Reading Our Way To Success

middle school boys reading togetherby Dr. Bill Hudson, Head of School

Mr. Brown Can Moo! Can You? Who doesn’t love a good Dr. Seuss book? Last week I read to both the PreK and Kindergarten classes, choosing from among my childhood favorites. The PreK class loved Mr. Brown as much as I loved sharing it with them as I did with my own children. There is something about coming together and forging a relationship by sharing a good book, even if it is not necessarily a great literary work!

Excitement is building as our new library inches towards opening. Throughout the next several weeks, over 30,000 books will find a new home. For this to happen, we’ve needed to temporarily close the library in order to make the move. In the meantime, Lower School library time is being filled by administrators reading to our students. In addition to reading to the PreK students, I also read another of my favorite books, Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel, to the Kindergarteners. Read More

MPA Named Top STEM School In The US

lower and middle school students in the makerspace togetherby Mark Segal, Upper 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.

November 8, 2019 was a big day for the MPA community. Many of you remember the community energy and excitement as we celebrated the Volleyball Team as they competed in their first State Volleyball Tournament. This, however, was not the only thing we celebrated that day. November 8 was also the day that Mounds Park Academy was named one of the top 500 STEM high schools in the United States by Newsweek. Given there are more than 37,000 high schools, this is a very significant honor. Many of our fellow awardees are STEM schools or have STEM programs, while MPA believes that integrating science, technology, engineering, art, and math into all aspects of an MPA education aligns best with our whole-child approach. Here, we add an “A” intentionally, referring to the disciplines together as STEAM.

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2016 there were nearly nine million STEM/STEAM jobs representing 6.5% of the US workforce. Looking ahead, those numbers are expected to grow 70 percent faster than other occupations and many educators are encouraging students to take an interest in the subjects and courses that will provide a solid foundation in these areas. This is fabulous advice and fits well with MPA’s educational approach that allows PreK through 12th grade students to explore topics and ideas through multiple disciplines, examining problems and situations with insight from science, math, art, and humanities. Read More

Taking A Moment For Joy And Gratitude

zach thanking the cafeteria staff at middle school lunchby Dr. Bill Hudson, Head of School

I read recently that the Ritz-Carlton trains its staff to follow the “10/5” rule. That is, when employees walk within ten feet of someone they should make eye contact and smile. If they walk within five feet, they say hello. While not a rule, I would suggest it is an MPA practice. Personally, I try to also use a person’s name when I great them. The response, even from someone who appears to be grumpy, is often a smile.

You may have noticed a recent post on Facebook regarding new sixth grade student Zaq who organized his Middle School classmates to thank and celebrate our awesome kitchen staff. Students took the time to write notes and a large banner with their signatures was presented to the staff at lunch. In fact, throughout the last several weeks, the microphone at lunch has been passed around as students have share what they are grateful for with one another. Regardless of what they may say at home or how they may talk to you, most students voice words of gratitude about their parents. Read More

Creating A Better Future

kindergartners with the canvas bags that they madeby Dr. Bill Hudson, Head of School

Last week was extremely exciting as the community pulled together in support of our Girls Volleyball Team and their quest for a state championship. And although they were ultimately not successful, their incredible season will remain in the memories of MPA students and families. More than 250 students in grades eight through 12 filled five buses for the trip to the Xcel Energy Center last Thursday. Meanwhile, on campus, many Lower and Middle School students, faculty, and staff gathered in the new Family Commons to watch the game on the big screen. There was singing, cheering, and even a “wave” making itself across the fans in the commons.

The school spirit of last week is just one of many indications that our school year is off to a great start. We have wonderful new students and families who are enriching our community. Our newly built and renovated spaces have made it easier to come together as a family over a meal or an event. In the classroom, on the court, and on the stage, students are excelling and truly making an impact, locally, and globally. Read More

Small Classes Make A Big Difference

Katie Murr with her social studies classby Dr. Bill Hudson, Head of School

I meet throughout the fall in small groups with seniors to check in with them about how their year is going, what plans they have for next year, and solicit their feedback on our school and how I might be a better leader. Their stories fill me with great pride and joy, and sometimes bring a tear to my eye. This past Monday was no exception. Each student—some of whom have been here for many years and some of whom are newer—spoke of the school as family, of the remarkable sense of community that is safe, welcoming, and inclusive of all.

Small class size is indeed a significant factor that contributes to the close-knit community we enjoy. However, we are committed to small classes for another very important reason: they result in academic success and higher levels of achievement. Our teachers know this from their experience, but there is also an immense amount of research that confirms it. Read More

High Performing And High Risk? Let’s Learn And Talk About This

Angst promo imageby Jenn Milam, Ph.D., Middle 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.

It seems everywhere we turn these days, there is a new story about mental illness, anxiety, and depression alongside the challenges of maintaining psychologically healthy children in a world that seems to be moving so quickly hardly any of us can keep up. Some of the stories bring horrific tragedy to our television screens and images that almost none of us can bear. And if you look a little more closely, there are more and more stories that are seeking to illuminate and explore the often unseen, silent struggle of young people dealing with anxiety, depression, disconnection, and loneliness. In a special issue of Time magazine, “Mental Health: A New Understanding,” researchers, doctors, and sociologists take various perspectives on mental health, its historical roots in disease classification and treatment, and some of the more modern contributing factors, including but not limited to, technology, social pressure, and family life. In addition to the sociocultural milieu and newsworthy stories I read about mental health and anxiety, I work alongside young people and see the stress, the anxiety and depression, the mounting weight of their worries being carried from class to class, role to role, activity to activity. Read More

Making MPA Opportunities Possible

students at the eagle bluff overnightBy Dr. Bill Hudson, Head of School

Several weeks ago, I had a very excited but sleepy passenger in my car. My daughter Ari had just returned from three days and two nights with her eighth grade classmates at Eagle Bluff Environmental Learning Center in Lanesboro, Minnesota and I peppered her with questions on our ride home. Between yawns, she shared stories of what she had learned about her classmates and herself. Through a combination of outdoor adventures and activities, Ari enjoyed opportunities to deepen her relationship with the natural world, with her classmates, and with herself.

Opportunities are what Mounds Park Academy is all about. In the classroom, on the stage and playing field, in the Makerspace, and soon, in our new library, MPA students benefit each day from incredible opportunities to push the limits of their learning, uncover their passions, discover their voice, and build the self-confidence necessary to face whatever life may bring. Now, more than ever, our world demands informed, passionate, thoughtful, and well-educated citizens. Building a better future for our students and for our world is dependent on a rigorous education as well as meaningful experiences and opportunities. Read More

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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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

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