Science, Art, And Character Intersect In The Makerspace

students beginning to design their facesIf you are familiar with MPA, then you are probably also familiar with the AnnMarie Thomas Makerspace. Electrifying in its concept and its form, this area of the school houses the intersection of creativity and innovation. The Makerspace is the physical manifestation of MPA’s long-standing belief that learning should be hands-on, experiential, and joyful.

Keith Braafladt, MPA’s technology and innovation teacher, has already found himself right at home in the Makerspace during his first year as a faculty member. As a new friendly face on campus, Keith has dedicated this year to developing strong relationships with MPA teachers to integrate and deliver the best Makerspace curriculum and experience to our students. Curriculum that exists in the Makerspace connects liberal arts thinking with 21st century skills and competencies, providing students with opportunities to construct meaning through making via practical, hands-on, interdisciplinary, and problem-based projects. Most often, the work is centered around the design thinking process, a systematic way to solve real-world problems that major corporations use in the workplace.

student laying out a faceOne of the most memorable projects to occur in the Makerspace this year is still adorning the outer windows of the room, prompting those who pass by to pause and share a smile that is reflecting back at them. The activity was informally and aptly named “making faces,” because that is precisely what Lower School students did. Essentially, they observed, looking for faces out in the world. And under Keith’s model, the idea was to use all of the donated, found, and collected materials at the students’ disposal in the Makerspace to create a face out of everyday objects themselves. Keith has friends at the Exploratorium in San Francisco that have been doing a similar activity that inspired this one. Read More

Innovating Our Future

from Dr. Bill Hudson, Head of School

Happy new year! I hope that you and your family had an enjoyable break, spending quality time with friends and loved ones.

It was journalist and author William Vaughan who said, “An optimist stays up until midnight to see the New Year in. A pessimist stays up to make sure the old year leaves.” I suppose I am neither as I was in bed by 10:30 PM on New Year’s Eve. However, I do consider myself an optimist and while as a family we experienced tremendous loss in 2021, I do recognize the many good things that happened. As head of school of Mounds Park Academy, I am grateful that we were safely in-person and on campus for the majority of the year. The dedication and hard work of our amazing faculty and staff, a strong partnership with parents, and the resiliency of our students are certainly to be celebrated.

A new year brings new beginnings. A new year holds promise and opportunity. As a school, we begin the year with a new strategic plan, 2024ward. The new plan builds upon our former plan, Momentum 2020, and captures the energy to embrace the future with opportunity and enthusiasm. Strategic planning is one of the most important responsibilities of the MPA Board of Trustees.

Planning began in early 2019 by a constituent represented task force commissioned by the Board but was halted by the pandemic in the spring of 2020. Instead, the focus of the Board of Trustees and administration shifted from long-range strategic planning to the development a comprehensive scenario analysis and effort to mitigate the impact of COVID-19. Given the demand on the school’s fiscal and human resources necessary to successfully navigate the ongoing pandemic, the board and head of school agreed to embark on an alternative, abbreviated approach. Read More

Parents Connect: January Events

January Events

We are looking forward to connecting with MPA families in 2022! Upcoming events and opportunities to look forward to include Family Education Evenings, All-School Sno Daze activities, Lower School Valentine’s Day party, and Middle School Café. Keep your eye on the Panther Post for sign-ups and opportunities to volunteer!

January Walks with Dogs

Friday, January 7 and 14, join Michelle Mick for a walk in a local dog park. Bring your dog or not, we’ll meet at Battle Creek Dog Park, a lovely, big, off-leash dog park with 35 acres at 8:15 AM. Parking is off Upper Afton Road, in the parking lot next to the dog park. Look for Michelle and her dog (Rufus), near the entrance of the dog park.

For your GPS, the address is: 2350 Upper Afton Road, Maplewood, MN 55119. The contact person is Michelle Mick, and please feel free to SMS or call 651-328-7312 if you can’t find us!

Parent Winter Walk at 7 Vines

January 28, 5:45-9 PM, $55. Come enjoy a winter evening and snowshoe walk with other MPA Parents at 7 Vines Vineyard in Dellwood, MN! Ticket Price includes snowshoe rental (with help putting them on!) for a walk around the vineyard lit by twinkling candlelight ice luminaries, a complimentary beverage (mulled wine, kombucha, fancy coffee), four rounds of Bingo for prizes, s’mores, cocoa, and cider. 7 Vines will have exclusive pricing on food and wine that evening, as well. Attendance is limited to 100, and the Parents Association has reserved some spots for this event, but it does sell out. Please let us know if you are interested in joining in the fun by January 10. Contact Staci Banks,, or Venmo the cost of the tickets to @Staci-Banks-Hehenberger. Unfortunately, tickets are not refundable.

RSVP To Discover Something Remarkable

upper school biology labRSVP to discover something remarkable: life at MPA. We warmly invite your family to attend the MPA Preview on Sunday, January 30 at 2 PM. It’s the perfect opportunity to discover why you belong here!

Though virtual, this event will provide prospective families with an opportunity to truly discover the type of remarkable hands on learning that MPA students do each day. You will rotate among several classes taught by our expert faculty. These will be interactive, experiential sessions that are actually abbreviated versions of real MPA lessons, modified to be appropriate for all ages. Prospective families will also have an opportunity to take a virtual tour and experience 15 of our state-of-the-art spaces.

Lower School Sessions

Keep It Up with Tim Sheehan, Lower School physical education teacher
Improve your volleying and striking skills during the Keep It Up session. You will learn how to properly toss, catch, volley, and work through several challenges that are safe to do at home. You only need a balloon or two socks rolled up in a ball and any type of basket (laundry basket, bucket, paper bag) to participate!

Dreaming Up: A Celebration of Building with Tami Fisher, second grade teacher
After a quick tour of the Makerspace, Ms. Fisher will share a read aloud and lead a short lesson connecting math, literature, and critical thinking. Using the elements of design thinking and brainstorming, families will choose a structure or material they were inspired by from the anchor text and create their own structure. Families are encouraged to participate in the brainstorming and planning, so that they may build their structure at a later time.

Read More

A Deep Commitment To MPA

from Gina Wallraff, Chief Financial and Operations Officer

One Thursday per month you will see a guest Head’s Message from a member of the Institutional Advancement Team. We hope these additional perspectives will help you catch a glimpse inside the innerworkings of your school.

The Board of Trustees for Mounds Park Academy is the governing authority of the school. It has ultimate responsibility for the school’s financial stability and integrity. The board is made up of parents, alumni, parents of alumni, and other professionals. Along with Dr. Bill Hudson, head of school, I have the honor and the privilege of working with this group of dedicated people who are deeply committed to the health and vitality of the school.

Among other roles related to the mission and vision of the school, the Board of Trustees and its subcommittees, like the Finance Committee, has responsibility for the following:

  • determination of tuition levels;
  • effective financial oversight; and
  • realistic budgeting and monitoring of budgets.

This article aims to provide a glimpse into how the board approaches these responsibilities and the annual cycle of budgeting and tuition setting.

The annual budget process for the next academic year begins soon after the current school year starts, 10 months before the start of the next school year. First, an enrollment forecast is created. In this early stage the forecast is an estimate based on historical trends for current students leaving and new students joining. The enrollment forecast is reviewed by the Admissions team and the Head of School to evaluate the reasonableness of the estimated number of new students and projected total enrollment. Read More

Exceeding What We Dared To Dream

dr. Hudson talking to prekby Dr. Bill Hudson, Head of School

“There are four main ingredients contributing to the success of our school. First is the student body which is made up of a diverse group of individuals, each with their own strengths, talents, and enthusiasm. Second is a dedicated faculty that enjoys and really cares about students and individuals. Third is an administration that truly believes in establishing an atmosphere of support for the students, faculty, staff, and parents. Fourth is a board of trustees which is actively committed to overseeing the entire operation of this school.”

Does that sound like something you might have read in one of my recent Panther Post messages? Perhaps. Instead, they are the words of MPA co-founder Bob Kreischer in a document shared with the founding Board of Trustees of a school with no students, no teachers, no building, and no name on December 11, 1981. Yet there was a vision, what founding Lower School Director Joanne Olson described as “a dream and a shoestring with no assurance of success.” Read More

Reflections On 40 Years Of Teaching At MPA

When teachers in the Anoka-Hennepin School district went on strike in 1982, an untenured, 23-year-old Anne DeVout Solie knew her job was in jeopardy. Her mom told the worried young teacher about a new school that was opening in St. Paul, and suggested she apply. But she hesitated: the school required three years of experience, and Anne DeVout Solie (now Anne DeVout Atchison) only had two.

“Well, why don’t you give them a call and just find out about them?” the elder DeVout advised.

Atchison called. More than 40 years later Atchison, now an MPA Middle School English teacher, is grateful for her mother’s wisdom and nudge.

In reflecting on that initial job inquiry, Atchison said, “I’m 23, and I’m talking to the woman who picked up the phone. I assume it’s the secretary, and we’re hitting it off. I’m asking her questions; she’s asking me questions. At the end, I ask about the salary, and the woman says, ‘I will tell you that, if you tell me your name.’ I do, and in return ask hers.”

It was Lois Kreischer, the wife of Mounds Park Academy co-founder and visionary Bob Kreischer, who also served as the director of admissions, business manager, and co-founder.

Lois Kreischer (now Sandy Kreischer Smith) encouraged the young teacher to apply, though added, “Just so you know we’re looking for more experienced teachers.” Fate intervened when the stated goal on Atchison’s resume matched the one expressed in MPA’s first brochure, which was being printed at the time: “to create the conditions, within the school environment, for each individual to develop to the best of his or her ability.” She secured the interview and then the job.

Started “On A Dream And A Shoestring”
Bob Kreischer was a well-respected and beloved teacher, counselor, assistant principal, and principal in California before the death of his father-in-law compelled the family to move to Minnesota. The couple’s niece and nephew were students at Breck, so they knew the west metro college preparatory school was hiring. Kreischer applied to and was offered a teaching position. As the new teacher, Kreischer taught “all the classes nobody else wanted” and took “a huge pay cut,” Smith once said. After only a year, Kreischer became Breck’s Middle School director.

Kreischer left Breck shortly after his promotion—with no job prospect—dreaming of a school where everyone had a voice. At the time, Smith was a professional potter with her own shop in Afton. While her hands were busy making pots, her mind was exploring ways her husband could create the school he envisioned. She had notebooks full of ideas, budgets, and impressions of schools she visited that were for sale. Smith said she often took their daughter Kristi on trips to see schools, swearing her to secrecy not to tell her daddy.

One day, her friend Joan Munzner visited Smith’s shop. The potter asked the future MPA French and German founding teacher to come to her house so she could share Bob’s idea of starting his own school. Over coffee at the kitchen table, encouraged by Munzner’s enthusiasm for the idea, Kreischer gained a new perspective on his dream: together they could make it a reality.

They enlisted the support of community leaders, prospective parents, future teachers, and required board members and launched what would become MPA. As the initial values statement declared, “Our school was founded on a dream and a shoestring.”

An Early Commitment To The Whole Child And Social Justice
For Atchison, the early conversations about the vision for MPA—and whether they could really pull it off—remain deep in her soul. The fledgling team wondered if the buses would show up that first day on September 7, 1982. They did, and MPA became a real school, exceeding the expectations of all involved. Read More

Boosting Human Connection And Community

kindergarteners holding hands in the hallfrom Dr. Jules Nolan, MPA school psychologist

As human beings, we are social creatures: having a sense of belonging is a central need. COVID-19 restrictions and safety considerations combined with increasing political polarization have deprived too many people of being connected to each other and feeling part of a community. At Mounds Park Academy, all of us have been working extra hard at building community because we know just how important it is for our health and well-being—and that of our children.

Building community across cultures, beliefs, economic backgrounds, and other points of difference can be challenging and requires open-mindedness, patience, empathy, and understanding. Many children have an immature way to create a sense of community. Too often they connect with the idea that “If I am nice to you, and we are mean to everyone else, then we are connected.”

Uniting in the exclusion of someone else is the easiest way to feel connected. The lack of connection and sense of belonging in the broader world right now is fueling this behavior in grownups. We see it in the tribalism around masking and vaccines and the vitriol spewed in public and online forums across the country. Watching what is going on at school board meetings across the Twin Cities and the country reminds me how grateful I am to work with MPA!

Flight-or-flight reactions increase during times of fear and uncertainty
When we are in conflict with someone, our brain gets stressed and processes information in the most primitive part: the amygdala. The amygdala acts as a manager, assigning emotions like fear or anger to environmental stimuli and triggering the flight-or-fight response. The stress hormone cortisol is released, making us more impulsive, less thoughtful, and often more angry. Read More

Meet Retired Founding Faculty Member, Karen Rossbach!

Position while at MPA:
Art Teacher

How many years did you work at MPA?

What do you miss the most about MPA?
I miss my students, who were always excited to be in class and enjoyed spending time together creating with various materials. I also miss my colleagues who are the hardest working and most collaborative people I know.

What have you been up to since leaving MPA?
My retirement has not taken an expected or “normal” path thus far. With any hopes of travel severely restricted, I have spent most of my time care-giving my mother, since the pandemic started. Being “her bubble”, I helped mom connect with family members through Facetime and Zoom visits. I basically lived a life of virtual meetings, Zoom workouts, and coffees. I even attended a four day virtual National Art Educators Conference. When I could carve out some extra time I would work in my garden planting chard, basil and other greens. I also spent time finally setting up a home studio space. I am looking forward to changing times and hopeful retirement opportunities.

Celebrating Our Story: The 40 Years Of MPA

from Dr. Bill Hudson, Head of School

When families gather, it is not uncommon to tell stories, especially when celebrating important occasions and milestones. In my family, we not only celebrate our children’s birthdays but also the day their adoption became official, their Family Day. No matter their age or their groans, both children enjoy hearing the story of when we first met them, what our time together in Guatemala was like, about the plane ride “home,” and about the celebration with family and friends when we landed in Minnesota. Stories like these are told when milestones are celebrated serve as anchors for who we are, help shape our identity, and deepen our values.

Mounds Park Academy is in the midst of such a celebration that will span the entire school year. Together, we celebrate the fortieth anniversary of the founding of this remarkable school. I’ve had the honor and privilege of spending a good amount time with both our founders, Bob Kreischer and Sandy Kreischer Smith, and have been captivated by their dreams, hopes, and passion for education that led them to found MPA. By drawing together and inspiring their friends and fellow educators, Bob and Sandy articulated a very unique and compelling mission. From our original graduating class of seven students, now to our 574 current students, every child who enters our doors benefits from the vision and commitment of those early educators, which we still draw on today.

We have been thinking of this milestone as our very own community birthday celebration. Togetherness might look and feel differently right now than if we were celebrating the 40th anniversary two years ago or even two years from now. But we hope that we can all join together to say Happy Birthday to MPA. We hope you will join in the fun, beginning with some exciting activities to safely gather–virtually and in person–in November for the MPA Fall Campaign (more details will be released soon). To share in the storytelling with you, retired faculty and staff profiles will be released in the coming weeks and months. I hope this gives you a glimpse into the many wonderful people who have made our school what it is today. Read More