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

Great Schools Depend On Great Teachers & Staff

from Bill Hudson, Head of School

This is the second of a four-part series of Head’s Messages that dives deep into MPA’s new strategic plan, 2024ward. Today we will outline this priority: Affirm and inspire our exceptional and dedicated faculty and staff through competitive compensation. The first article may be found here. An overview of 2024ward may be found here.

“It’s like baking a lasagna and baking a cake at the same time in the same kitchen, but you can only use one bowl,” responded one teacher when asked in a national survey to describe what teaching has been like during the pandemic. Teachers have demonstrated and modeled incredible resiliency as they pivoted to remote learning, to hybrid learning, and back to in person learning (and back to remote, unfortunately) along with a number of health and safety measures layered upon what typically happens in a classroom. Together with those in the medical field, public health, and first responders, teachers have been real heroes over the last two years.

Nowhere was this more evident to me than observing master teacher Mari Espeland one day in the fall of 2020. Mari was teaching music to two first grade classrooms simultaneously, one via Zoom, without singing. I marveled at the ease in which she transitioned between three distinct learning activities within 30 minutes. However, as a teacher myself, I know that what appeared to be effortless required a great deal of planning, a deep knowledge of music education, a thorough understanding the developmental needs of young learners, and many years of experience. Despite the limitations brought on by the pandemic, the students in Mari’s class were engaged, joyful, and learning about rhythm. Read More

Lower School Division News January 13, 2022

from Renee Wright, Lower School Director

PreK–Grade 6 Students Remain On Campus
As you have already learned by now, Dr. Hudson and the Administrative Team have made the difficult decision to shift to virtual learning in grades 7-12 starting Wednesday. The intent is that everyone will return to campus on January 24. This change does not impact Lower School. Students in grades PreK-6 will remain on campus. We know our little ones learn best in person and I am grateful that we are seeing fewer cases in Lower School, in part because of their more recent vaccine eligibility. The shift of grades 7-12 to virtual learning will reduce the density and exposure risk on campus for Lower School students as well. We will continue to monitor cases in grades PreK-6 very closely and will shift on a grade-by-grade basis, if essential. Students who are at home due to choice or illness, are being provided personal learning plans so that they may continue to learn asynchronously. We are being very attentive to mitigation strategies to ensure the health and safety of everyone on campus. These strategies are listed below:

Mitigation Strategies in Place

  1. Encouraging the use of N95 or KN95 masks. These masks are available on campus for our students.
  2. Less mixing of classes will occur and group and partner work will be minimized.
  3. More attention to keeping students 6 feet apart whenever possible.
  4. Further enhanced cleaning of their classrooms will begin.
  5. Scheduled handwashing and restroom breaks.

CHAMP Assembly On Wednesday This Week
The CHAMP theme for the school year is accountability. Part of being accountable is self-regulation and self-control. Making good choices and thinking before saying or doing something is an important part of self-control. First Graders shared a delightful message with everyone in Lower School about self-control. All students did follow-up activities in their classrooms to reinforce the concepts learned and will practice their self-regulation skills on a daily basis.

Myles Moore Joins Lower School
MPA has hired Myles Moore, an experienced paraprofessional, as an assistant teacher serving in Lower School classrooms. This added support for our youngest learners will help us provide more one-on-one attention to make up the progress students may have lost due to the impact of Covid-19. Myles came to MPA through the upper school basketball program. His most recent school experience has been in the Osseo School District. Upon reviewing his resume, we were intrigued by his experience. Myles will work in grades K, 1, and 2. His schedule will be determined based on the specific needs of students. Read More

Welcome To MPA, Holly Metzler

What position will you be holding at MPA?
Health Office Nurse

From what school/organization are you coming?
M Health Fairview

Tell us a little bit about your education and past experience.
I completed my nursing degree in December 2021. This is my first job as a nurse and I am very appreciative of the opportunity! Early in life, I earned a BA in Literature/Art History and a MS in Human Services.

What did you find appealing about MPA during the interview process?
I’ve heard great things about MPA and wanted the opportunity to work with children of all ages.

What’s your big dream?
My big dream is to get to know the children at MPA and take good care of them while they are at school 🙂

What are you (and your family, if you so choose) passionate about?
I have two children—Indira is in eighth grade and Everett is in sixth grade at Stillwater Middle School. We enjoy traveling together, trying new activities as a family, and both kids are involved in sports such as lacrosse, skiing, football and golf. In my downtime, I like to exercise, spend time with family and friends, and plan trips.

What’s a fun fact about you that our community would love to know?
My hobbies include singing, songwriting and playing guitar. And I look forward to getting back to music now that nursing school is complete.

Connect With MPA Parents This January

Parent Education Night
Save the Date for a Zoom Parent Education Night! January 27, 6:30-7:45 PM, please join MPA families to learn about neurodiversity in our school community.

Attention Middle School Panthers and Parents
The annual Middle School Café is going tubular this year! Stay tuned and get excited. While we can’t unveil all the details just yet (sorry!), we can say, SAVE THE DATE, Friday, February 25th from 2:30-5:30 PM.

January Walks with Dogs
Join Michelle Mick Friday, January 14 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!

Microfunding Grants
Looking for Microfunding for your club or classroom? It’s not too late to apply for these PA grants. Please send your applications to Natalie King, our micro-funding chair at Applications can be found here.

Meet The Ruane Family

The Ruane FamilyHow many years have you been part of the MPA community?
Just this one!

What do you love about MPA?
We love how well the faculty and staff have truly gotten to know our children in just a few short months. The small class size has been a wonderful fit for all of our children. Both of our kids in the Lower School feel seen, known, and loved in their classrooms. Their teachers have been able to design goals and opportunities around their specific needs. Our Middle Schooler has been given the opportunity to explore a plethora of new opportunities this year, which has been wonderful. Overall, we just feel like our kids are in very good hands when we drop them off everyday!

What initially attracted you to MPA? 
We love that MPA encourages our children to develop and explore multiple interests simultaneously. The strong triad of an education rich in academics, arts, and athletics really drew us towards MPA. 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.

Charting Our Path Forward

from Dr. Bill Hudson, Head of School

As we approach the end of the calendar year, the song “Auld Lang Syne” will be sung at New Year’s Eve gatherings, a related song by Dan Fogelberg from 1980 will be repeatedly played on Sirius/XM radio, or folks will sing along at the finale of “It’s a Wonderful Life.” I’ve never quite been able to remember, let alone pronounce, the words to the song, “Auld Lang Syne.” Nor can I carry a tune, for that matter. And yet I find the meaning behind the lyrics and music particularly poignant this year.

Just a year ago, there was great hope and optimism that the strife of 2020 would give way to a better year. And yet, in so many ways, it seems as though we are in nearly the same place as a year ago. It is clear to me that we will be battling with the virus for quite some time and working through its aftermath. Over the last year, we have faced both joys and challenges, managed hopes and anxieties, experienced growth and endured hardship, suffered isolation and celebrated community, persevered and remain mired in an all too familiar place.

There is much to be learned by reflecting upon our individual and collective journey over the past year. All of us—students, parents, teachers, and staff—are re-learning what it means to “do school,” how to be in relationship with one another, and the values that hold us together. All the while with masks on our faces and risk mitigation measures that sometimes have the unintended consequence of keeping us apart. Read More

Lower School Division News December 16, 2021

from Renee Wright, Lower School Director

Holiday Greetings
There is no time more fitting than the holidays to say thank you for your partnership in educating your child/children. I reflect gratefully on what an amazing Lower School we have at MPA all because of our wonderful students and families. Thanks for all you do at home to support your child’s educational journey as you communicate with teachers, guide your child through homework tasks, and contribute your time and resources to help our Lower School thrive and grow. On behalf of our entire Lower School faculty and staff, I wish you a warm and happy holiday season and a new year filled with much happiness, joy, and peace.

Winter Break (December 20-January 2)
Winter Break is a time to have some fun as a family! Spend time together baking cookies, reading a favorite holiday book, or getting cozy by the fireplace. Encourage your child to play outside in the snow and get some fresh air too! I always remind Lower School students to make time for independent reading during breaks. Keeping reading and writing skills strong is essential. Having your child write thank you notes to family members is a great way to practice writing skills as we go into the new year!

Coming Soon: The Great Kindness Challenge
The Great Kindness Challenge is presented by Kids of Peace, a global nonprofit organization. The Great Kindness Challenge was cofounded in 2006 in an effort to make our world a better place. It has grown into an interconnected network of young peacebuilders world-wide. At the heart of the program is the belief that “kindness is strength.” Students are asked to do random acts of kindness and track them during the week of January 24. By repeatedly practicing random acts of kindness, we will develop the habit of being kind and the outcome will be a more peaceful world. Lower School will work together to prove that KINDNESS matters. Students will be bringing home information about The Great Kindness Challenge and a challenge checklist in mid-January.


  • January 17: No Classes – MLK Day
  • January 18: No Classes – Professional Development Day for Teachers
  • January 24-28: The Great Kindness Challenge in Lower School
  • February 3: Conferences 3:30-8 PM
  • February 4: No Classes – Conferences 8 AM-4 PM
  • February 10: Conferences – 3:30-8 PM
  • February 18: No Classes – Professional Development Day for Teachers
  • February 21: No Classes – Presidents’ Day