season as they excitedly anticipate next steps in their educational journey.” Ms. Fischer, our Lower School counselor shared that spring is a “reinvention” of mood and learning. “There is lightness to the mood because students have been lifted out of the ruts and heaviness of winter. Excitement blooms like flowers and there is resurgence of energy.” Our school nurse, Ms. Koster, reports healthier students and fewer visits to her office. This is evidence that sunshine and the outdoors contribute to better health and wellness.

MPA students eagerly shared with me their thoughts and feelings about spring and brilliantly articulated how spring impacts their learning. Middle schoolers reported feeling happier and more motivated to get homework done so they can spend time outdoors. Shedding winter coats and gear helps them to be more energized, organized, and focused. “Things just seem easier,” reports an eighth grader. Third graders said that when the snow is gone they feel anticipation for something new. That feeling leads to thinking about being a fourth grader and new challenges and more fun learning. Overall, they shared that spring brings about increased energy and enthusiasm for life and learning. Seniors in our Upper School bring new meaning to spring. For them, spring is nostalgic as they contemplate the inevitable end to their time at MPA and the excitement of going off to college. For seniors, spring is truly a time of new beginnings.

Writing this article reminds me of how lucky we are to live in Minnesota, with a climate that allows us to experience four distinct seasons. Although we may grumble about the harsh winter or overly hot summer, experiencing the transformation that occurs from one season to the next is inspirational and invigorating. For me, spring is the most lovable of all the seasons. As an educator, I have been fortunate to experience the transformation that occurs in the spring within the walls of our school, feel the contagious energy burst, and see the impact spring has on learning. This transformation is even more profound at Mounds Park Academy where students strive to reach their full potential every single day.

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