Students Give, Get, And Grow Through Community Involvement

first graders reading to a blood drive donorThe world starts small when you’re a kid. In a relative bubble of family, friends, and school, it can be challenging for children to think beyond their own backyard, or to reflect on how they can support or contribute to a community that’s different from their own. Cultivating a service mindset in students early is a powerful key to unlocking a larger world view, while also preparing them for college and creating distinction in their educational experience.

The Harvard Graduate School of Education’s Making Caring Common project published a groundbreaking study focused on inspiring community service as part of the college admissions process. The researchers advocate for how service can help students focus on meaningful ethical and intellectual engagement, while creating a platform for long-term success. The study emphasizes that, through their volunteerism, students should be encouraged to:

  • engage in meaningful, sustained community service that is authentically chosen, consistent, and well-structured, and that provides opportunity for reflection both individually and with peers and adults;
  • take collective action that tackles community challenges;
  • have authentic experiences that focus on “doing with” not “doing for”; and
  • engage in service that develops gratitude and a sense of responsibility for the future.

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Enriching Our Lives, Starting With One Monday At A Time

lower school warming up at the Monday morning meaningby Dr. Bill Hudson, Head of School

Although Mondays can often be tough, attending the Lower School Monday Morning Meeting is a great start for my week. This past Monday was no exception. As I walked into the new Family Commons, I was greeted by the music of Trombone Shorty and the entire Lower School dancing and practicing their body percussion moves for Grandparents and Special Friends Day. It was pure joy and much more effective in waking me up than the third or fourth cup of coffee I was drinking. It had the same effect on other adults in the building as many poked their heads into the Commons as they walked by, leaving with big smiles on their faces. There is something about music that can transform our mood and lift our spirits instantly.

In an era when many schools are cutting their music programs in favor of more time for STEM-related classes, you may wonder why MPA places so much emphasis on music. In Lower School, students have approximately 90 minutes of music class a week. All Middle School students have year-long music or choir, are required play an instrument, and have either band or orchestra. Upper School students are required to have three credits in the fine arts, which includes instrumental and vocal music.

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The Athletic Brain

mpa varsity soccer playerHow School Sports Lift The Mind, Build Skills And Improve Mental Health

Health trends in the U.S. have turned particularly grim in recent years. According to the America’s Health Rankings 2018 Annual Report, obesity continues to rise and is a direct link to heart disease and cancer, which are contributing to the growth in premature death rates. Suicide has increased 16 percent since 2012, and more Americans are reporting poor mental health for 14 or more days in a month. The connection between physical and mental health is more evident than ever—and, supports a compelling case for encouraging students to incorporate athletics with academics throughout their school career.

Sports as a Catalyst For Mental, Physical Development

Research published in the “International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health” outlines how school sports improve overall health and well being, highlighting that “sport provides an equilibrium between group demands and individual demands, between aggressive behaviors and self-control. It fosters a sense of belonging to a group, and teaches coping with both victory and defeat.” Read More

Raising Kind Children

4th grade students introduce the CHAMP character traits at the first CHAMP Assembly of the yearby Renee Wright, Lower School director

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

I have many fond memories from childhood and a deep respect for my parents for teaching me important lifelong values and lessons. Kindness was a cherished virtue for my family, and many conversations in our home centered on being a kind, caring, and compassionate person. While my parents and grandparents modeled kindness and compassion, I can recall a time as a youngster when I struggled to apply their teachings in a real-life situation. Neighborhood children were teasing and making fun of a young boy. Being a shy and somewhat introverted child, I watched and chose not to say anything or otherwise intervene. Later, that bothered me. When I finally spoke to my parents about what was happening, they coached me to stand up for this boy and show him the kindness he deserved. I took their advice and the next time I witnessed unkindness toward him I told the neighborhood children to stop their behavior and bravely told the boy I wanted to be his friend. I can still see the smile that spread across his face when he heard my words. I believe I made a difference for that little boy. I am sure you can recall similar situations growing up. My parents’ teachings and my reflections on childhood have led to my strong commitment as an educator to teach students to be kind, caring, and compassionate. In my opinion, learning kindness is as important as mastering timetables. Read More

A Very Special Bring A Friend Day Experience

A Special Bring A Friend Day Experience From Nathan M. And Marcell S-C.Has a friend ever asked, “What makes MPA so special?” Or perhaps you know a family who is “SO MPA?” Bring A Friend To MPA Day is a wonderful way to have their children experience firsthand what it is like to be student at Mounds Park Academy. Read on for fifth graders Nathan M. and Marcell S-C’s Bring A Friend To MPA Day experience! Marcell enrolled after having attended last year’s Bring A Friend To MPA Day.

Nathan, what made you want to bring Marcell for Bring A Friend To MPA Day?
I wanted to hang out with Marcell and show him my school. We’ve been friends since second grade. Before this year when Marcell wasn’t at MPA, I wished he could have been going here.

Marcell, how did going to Bring A Friend To MPA Day help you make your decision to come to MPA?
Because Nathan went there, I knew about MPA and knew it was a good school, but then Bring A Friend Day was when I saw that MPA was really different than the other schools I used to go to. Probably the combination of meeting the teachers and meeting the other kids on Bring A Friend Day made me want to come to school at MPA with Nathan. Read More

An MPA Student’s Passion To Change The World

Misk wearing a Girl Up shirtThis past summer, MPA senior Misk Khalif was selected to serve as a 2019-2020 Girl Up Teen Advisor. Girl Up is a national advisory board made of young advocates working to promote gender equity for girls globally. As a campaign of the United Nations Foundation, Girl Up works to provide the tools and platform for girls globally to lead on a number of issues that affect them from education to health.

Misk had the honor of attending the 74th United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) high level week, where world leaders met in New York City to discuss the world’s most pressing issues, from climate change to access to healthcare. UNGA brings together a variety of stakeholders from government officials, civil society, and business leaders.

“The most complex global issues requires all facets of society to collaborate and help us realize the sustainable development goals by the year 2030,” Misk said. She had the opportunity to participate in a variety of key discussions, ranging from increasing universal access to education for millions of children globally who remain out of school, to providing better access to healthcare for women and girls who continue to lose their lives from preventable illnesses.

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Tips for Effective Parent-Teacher Conferences

Middle school teacher and students discuss a math problem in classParent-teacher conferences are one of those unique interactions that can still cause butterflies, no matter your age, grade level, or how many you’ve attended. These face-to-face forums to discuss performance and progress can trigger a mix of emotions, going to the heart of parent concerns about whether their child is “on track” academically, emotionally, and interpersonally.

While parents often hold their breath during conference season, it’s important to let that anxiety go and embrace the open dialogue of school conferences. The National Education Association (NEA) explains that “To get the most out of parent-teacher conferences, parents need to take an active role in their child’s education year-round and come prepared to discuss how their child can reach their full potential.” The NEA recommends that parents take time to prep before conferences, including taking notes about any questions you have related to your school’s programs or policies, insights you’d like to share about your child at home and significant events in your child’s life, and your own reflections on your child’s progress. Read More

Come Home To MPA

upper school students cheering during homecoming week spirit daysby Dr. Bill Hudson, Head of School

I am a sap when it comes to commercials around the holidays. I may be showing my age but some of you probably remember the Folgers Coffee commercial when the son surprises his mother by coming home from college unexpectedly, making a fresh pot of Folgers that awakens his mother. Tears, every time. There is something about coming home—feelings of love, safety, and acceptance—that stirs our emotions.

Our identities emerge in the midst of community, molded and shaped by our experiences. Our family, religious beliefs, neighborhoods, and schools are all important in introducing and reinforcing a shared set of values that nurture our identities. Schools in particular have a lasting impact not only on our academic development, but our social and emotional development in our most formative years. Read More

Let’s Be Friends

middle school students socializing outside Gaining the Skills to Build Healthy Relationships
One of our most basic human needs is forming community by making friends. We’re social creatures, drawn to seek connections throughout our lives. While rewarding and fulfilling, building healthy friendships takes practice. It’s an important life skill for children to learn early—increasing their capacity to create friendships, be a good friend, and progressively cultivate and sustain strong relationships at all ages.

Open Discussions on Friendship
“The foundation of friendship is open communication, both in terms of among friends and about friendship itself,” explains Tara Keegan, Mounds Park Academy Lower School counselor. A licensed professional clinical counselor and parent, Keegan recommends beginning conversations about friends starting in PreK. “Ask your child who they sat with at lunch, who they played with at recess, what the group did that day,” she says. “Talk about the feelings around those interactions, and share how important it is to listen and learn within a friendship. That’s the beginning of empathy, being able to understand where another person is coming from, and is so important in building connections and friendships.” Read More

An MPA Education In A Rapidly Changing World

middle schools students use design thinking to problem solveby Dr. Bill Hudson, Head of School

This summer, I attended a meeting of independent school heads at Stanford University and spent a few days in the San Francisco Bay Area. My custom has been to visit with alumni when I travel and I had the opportunity to connect with David Siegel ’04. David is a techie, philosopher, and creative thinker. Blending his love of technology with a sensitivity to human flourishing, he is driven to understand how technology affects people. He recently launched his own start-up, Glide, which enables users to create an app that turns Google spreadsheets into beautiful, easy-to-use apps, without code.

During his years at MPA, David gravitated mostly toward Spanish, film, writing, and critical thinking. When I asked him what class or experience at MPA he attributes to his success, without hesitation he said, “photography class.” Through photography he learned perspective, empathy, problem-solving, and iteration, all necessary for innovation. When asked for his advice to MPA students he said, “Develop your own theories about problems that interest you, seek out people working on those problems, and explain your ideas to them. View professional challenges as opportunities for creative thinking and devise your own solutions to these problems, rather than succumbing to pressure to behave uniformly.” Read More