Category Archives: Uncategorized

Summer Safety Tips from Nurse Conley

With summer break just around the corner, we are gearing up for lots of outdoor summer fun. Here are a few tips to help keep your child safe and healthy during summer break.Nurse

  1. Promote water safety: Never leave children unattended in the pool; have them wear properly-fitted life vests when participating in water activities.
  2. Protect against the heat and sun: Always wear sunscreen and/or hats when outside in the sun, and never leave children unattended in the car even if the window is cracked; cars heat up very quickly!
  3. Stay hydrated: Drink plenty of water. Beverages containing sugar (like soda pop and juice) can cause dehydration, but a frozen water bottle can provide cold refreshment for hours.
  4. Stay cool: Take cool showers, wear light clothing, relax in an air conditioned space, and drink cold beverages. Heat stroke is serious and can be life threatening. If you suspect that someone may be suffering from heat stroke, call 911.
  5. Protect against bug bites: Use an effective insect repellant when going outside and remove any objects with standing water from around your home.
  6. Protect against injuries: Protect against concussions and head injuries by making sure your child wears a helmet when riding their bikes and scooters, and using skateboards and roller skates. Make sure your child is monitored at all times when riding in places where there is traffic.
  7. Educate about stranger danger: Remind your child to never talk to or go with anyone (male, female, or child) that they do not know.
  8. Protect against animal bites: Remind your child to never touch or pet an animal that they do not know.
  9. Notify caretakers about allergies: Warmer weather means more insects and fun treats. Remember to remind caretakers about any allergies that your child may have and provide all necessary medications.
  10. Prepare for next school year: Summer doctor and dentist appointments can fill up quickly. If your child will need a physical examination or medical paperwork completed for the 2017-2018 school year, schedule appointments now to avoid the end-of-summer rush.

I hope you all have a fun and SAFE summer and I look forward to seeing you next school year!


By Nerissa Conley, R.N., PEL-CSN

Ms. Conley is Morgan Park Academy’s school nurse.

What Parents Need to Know about Signing up for Project Week

Our school’s mission statement focuses on educating the whole child and global leaders. What better way to accomplish these goals than by providing students opportunities to learn in the real world outside the classroom? During Project Week 2017, our students experienced a variety of global and cultural activities: they immersed themselves in the Japanese culture; explored the unique geological features of Iceland; home stayed with their German peers; performed field studies in Greece and Italy; visited leading companies and prestigious universities in Silicon Valley; adventured into the Yellowstone and learned how to make movies; visited different immigration communities in Chicago; experimented with 3D printing; and tackled various alternative sports. The greater world outside the school wall extended in front of our kids.

worldEach fall, the students look forward with great anticipation to the new events and trips offered. As soon as the Upper School faculty returned from the 2017 Project Week trips in March, they started to work diligently to create a variety of exciting and unique learning opportunities for Project Week 2018. The descriptions of the new trips will be available this summer on our website. The Project Week online catalog is an all-in guide for information such as important dates, descriptions of the trips, and costs.

The consideration of the trips starts with the online catalog. Please read the catalog with your child and discuss the many options available. We have tried to provide a variety of choices in terms of educational objectives, costs, and destinations. Your child will tell you excitingly where they want to go, but please remember that parents make the final decision; that’s why the online registration must be signed by the parents.

When you sign up for the trips, please be aware of both the financial and time commitments for these trips. Do not harness yourself with a financial burden that will cause stress; there are several affordable trips. Also, note that some trips may run longer than the designated week into the following week of Spring Break. Double check the dates and make sure it will not intervene in your family vacation plan.

Besides financial and time commitments, there are other factors that you may need to consider before you sign up. For example, do you have any important family events during Project Week that may prevent your child from travelling? Does a particular trip require a visa? Visa application processes can be very tedious. If the destination does require one, will you have time and energy to handle it?

In addition, it is also a good idea to discuss the responsibilities associated with each of these amazing opportunities. Such responsibilities could include, but are not limited to: keeping good grades, working part-time to save money for the trip, helping with household chores, tackling the challenges of some outdoor activities, or serving people in an unfamiliar culture as part of their trips, etc. In this way, students would know what is at stake, and what they need to do to earn such an exciting experience.

You will have the whole summer to consider these trips. The online registration opens in September. On the registration form, you will indicate four project choices in the order of preference. Every choice counts. Every year, I hear some parents and students saying, “We only care about the 1st choice. For the rest, we just randomly picked some.” I can imagine how disappointed they would be if they were not getting their 1st choice. I wish I could offer everyone his/her 1st choice but unfortunately it is unrealistic.

Here are some principles that can help guide the selection process:

  • Mixed age groups are optimal.
  • Everyone gets one of their four choices.
  • Seniors who have never traveled should have the opportunity to do so.
  • Away trips should have even (not necessarily equal) numbers of boys and girls for overnight accommodations.
  • We need to meet the minimum number of individuals in as many projects as possible.
  • Students should never participate in the same project twice.
  • Giving Upperclassmen a first or second choice is a goal, though not always possible.
  • Final consideration we take into account: past behavior in projects, group dynamics, past project selections, etc.

The purpose of Project Week is to expand the student’s horizon by learning new things and making new friends, and to bond with students and teachers across grades and disciplines. Project Week helps to create new and enduring friendships with other students and exemplifies the idea that the greatest learning experiences often come from knowing other people just a little bit better.


By Dr. Heng Zhao

Dr. Zhao teaches Mandarin and is the Academy’s Upper School Global Leaders Coordinator.

The Importance of Faculty Professional Development

Some may wonder about the purpose of having faculty professional development days. What about the conferences or workshops teachers attend? Are they necessary? Just like any other profession, teachers need to attend workshops, conferences, and other training sessions to stay current, collaborate with and learn from others, or inspire them to try new things in the classroom.

schmidt1One of the main reasons professional development is necessary is so teachers stay current in the field of education, which is constantly evolving. New initiatives and technology are continually added to programs, but teachers need to be trained so they feel equipped in the classroom. During our recent Professional Development day in April, all faculty took part in workshops. The PreK-8th grade faculty attended a session on Responsive Classroom, which provided strategies for positive management and character-building that will be implemented next year in the Lower and Middle Schools. These strategies will make students aware of expectations both inside and outside of the classroom to ensure consistency. The Upper School faculty took part in a Project-Based Learning workshop which allowed them to work on ways they can incorporate PBL into their current syllabi. As we work toward these initiatives, we will offer support to the teachers to promote a successful integration.

Collaboration with colleagues or attending workshops with others in the field of education is imperative to professional growth. Sharing ideas within grade levels or departments allows teachers to see what their peers are doing and how they can help one another. Members of our faculty have a wealth of knowledge that can be shared, if given the opportunity. In addition, attending workshops and conferences outside of school is beneficial because not only are teachers gaining useful information from experts, but they can network with other educators and trade ideas that can be effective in the classroom or the school. When teachers attend a workshop or conference, part of the requirement is to be a resource on the topic for other faculty members.

Professional development opportunities are inspirational. They may be just the spark a teacher needs to try something new in the classroom or an administrator the willingness to implement a new initiative at the school. If some of our teachers had not visited another school to see Responsive Classroom in action, we may not have decided to pursue training. Having teachers inspired by Project-Based Learning influenced others who wanted to learn more about it, which led us to bring in a consultant. Sometimes that is all it takes — for one person to be excited about an idea and spread that energy to others.
The next time you are curious about what happens on faculty professional development days or when your child says his teacher was not in school because she was at a workshop, you will know that they are learning things that can positively impact education. This summer, we are pleased to be sending teachers and administrators to workshops and conferences addressing topics that range from content-based approaches to school leadership and design. Also, plans are underway for training that will take place during the faculty preparation week at the end of August. As educators, we should always continue to learn, grow, and improve!


By Jennifer Schmidt

Mrs. Schmidt is the Director of Curriculum and Instruction.

Spotlight on Spanish

Spanish is our most popular language program at MPA. We begin Spanish lessons in preschool, alongside French and Mandarin, and continue exploratory classes through 4th grade. In 5th grade, students can choose between Spanish, French or Mandarin for full-time study and continue their language of choice through the rest of their education at the Academy. Our teachers, Señora Ortiz, Señora Harris, and I – Profe Camastro – love sharing our experience with the Spanish language and Hispanic culture with our students. In exploratory classes, our program emphasizes basic skills and vocabulary through dance, song, rhyme and movement. In our full-year program, teachers help students develop reading and writing skills, as well as build conversational and cultural competency. In addition to local field trips to the Pilsen and Hermosa neighborhoods, we also offer Project Week trips abroad (in the Middle and Upper School), to countries including Costa Rica, Peru, and Spain so that students have an opportunity to speak and hear Spanish from native speakers.

DSC_0029xIt should come as no surprise that Spanish as a second language has exploded in popularity not only at MPA but also throughout the United States. An estimated 7.8 million people are currently learning Spanish in the US. Increasing immigration to the US from Hispanic countries has made our nation the second-largest Spanish-speaking country in the world, ahead of even Spain! By 2050, it is projected that there will be 138 million Spanish-speakers in the US – a third of the population. Professional opportunities for use of Spanish are boundless; medicine, business, law enforcement, education, social work are just some of the fields where bilingual candidates are in constant demand.

Of course, proficiency in Spanish is also a key skill outside of the United States. It’s the official language of 20 countries around the world, and a second language to millions of people outside of those countries. Latin America has some of the world’s most important emerging economies, including Mexico and Chile. Additionally, Mexico, the Dominican Republic, and Spain are all in the top 10 destinations for Americans traveling abroad.  

As Spanish teachers, we are happy to teach students who chose our language for “practical” reasons. Spanish is undoubtedly a top choice for students hoping to improve their job prospects and further their career ambitions by becoming bilingual. However, we try to share with students the intrinsic beauty of the language and its rich cultural and historical connections. From Argentinian tango to Spanish tapas to Mexican fiestas, we want students to know that the Hispanic culture has so much more to offer them than a bullet point on their job application.

Sources and further reading:

  1. US now has more Spanish speakers than Spain – only Mexico has more
  2. Emerging Markets in Latin America: Chile, Brazil, Colombia, Peru, Mexico
  3. Careers in Spanish
  4. El español: una lengua viva

The MPA Library: What’s in it for me?

April is National School Library Month and, as your MPA librarian, I would like to welcome everyone to visit the library! Starting with the PK 4 class, Lower School classes come each week for library time. Students play games and do activities to practice information literacy skills which are coordinated with units being taught by their classroom teachers. For example, I have a great time gathering and sharing books and materials for Global Explorers Week in March when each class focuses on a particular country. In preparation for choosing and checking out books, library classes also include time for reading aloud and discussing picture books, highlighting chapter books, and allowing students to explore displays of books related to seasonal, genre, or topical themes.

libraryMiddle and Upper School students come occasionally to the library with their teachers, but are also encouraged to come independently. This year, students have come looking for books for history projects about topics such as the Great Depression, the Vietnam War, terrorism, and the Cold War. They have found materials to help with research for a unit on revolutions ranging from the Revolutionary War to the Scientific Revolution to the Russian Revolution. While the internet may be a better source for current events, our school library has good collections of books in the areas of biography, history, religion, philosophy, ancient civilizations, world cultures, and social justice. We have a collection of vinyl records for music history buffs and shelves full of books for fans of literary classics and the arts. Our library has a special collection of books on Abraham Lincoln and books about the history and people of Chicago. Stored behind-the-scenes are back issues of several periodicals like Time Magazine which are useful to give a picture of important events and popular culture through the decades. We add to our collection through the Parent Organization’s annual Book Fair and other generous donations. School community members are always encouraged to donate books or make suggestions for items they would like to see added to the collection.

Interested in reading for pleasure or increasing your knowledge? Here are some tools for finding out what is available:

  • Click here for a link to the MPA Library Online Catalog. The catalog allows library patrons to search for books and other materials by title, author, subject, keywords, series, or use other types of searches. There is also a “What’s Hot?” running display of book titles recently checked out by students or other members of the school community.  
  • Once you find the book title or the topic you seek, please explore the shelves and feel free to ask Mrs. Arnold for help in locating books. In our library, fiction books are arranged by the last names of authors and nonfiction books are arranged using the Dewey Decimal System.
  • Please also feel free to send email requests to Mrs. Arnold for help searching for books and other library materials.
  • The librarian can check out books or, if she is not available, please record your items in the spiral notebook on the blue book cart in Mancini Library. You may also leave a note on Mrs. Arnold’s desk in the Lower School library with your name, the title, and number from the computer barcode label. The librarian keeps track of book checkout data using our computer catalog software system.
  • Click here to access ebooks and audiobooks. Our school is part of the eRead Illinois program which has a large collection of digital print and audiobooks available to patrons of Illinois public and school libraries. This is a great way to find and enjoy reading old favorites or recent books not yet added to our Mancini Library collection.
  • Please check out the site, download the app to your devices, and try it out. All faculty/staff members and students in grades 6-12 have accounts already set up and can log in to check out or put a hold on materials you wish to read. Your library card ID is your school email address and everyone has the same PIN: mpa. Mrs. Arnold has created a patron list for this service, but if there are errors or omissions, please let her know, as well as if there are any questions or problems with eRead Illinois.


By Harriet Arnold

Ms. Arnold is our school librarian.

We Lit Fires Which Continue To Burn

As I have mentioned before, the school with the most spirit is not necessarily the one with the loudest pep rallies, the most championship teams, or the most posters around the school at game time. Rather, the most spirited school is the one that has the largest percentage of students who feel like they belong. MPA is a place that promotes cooperation and support, where we feel pride and shared responsibility for helping each other be the best we can be.

Mr. Malcolm 1With that in mind, I’d like to talk more about what it is about MPA that is so special, and two things come to mind: our House system, and the vast array of co-curriculars that we offer.

The MPA House system was launched at the beginning of the 2011-2012 school year. Modeled after systems found at British and Australian schools, all students, faculty, and staff are divided into four houses. Each is a member of that house for life. The houses — Blake, Norton, Theodore and Withington — are named after historic MPA leaders who served as role models for the community. The house system is intended to foster individual growth, develop student leadership, and create student relationships across grade levels.

As part of the team who researched and introduced the house system, my interest arose from the spirit-building opportunities these systems provided. Each month during the induction year, we celebrated the house with the most cooperation points. House Leaders planned house-related meetings, assemblies, and spirit activities. And after that first year, activities have expanded. From cheering challenges, to our annual tricycle and sled races, to this year’s boat challenge in the “lake” in Jones Bowl after a heavy rain, to socials and service opportunities, our house leaders plan events that the entire school participates in, bringing our school community together. These school-wide contests result in more positive interaction between students, faculty, and staff and create a sense of unity.

At the end of the school year, the House Cup is presented to the house with the most cooperation points. Each year as the winner is announced, I get to witness the excitement as leaders come to the stage to have their photos taken. The winning house’s name is then engraved on the Cup and displayed on campus for the next school year until the honor is handed over (or retained if the same house wins). Each year and with each house activity, I am amazed as our students come together to celebrate and start planning for the next challenge.

Another important part of the MPA experience (available to all 1st through 12th graders) is the vast array of co-curricular activities we offer here at the Academy. The co-curricular program allows all students the opportunity to experience different areas of interest, to build relationships with other students, to develop school spirit, and to have fun. Beyond the classroom, this involvement provides opportunities for community building as students work towards common goals.

Advising our Middle School Student Council this year has brought supporting student leadership full circle. Within the first few years of my being on campus, I was given the opportunity to advise Middle School Student Council and served in that position for many years. I was also appointed Director of Student Activities in 1978. Over the years, I have served as a swim coach for one season for a student who wanted to represent Morgan Park Academy, as a cheerleader coach, as the chess and science club leader, and many other roles.

Education is a team sport. Spirit is too. Without wonderful, generous partners over the years — current and past students, parents, staff, faculty, administrators, friends, and community members (all of whom value the spirit of Morgan Park Academy) — we would not have accomplished as much as we have. The success of our co-curricular activities over the years has, in large part, hinged on the support of our parents who have encouraged participation, provided transportation when needed, and attended and applauded at every opportunity.

And close to my heart, sustainability, which has been at the forefront of our co-curricular offerings. I will be putting my skills to use again as I plan and build my garden at my farm, taking with me memories and the spirit of students cutting our ornamental grasses, pulling weeds, planting of our global (community) garden, our outdoor classroom, and sore fingers and thumbs hit by the hammer.

The Power of Playdough

Children love playdough! Parents hate it! It’s messy. The crumbs get ground up in the carpet and are impossible to get out. It sticks to socks, shoes, and anything that comes in contact with it. Inevitably it ends up on the floor. What a headache! And, the kids aren’t learning anything by playing with it. Right?  Or, are they?

playdoughActually, manipulating playdough fosters growth in many developmental areas.

It provides opportunities for children to:

  • Strengthen small finger muscles (necessary for fine motor skills such as holding a pencil and writing) through squishing, rolling, flattening, cutting, pinching, shaping, etc.
  • Develop social and language skills when working with others by sharing, taking turns, conversing, and engaging in open ended, imaginative play
  • Gain spatial awareness while making 2D and 3D shapes
  • Further eye-hand coordination
  • Increase attention span
  • Calm down, release anxiety, and is a great outlet for them to express their emotions

A child’s imagination can be stimulated through working with playdough just as it would when playing “dress up” or “house” with dress-up clothes, dishes, dolls, etc. The addition of props to your child’s play with items from the house (or a quick trip to the Dollar Store) can foster creativity.

  • Rolling pins, plastic knives, pizza cutters
  • Pasta shapes
  • Muffin tins, egg cartons, baking sheets
  • Cupcake holders
  • Cookie cutters
  • Sticks, shells, rocks, glass pebbles, buttons, bottle caps
  • Q-tips, toothpicks, popsicle/craft sticks
  • Feathers, pipe cleaners
  • Googly eyes
  • Plastic toy figures, toy vehicles, plastic animals

For example, pasta shells and toothpicks can become spikes, plates, and tails to transform playdough into the land of the dinosaurs; a muffin tin, cookie sheet, and cookie cutters turns your house into a bakery; glass pebbles, shells, and playdough fish become an underwater adventure; and the addition of googly eyes to any shape instantly creates a monster. The opportunities are endless!

So, don’t be shy. Give it a try. Your child will thank you for it!

Check out this link for an easy Kool-Aid playdough recipe that your child will love!

Photo Credit: Fun At Home With Kids


By Kari Misulonas

Ms. Misulonas is our Early Childhood Curriculum Leader & 
Director of Student Support Services.