Growing Through Experience

from Dr. Bill Hudson, Head of School

On Wednesday, 48 seventh graders excitedly boarded buses for a day at the Minnesota Zoo. From the outside it might look like a typical field trip, but in true MPA fashion, it is a thoughtfully crafted lesson that intentionally weaves together science, student agency, experiential learning, critical thinking, creativity, design thinking, and a dose of joy. There is a lot to unpack in that description, but I’d like to focus on just one aspect, experiential learning.

You have no doubt heard the term, “hands-on, experiential learning” sometime during your time at MPA. We use it often but have rarely explained it and its importance to learning. The concept first appeared in “Nicomachean Ethics” written in 350 BC by Aristotle, “For the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them.” Modern educational theorists such as John Dewey wrote about the importance of learning by doing, but it is David Kolb who developed an experiential learning theory and model. It was upon this body of knowledge that MPA developed our founding pedagogy in 1982.

Kolb defined experiential learning as “The process whereby knowledge is created through the transformation of experience.” Experiential learning recognizes that students come to school with past experience and knowledge and that the school’s job is to provide a rich learning environment that engages the students at their individual levels. Examples of experiential learning abound at all grade levels at MPA and include hands-on laboratory experiments, projects in the Makerspace, work in outdoor gardens, monarch butterfly way stations, prairie restoration, field trips, performances, and more. Read More


Upper School Division News

from Mark Segal, Upper School Director

The day started like any other Monday, but I knew that was not the case. After welcoming students to campus at the north door, my focus shifted as I made last minute preparations for the first in person Monday Morning Meeting in 574 days. I anticipated what it would be like and what I would feel, but I had no idea how impactful this community gathering would be to me. I clearly remembered our last gathering where I wished everyone a safe and restful Spring Break, and since then have facilitated each of our meetings via Zoom. Although a nice substitute, nothing compares to seeing the Upper School students with each other in the same space. According to the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) one of the key components of a school is, “creating a culture built on community.” Establishing the foundation of familiarity and trust between students within a community sets expectations and builds chemistry that translates to various aspects of their lives— family, team, club, etc.

Looking out at 235 pajama clad students (and many faculty) was the first of many community building activities during Homecoming week. Each day of the week the students excitedly participated in the themed dress up days (my favorite being Dress Like a Teacher Day and seeing several students wearing sweater vests and bow ties), spent time collaboratively decorating their grade level hallways, and engaged in a special Homecoming Assembly where the traditional court selection, introduction of fall athletic teams, and grade level tug of war took place. Friday afternoon brought three-quarters of the Upper School students together for the annual bar-b-que and bonfire in the Benz Courtyard. Even though it has been two years since this event was held, the students quickly fell back into their routines of being with one another and enjoying each other’s company. Throwing the football, kicking the soccer ball, bumping the volleyball, and participating in a cornhole tournament were enjoyed and appreciated activities.

Saturday night brought the finale’ to Homecoming week. The weather gods shined down as the rain cloud disappeared in time for us to hold the first Homecoming Dance since September 2019. More than half the Upper School student body attended the first outdoor Homecoming Dance in school history. Adhering to the required health and safety protocols, students danced and “chilled” with each other through the evening. The addition of a bonfire allowed students to find some peace and quiet in an otherwise fun-filled evening.

A recent Edutopia article shares that once students feel safe, secure, and have a sense of belonging in a school environment they are able to better focus their attention and energy on learning. There is no doubt that the past 19 months have impacted us individually and collectively. After the excitement of last week, I am cautiously optimistic that maybe, just maybe, “normalcy” is returning to our special community.

I look forward to seeing you on campus soon!

Important Information

  1. We are excited to welcome Ms. Rae Dillon as the Upper School and College Counseling Administrative Assistant. Most recently, Rae worked as the Program and Operations Manager with the Minnesota Elementary School Principals’ Association where she served as the primary liaison to their Executive Committee and Board of Directors. Prior to that, Rae held positions at the Universities of St. Catherine and St. Thomas, Oak View Elementary School, Brooklyn Center Elementary and the Northwest YMCA. A graduate of the University of Minnesota, Rae holds a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature and Youth Studies. Rae can be reached on rdillon@moundsparkacademy.org or 651-748-5544 to report student absences of if you have any Upper School-centric questions.
  2. As we continue to navigate the ongoing challenges of the pandemic, we ask for your diligence in working with our COVID-19 symptom response and contact tracing team. At the first sign of symptoms, parents should complete the daily AUXS app symptom screening and/or email covid@moundsparkacademy.org. This should happen BEFORE seeking a COVID-19 test. When a negative COVID-19 test is required for student clearance, results must be provided prior to the student’s return. All symptomatic community members, regardless of vaccination status must remain at home pending those results. Thank you for your partnership. For any questions, please contact Jennifer Rogers at covid@moundsparkacademy.org.

Looking Ahead

  • Thursday, October 7: Upper School Conferences, 4-8 PM, via Zoom
  • Friday, October 8: No Classes, Upper School Conferences, 8-4 PM, via Zoom
  • Tuesday, October 12: Senior Performances, 8-9:15 AM, via Zoom
  • Saturday, October 16: PSAT Testing for Grades 10 & 11, 8 AM-12 PM, Lansing Sport Center
  • Wednesday, October 20: No Classes, Fall Break
    • Non-Official PSAT for 10th Grade, 8 AM-12 PM, Lansing Sport Center
  • Thursday, October 21: No Classes, Fall Break
  • Friday, October 22: No Classes, Fall Break
  • Tuesday, October 26: PSAT Testing for 11th Grade, 8 AM-12 PM, Nicholson Center
    • This is an alternate test date only for 11th grade students unable to test on 10/16
  • Wednesday, October 27: Senior Performances, 8-9:15 AM, via Zoom
  • Friday, October 29: Last Day of Quarter 1
    • Senior Retreat, 8 AM-6:30 PM, Camp St. Croix and MPA
  • Monday, November 1: No Classes, Grading Day
  • Tuesday, November 2: First Day of Quarter 2


Meet Rae Dillon

Rae Dillon

What position will you be holding at MPA?
Upper School and College Counseling Administrative Assistant

From what school/organization are you coming?
I was the Program and Operations Manager at the MN Elementary School Principals’ Association (MESPA)

Tell us a little bit about your education and past experience.
I was inspired by the strong sense of community and even “family” at MPA! I love the school’s small, intimate feel that cares about students holistically, rather than just data and test scores. I love the welcoming environment and focus on individuality, inclusivity, and the arts!

What’s your big dream?
[Like, if I could do anything?] To help cultivate a world filled with compassion, empathy, and justice for all people and the environment.

What are you (and your family, if you so choose) passionate about?
I am passionate about young people and their futures, the environment, mental health and mindfulness, spending time outdoors, and reading a good trashy mystery novel (my goal is one every month).

What’s a fun fact about you that our community would love to know?
I LOVE gardening, but I am not very good at it. I love that I get better each year, and every autumn, I wipe the slate clean and try again next year. I love to grow (and eat) tomatoes the most.


Coming Home To MPA

Heads Messagefrom Dr. Bill Hudson, Head of School

Love Actually is one of my favorite movies. I love the opening scene of the movie, which takes place in Heathrow Airport in London. As pictures of families greeting friends and loved ones at the arrival gate are shown, the British Prime Minister, played by Hugh Grant, provides the following voiceover:

“It seems to me that love is everywhere. Often, it’s not particularly dignified or newsworthy, but it’s always there: fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, old friends. When the planes hit the Twin Towers, as far as I know, none of the phone calls from the people on board were messages of hate or revenge – they were all messages of love. If you look for it, I’ve got a sneaky feeling you’ll find that love actually is all around.”

It sounds cheesy and idealistic but I do agree that love is all around us if we are willing and able to see it. I often share that the best part of my day is greeting students at the front entrance of the school each morning. It’s somewhat like the opening scene in “Love Actually” but instead of an airport arrivals gate, it’s like the front door of a home. Home. A place of comfort, love and belonging, of family. For so many of us, MPA is much more than a building or a school. We come together around a common set of values and beliefs as well as a passionate commitment to educate the whole child. Read More


Preparing Students For A Future That Is Difficult To Understand

Katie murr teaching upper school social studiesTo cultivate right makers, you need teachers who are able to connect deep content knowledge to the real world in ways that implore students to use it for good. Katie Murr is one of many exceptional teachers at MPA who have the ability to do just that every single day.

Katie was raised by two public school teachers, including her mother, who holds a Ph.D. in microbiology, and she was immersed in their careers. “They firmly believed in the power of knowledge as the path toward a more meaningful and impactful life,” Katie explained. Never intending to teach, Katie’s early aspirations led her toward law or politics at Wellesley College in Massachusetts. She interned for Paul Wellstone and worked primarily on education policy. “I came to realize that politics is not the place to change education. The classroom is.”

Looking back, Katie now realizes that she was destined to be a teacher. “I always really liked teachers, probably because I wanted to be one whether I knew it or not,” Katie reflected. She attended Eagan High School where two teachers truly inspired Katie—they were known to her at the time as Mr. Vergin and Ms. Kunze, both of whom are now her colleagues at MPA. Early in their careers, they taught Katie social studies and world language, and coached her in debate and speech. “Mike taught me everything I know about patience and evaluating information critically. And Kari is one of the finest educators I’ve ever known. You learn just by being in her presence.” Read More


Maintaining The MPA Experience

from Dr. Bill Hudson, Head of School

It always seems as though the battery on my cell phone is running low. Maybe it’s because I have an older model, or often forget to close apps and plug it in. It is probably the combination of all those factors, although I often blame it on Waze, a crowd-sourced GPS traffic app I use every day that requires a great deal of power to operate.

I think we can all agree that the last 18 months of the pandemic have drained our collective batteries. COVID-19 has been like the Waze app—always open, always draining, hard to close down. Similarly, political discord, social unrest, racial tension, and climate events have also acted like apps that are constantly open and continually draining our reserve. My kids chastise me to close out my apps when I am done using them. (I wish they would do the same with their dirty dishes!) I have decided to follow their advice. Instead of allowing the pandemic to dominate my home screen, it will become just one of many apps on my phone. We must take COVID-19 very seriously, to be sure, but we must also move forward.

That said, our priority is to be on-campus for in-person learning all year. While we are carrying forward many lessons learned during the pandemic, we know how important it is for students to bring their whole selves to school each day. The Minnesota Department of Health (and all available public health guidance) agrees that the benefits of being physically present in school are significant and creating conditions that help safeguard in-person instruction is a priority.

We’ve designed our plan with the MPA mission in mind. Not only are we committed to keeping in-person learning available to students, but we know that preventing on-campus spread may help to reduce the amount of community spread within the Twin Cities. We want to “do right” by doing our part. Layered mitigation remains our shared responsibility: symptom monitoring, prompt reporting of symptoms and exposure, minimizing gatherings and travel, and higher risk activities (particularly for the unvaccinated) in addition to masking, hygiene practices, enhanced ventilation, onsite testing, and the variety of other strategies we have successfully employed during our COVID response.

Thanks to our shared commitment to all of our recommendations and guidelines, we’ve been able to not only have students be in person and learning with their teachers and classmates, but they’re experiencing all that an MPA education has to offer including safe athletics, robust support services, continuity of theatre classes and curriculum, resumed music education, clubs and activities, and a return to many on campus events.

We should celebrate our community’s commitment to vaccinations: 97% of eligible students and 98% of eligible adults have been fully vaccinated. Once vaccines become available for younger ages, which may be much sooner than we thought, we strongly urge parents to seek vaccines for those under 12 as well. When that occurs, we look forward to relaxing a number of protocols that are currently in place.

Read More


It’s Time For MPA’s Fall Preview

Fall PreviewInvite a friend, neighbor, colleague, or family member to join us for MPA’s largest PreK-12 admission event, the MPA Fall Preview! Held virtually on Sunday, November 7 starting at 2 PM, this event will be a structured program that will allow prospective students and parents to get a sense of what makes MPA an exceptional place to learn and grow.

Kindly invite your friends and neighbors to RSVP in advance for this engaging program at moundsparkacademy.org/RSVP. If you have any questions, contact the Office of Admission at 651-748-5577 or admission@moundsparkacademy.org. We can’t wait to meet them!


Upper School Division News

from Mark Segal, Upper School Director

According to the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP), “a recent U.S. Surgeon General report indicates that one in five children and adolescents will face a significant mental health condition during their school years.” Those who suffer from these conditions may face barriers to their learning or social-emotional relationships with peers and their school. The Surgeon General continues that, “key responsibilities of schools include creating a safe and nurturing school environment, supporting the physical and mental health of children, fostering their social and emotional well-being, and being prepared to address teen suicide through effective communication and support.” The Mounds Park Academy faculty prides itself on building strong relationships with their students, knowing their students well, and being prepared to support students as they make their way through the adolescent developmental journey.

The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) shared last August that social media platforms saw a significant increase in COVID-19 materials and information and misinformation left adolescents exposed to associated challenges. The NCBI says that “the social media infodemic has been linked to anxiety, feeling powerless, and catastrophizing situations.”

This past Tuesday and Wednesday upper school students participated in the SOS Signs of Suicide Prevention Program. MPA students received psychoeducation about the signs of suicide and how to help someone who may be having difficult thoughts or feelings. Students also completed an eight-question screener to identify those who need immediate assistance. This is the third time that we have partnered with students and faculty from the University of Wisconsin River Falls Psychology program. They met with students individually throughout the day and contacted parent(s)/guardian(s) of those who needed additional support and provided referrals to some for outside care.

Offering this support system at MPA provides students with the opportunity to engage openly in conversation and find important resources rather than face a stigma that may exist. These supports foster stronger and more authentic relationships which, in turn, allows students to see greater success in their academics and social connections.
I look forward to seeing you on campus soon,

Important Information

MPA Covid-19 Symptom Response
As we continue to navigate the ongoing challenges of the pandemic, we ask for your diligence in working with our Covid-19 symptom response and contact tracing team. At the first sign of symptoms, parents should complete the daily AUXS app symptom screening and/or email covid@moundsparkacademy.org. When a negative Covid-19 test is required for student clearance, results must be provided prior to the student’s return. All symptomatic community members, regardless of vaccination status must remain at home pending those results. Thank you for your partnership. For any questions, please contact Jennifer Rogers at jrogers@moundsparkacademy.org.

Looking Ahead

  • Tues, 9/21: SOS Screenings, 9th grade and new 10th grade students
  • Wed, 9/22: SOS Screenings, 9th grade and new 10th grade students
  • Thurs, 9/30: Upper School Conferences, 4:00 – 7:00 PM, via Zoom
  • Fri, 10/1: Upper School Homecoming BBQ & Bonfire, 5:00 – 8:00 PM, Benz Courtyard
  • Sat, 10/2: Homecoming, all day, on campus
  • Wed, 10/6: Class of 2022 Cum Laude Induction, 7:30 AM, location TBD
  • Thurs, 10/7: Upper School Conferences, 4:00 – 8:00 PM, via Zoom
  • Fri, 10/8: No Classes, Upper School Conferences, 8:00 – 4:00 PM, via Zoom
  • Wed, 10/20: No Classes, Fall Break
  • Thurs, 10/21: No Classes, Fall Break
  • Fri, 10/22: No Classes, Fall Break


Homecoming Celebration And Spirit Week Reimagined

Homecoming September 27 – October 2
Join us as we reimagine our annual Homecoming festivities in light of COVID-19 health and safety concerns. We are offering division-specific opportunities for students as a part of a weeklong celebration, building spirit for MPA Athletics and our entire community.

Upper School Activities:

  • MPA Student Council Spirit Week Dress Up Days: September 27 – October 1
  • Upper School student only BBQ: October 1, 5-8 PM, Benz Courtyard
  • Upper School student dance: October 2, 8-11 PM, Benz Courtyard
  • Free Homecoming-themed MPA t-shirts for all Upper School students

Middle School Activities:

  • Middle School Game Day: October 1, 10 AM-3 PM, South Lawn (Parent Volunteers needed!)
  • Spirit Week Dress Up Days September 27-October 1
  • Free Homecoming-themed MPA t-shirts for all Middle School students

Lower School Activities:

  • Pajama Day for all Lower School Students: September 27
  • Spirit Wear Day with Homecoming T-shirt and non-uniform bottom: October 1
  • Homecoming Spirit Photo Booth and Special Appearances by the MPA Panther: September 27-October 1
  • Homecoming Panther Coloring Sheets available for students
  • Free Homecoming-themed MPA t-shirts for all Lower School students

MPA Athletics Schedule Saturday, October 2
Please note: Only athlete household members may attend in person. Join in the fun and cheer on our Panthers by streaming games live! Learn more at https://www.moundsparkacademy.org/athletics/

  • Varsity Girls Soccer vs New Life Academy 11 AM (available for streaming)
  • Varsity Boys Soccer New Life Academy 1 PM (available for streaming)
  • Varsity Volleyball 9 AM-2 PM (continuous streaming viewing)
  • JV Boys Soccer New Life Academy 11 AM (not available for streaming)
  • Varsity Girls Tennis vs Como Park and Cretin Derham Hall (not available for streaming)

Homecoming Parent Gathering 
Parents, would you like to share your MPA Spirit and support our student athletes? Join the MPA Parents Association for an all-parent coffee and community building meet-up on Friday, October 1 from 7:45 to 10 AM. You’ll find us under the big white tent in the west parking lot, rain or shine. Meet other MPA parents, help to decorate the outdoor fields, and write messages of encouragement for our athletes. Go Panthers!


The Responsibility of Bold Innovation

from Dr. Bill Hudson, Head of SchoolHead's Message

I have to admit I am a big fan of dystopia books, film, and television. Favorite books include “The Stand” by Stephen King and “Swan Song” by Robert McCammon, movies such as “The Day After Tomorrow” and “I Am Legend”, and television shows like “The Leftovers” and “The Walking Dead.” It’s not that I like gloom and doom or enjoy blood and gore. Rather, I see dystopian literature, films, and television as windows into the human condition, what humans are capable of in the face of horrific conditions, great suffering, or terrible injustice, and the triumph of the human spirit.

Living through the last several weeks, let alone the last 18 months, has been all too much like a dystopian novel. Wildfires in the west, hurricanes in the south, the drought here in Minnesota combined with the lingering effects of the pandemic, all present a series of challenges that are testing the fabric of our society. Like characters in a dystopian movie, we are learning a great deal about ourselves, what we value, and what we are willing to do to endure.

Imagine my surprise last week when dystopia seemed to invade my professional life when I came across the article “Schooling in the ‘Fifth Season’” by Justin Reich in the latest edition of one of my favorite education journals, Educational Leadership. What caught my attention was a quote from a study conducted by the United States Change Research Program, “Humans are re-engineering the geo-chemistry of the planet to be inhospitable to our current civilization. As average temperatures rise and extreme weather events become more common, there will be more fires, more floods, more freezes, more novel disease events, and accompanying migration, civil unrest, and conflict.” (Reidmiller, et al., 2018) While I’m not sure I agree with this assessment, I believe that conducting school no just like we did 18 months ago would be a mistake. Educational systems must be inherently structured to pivot and change and to become more agile and proactively responsive. Read More