two middle schoolers working together in the makerspaceby Dr. Bill Hudson, Head of School

I know I am not the only parent who can say that the ride to school with my daughter can make or break my day. A quarrel over the most insignificant matter, a scowl, or a roll of the eyes can send my mood in a downward spiral. Although others warned me, I never realized the degree to which my outlook on life is influenced by my children. On the flip side, the joy, smiles, high fives, and hugs from incoming students at the south entrance in the morning easily lift my spirits.

This phenomenon made sense when I happened upon an NPR story this summer about emotional contagion and how microexpressions influence moods. Microexpressions are fleeting, involuntary expressions of feelings that last a fraction of a second. For some time, science has observed how animals tend to mimic the physical movements of one another. We now know that such automimicry extends to emotions as well. After years of research, Elaine Hatfield and Dick Rapson, researchers at the University of Hawaii, have demonstrated that microexpressions can actually produce the corresponding emotion inside of us.

I think this can, in part, explain the warm, welcoming, nurturing culture of MPA. We are a school that places a high value on mutual respect, character, and the building of community. Within our shared culture and values, students come to realize that how we treat one another truly matters. Our “whole-child for whole-life” approach to education demands we are attentive to all aspects of a students’ growth and development, inclusive of their academic, physical, social, emotional, and mental health and wellbeing.

It is within that framework that our guidelines toward becoming an Allergy Aware School arose. In 2017, MPA launched a community-wide initiative to educate ourselves about food allergies and implement practices and structural supports that minimize risks associated with food-related allergic reactions. This year, we took another important step in that journey by prohibiting all food with peanuts and tree nuts listed as an ingredient through the school building and at school events.

As someone who unequivocally loves peanut butter, I realize the inconvenience these guidelines create. But food allergies can be severe and life-threatening. A food allergy is defined as an adverse health effect arising from a specific immune response that occurs reproducibly on exposure to a given food. Although the immune system normally protects people from germs, in people with food allergies, the immune system mistakenly responds to a food as if it were harmful. This threatening reaction, called anaphylaxis, may cause death. Food allergies account for 35-50% of all cases of anaphylaxis in emergency care settings. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, although different food allergies can cause anaphylaxis, most fatal or near fatal reactions are caused by peanuts and tree nuts.

We are here to support you and your family in adhering to the guidelines.

  • We have a page on our website dedicated to this topic. It provides detailed information as well as FAQs and restaurant recommendations. You can access this page at moundsparkacademy.org/families > All School Resources > Food Allergies. click here >
  • When questions arise, please email foodallergies@moundsparkacademy.org. A team of administrators and our school nurse stand ready to research and respond to any questions.
  • On Monday, September 23, from 6:30-7:30 PM, we will offer an MPA Parent Food Allergy Aware Training in the Recital Hall. Childcare is available by RSVPing to communications@moundsparkacademy.org. The training will be videotaped and distributed for parents who are unable to attend.

I am grateful for the understanding, support, and partnership of our community in making this move. The collective microexpressions of care and concern has, I believe, an impact on each student, reassuring them that this is indeed a safe, nurturing, and inclusive community.

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