Joyful elementary student doing math

Learning is a lifelong process that starts the minute we’re born. Babies come into the world and immediately start learning about their surroundings. They’re innately curious and find joy in learning about the simplest things.

At Mounds Park Academy, we want our students to always remain that curious and excited about learning. One of the primary goals for teachers is to create an environment that encourages innovative, creative thinking and allows students to experience the joy of learning firsthand. Most educators agree that when children love to learn, they build resilience, patience, curiosity, and communication skills.

The joy of learning is on display in the classrooms of MPA every day. Enthusiasm permeates lectures and discussions, and teachers provide students with hands-on activities to better understand specific subjects. Teachers give students choices and encourage them to look deeper to challenge their own ideas. Play is encouraged at all levels, and students and teachers learn together through spirited discourse.

Middle school student in science class

You can see students learning joyfully all around the school. Several years ago, Patti Meras, an English teacher at MPA, had a few students ask if they could complete more non-traditional projects for their unit on Greek Mythology. One pair of students asked to make a stop-motion film and another asked if they could create a video game. Neither had been done before, but Meras saw this as a great opportunity for the students to pursue their passions, all while learning about something new. The end results were hugely successful. “We have to remain open to new ideas and allow students to explore their interests while still getting the essence of what we want them to learn,” Meras says.

MPA’s i-Term is another way Middle School students learn joyfully. Students get to choose whatever course interests them most. The one-week enrichment experience exposes students to interesting topics and gives them a chance to learn new skills through hands-on learning. Whether it’s cooking, woodworking, travel, strategy gaming, app development, or social change, teachers and students play and learn together throughout the week of i-Term.

As parents, it’s important to foster a love of learning at home. You can do that by modeling an appreciation for continuous learning. Heather Mastel, a drama teacher and theatre director at MPA, recommends picking up a book when your child is reading for school or taking time to journal while your child is completing a writing assignment. You can also take advantage of learning opportunities at local museums, nature centers, or the zoo where hands-on activities make learning fun.

High school student in science classroom

Children are motivated in many different ways. At MPA, we want students to discover and learn in their own way so they feel empowered and excited about learning. Shelley Steingraeber is a second grade teacher at MPA and says a great way to help children discover their passions is to expose them to many different topics. One way to do that is to check out books from the library on a variety of subjects. Steingraeber recalls looking through her parents’ National Geographic magazines in her living room and discovering things she never knew about. “Having access to these sparked my imagination and allowed me to discover things that I eventually became interested in exploring deeper,” she says.

Young children are naturally curious, but it’s up to parents and educators to foster a love of learning. Creating an environment where joyful learning takes place helps children retain information, but more importantly, gain confidence and pride in their own intellectual abilities.

Mounds Park Academy, a PreK-12 private school in Saint Paul, is currently accepting applications for the 2019-20 school year. For more information about admission, upcoming events, or to schedule your tour, visit We look forward to getting to know your family!

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