To Care Is To Confirm

students reading the grateful heartsby Jenn Milam, Ph.D., Middle School director

Editor’s Note: 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.

“When we confirm someone, we identify a better self and encourage its development. To do this, we must know the other reasonably well. Otherwise we cannot see what the other is really striving for, what ideal he or she may long to make real.” –Nel Noddings

Philosophy. Philosophy, quite literally derived from the Greek word philosophia, meaning “love of wisdom” is the study of knowledge(s). As we round the week toward Valentine’s Day, I thought I might share a little bit about the importance of love, of care, of confirmation in education. I invite you to wander with me a bit in my thinking. Read More

Momentum 2020: Living Out Our Mission

upper school students working together in the commonsby Dr. Bill Hudson, Head of School

As we approach the end of our current 5-year strategic plan, Momentum 2020, work is underway to lay the foundation for our next plan. Under the leadership of the Board of Trustees and the school’s administration, the MPA community is engaged in a conversation around our core and aspirational values that will give direction to the new plan.

As part of this conversation, students in the Upper School were recently given the opportunity to provide their feedback on a list of core and aspirational values. They were also given the opportunity to name additional values represented at MPA that were not on the list provided. Imagine my reaction when the overwhelming value Upper School students offered was “kindness.” In a world that often feels anything but kind, I am proud that students affirmed kindness as a core value. While respect is part of our mission statement, kindness is the manifestation of respect, an expression of how students consciously choose to act. I couldn’t have been prouder.

We are fortunate to have a warm, kind, welcoming, and inclusive community, characterized by kindness. It represents a deliberate outcome set forth in our current plan that prioritized the creation and implementation of character education and wellness programs across each division. It serves as just one of many examples of how Momentum 2020 has guided the ongoing, continuous school improvement over the past five years. It is customary at this time of year that I provide an update on our strategic plan and how the school is living out its mission. As you will see in this infographic, we have accomplished a great deal. While it is impossible to capture all the progress that has been made in the last year, I would like to highlight a few notable accomplishments under each of the three strategic priorities. Read More

Born Of A Dream And A Shoestring

lower school boys reading in the new libraryJoanne Olson, MPA’s first Lower School director, is fond of saying that MPA was born “of a dream and a shoestring.” What started as the dream of founders Bob Kriescher and Sandy Kriescher Smith, quickly became the dream of parents and educators from across the Twin Cities. Bob, Sandy, our founding teachers, board members, and parents pooled what resources they could muster to make their dream a reality on a shoestring budget that would have a lasting impact.

Sandy Kriescher Smith once shared with me that she used a small bequest from her grandmother’s estate to buy books for the new library. In the year before MPA opened, Sandy would crisscross the cities, utilizing her inheritance to purchase the books from public schools that were closing, or the inventory cast from public libraries. Little by little, she filled her garage with boxes of books so that when (or if!) the school opened, it would have a library.

Sandy’s story is just one of the many stories of our humble beginnings. MPA would not exist without the vision of the founding families and generosity of time and resources of so many. Over the years, generous gifts have resulted in beautiful campus and school community. A commitment to the school guided parents and supporters to invest in the needs of the time but also to invest in the school’s future. Read More

The ROI Of An Exceptional Education

middle school students presenting their future cityby Dr. Bill Hudson, Head of School

A January 14 article published in the Washington Post reported on a study from Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce that found that “over the course of a career, a liberal arts education is remarkably practical, providing a median return on investment 40 years after graduation that approaches $1 million.” With the rising cost of college, it is right that parents consider the return on their investment, particularly when there seems to be a prevailing bias towards STEM, often at the detriment of the humanities or liberal arts. But the return on investment of a truly exceptional education cannot be limited only to a paycheck.

I have several books stacked on my bookshelves at home and in my office as well as on night table that are half-read. My Audible account has a cue of books I am making my way through and I’ve recently been introduced to a great app called “Blinkist” that summarizes nonfiction books in short, digestible audiocasts. My thirst for news and current events is satiated by another app, “Flipboard,” that I consume alongside my oatmeal and coffee in the morning. My thinking these days has been highly influenced by two books in particular, “Range” by David Epstein and “The Infinite Game” by Simon Sinek. Read More

January 17 Afterschool Activities Cancelled

Due to the weather, all afterschool activities including games, practices, and meetings are cancelled this afternoon, Friday, January 17. School will remain in session until our regular dismissal time at 3 PM.

All buses will run as usual unless you hear from your division director directly.

Panther Club and Panther Den will remain open until all children are picked up; however, families are encouraged to arrive as quickly as possible after 3 PM.

Please stay safe and warm and enjoy the beauty of the snow!

Who Mentored You?

alumni and mpa senior talking at the alumni mentor network programby Dr. Bill Hudson, Head of School

My earliest recollection of my career aspirations is from when I was four or five. I remember having it narrowed down to two possibilities: gas station attendant and trash collector. I hope enough of you are old enough to remember when there were attendants who pumped gas, washed windshields, and checked the oil. For most of us, our thoughts about a career in our early years come from our role models, those we looked up to and wanted to emulate. My aspirations changed as I did and teaching became my desired career path.

Mentors and role models play a crucial part of our academic, ethical, and professional development. Their influence cannot be taken for granted as they help shape our values, actions, and behaviors. In the professional world, mentors and role models can influence our career paths as well as provide practical advice and insight into the workplace. They can also help to form and strengthen valuable connections that often lead to future employment. As it is said, “it isn’t what you know, but who you know.” Read More

The Impact Of Singapore Math At MPA

student listening to teacher in classby 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.

Looking back over the past 30 years as a Lower School teacher, one of my most challenging subjects to teach was math. Some students were successful, and some were not. Some students loved math, while others didn’t care for it at all. How would I address these challenges? I knew it was my job to teach math concepts and make sure these skills could be applied. At the same time, I wanted students to love math and feel confident. I was not alone with these concerns.

Teachers often report that problem solving is one area that presents the largest challenge for students. It is not uncommon for students to feel anxious or frustrated when asked to solve challenging mathematical word problems. In fact, students often give up before even trying. Problem solving in math often causes students to feel incompetent and believe they aren’t good at math. This can lead to a negative mindset about math and becomes a huge barrier to future success in the subject. Six years ago, teachers and administrators at MPA started looking for a math program to address these challenges. After much research, the Singapore Math curriculum was selected and adopted in grades kindergarten through fifth. Read More

The Shortest Day Of The Year

dr. Hudson with students passing the books into the new libraryby Dr. Bill Hudson, Head of School

Saturday marks the official beginning of winter and is also the shortest day of the year. It marks an important moment in the cycle of life, the end of darkness and the re-emergence of light. Throughout human history, in many cultures and religious traditions, light holds significant meaning, often symbolizing the goodness in each one of us. For many, it represents the warmth of home and family.

These last few weeks before winter break at MPA have been filled with celebrations of light, warmth, and family:

  • The Founders’ Breakfast is a wonderful tradition and it was such a joy last week to see so many students and families celebrating the history and values that bring us together.
  • Maybe it’s the lack of sleep or the holiday spirit, but I had tears in my eyes during the Middle School Band, Orchestra, and Vocal Concert last week. The students did a magnificent job, creating such beauty and joy through their music. As I scanned the faces of our students, I reflected on how much they have grown and come into their own, regardless of whether they were new this year or returning.
  • As I entered school on Tuesday, I was greeted by the comforting smell of waffles and syrup marking the annual Upper School tradition of our Peer Leaders serving homemade waffles to students.
  • This afternoon, we celebrated the completion of our new library, with all students, teachers, and staff passing the final 100 books, one by one, along line bridging the distance between the old and the new.

Read More

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 like I did with my own children. There is something about coming together and forging a relationship by sharing a good book.

Excitement is building as our new library inches towards opening. Nearly 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 kindergartners. 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