My Project Week Trip to Andros Island

By Abbey Haynes ’20

Editor’s Note: A key part of Morgan Park Academy’s global curriculum is a week of school-wide global explorations each March, which this year included an Upper School trip to study the ecology and culture of Andros Island in the Bahamas.

When you think of the Bahamas, you usually picture gorgeous beaches, palm trees, tourists, and endless sun. Our Project Week trip to Andros Island was all of that and so much more — except for the tourists!

While the capital of Nassau is known for its populated areas, Andros, the largest of the islands, is acclaimed for its friendly residents and an abundance of nature available for scientific research and exploration.

[See more photos and videos from this trip or check out stories and photos from other Global Week trips.]

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My Week at Heifer Ranch & Global Village

By Saanvi Malkani ’23

Editor’s Note: A key part of Morgan Park Academy’s global curriculum is a week of school-wide global explorations each March, including a seventh-grade trip to the Heifer Ranch in Arkansas.

Sunday we had our near 13-hour bus ride to Perryville, Arkansas. It was a day consumed by our electronic devices, which will not happen again until Friday. The entire time I was anxious and eager to get to the ranch, which was inevitably in the middle of nowhere. The bus drive was slightly boring, but I got to witness the transition from the city to the rural fields. It was nice to escape my bubble in Chicago, in which everything is busy and chaotic, and transition into the serene, calm, and peaceful environment.

Although the bus ride was tiring, it was nice to be able to to rest up knowing what was in store for us tomorrow. I was very excited to finally be able to somewhat understand the things going on in the world and to be “off the grid” for a few days, while some people need to do it their whole lives.

[See more photos from this trip or check out stories and photos from other Global Week trips.]

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Does Your Child Really Need a Smartphone?

Added to the age-old conundrum of when to give your child the car keys for the first time, is a 21st-century parenting question: At what age should a child have his or her own smartphone?

This is a tricky situation. You might be a parent who simply got tired of your child asking to use your phone. Or maybe you caved to pleas of “But all the other kids in my class have one!”

But does your child really need a smartphone? It could do more harm than good.

A student with a smartphone has instant access to other students, 24/7. Those students, in turn, have access to your child. They might all be wonderful, sweet kids, with little negative intent. However, mix undeveloped brains still learning how to appropriately communicate with other human beings, and it can be a recipe for disaster.

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Exploring Computer Science in Lower School

Morgan Park Academy’s Computer Science curriculum begins in Lower School, with classes that introduce the fundamental concepts of CS to all students, beginning even before children learn to read.

During tech classes, MPA students are introduced to CS principles through algorithmic thinking. A typical lesson for kindergarten would include a brief discussion of the concept, followed by a series of computer activities on pattern recognition in computing.

Students in grades 1-5 streamline their focus on algorithmic thinking through loops and conditionals. Each class has a different goal; thus, student expectations are clearly defined. We accomplish these goals through various teacher-led, independent, and collaborative learning activities.

I try to make these activities fun for young learners; it is vital that students enjoy their newfound experience of programming. I’m also hands-on with the students, which means logging onto my device and working together to problem-solve these activities. It’s important for students to see me participate and to know that we’re a team!

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Meet Our Teachers: Beth Ferguson

First-grade teacher Beth Ferguson has been a member of our Early Childhood faculty for nearly two decades, teaching students from Pre-Kindergarten through second grade.

Mrs. Ferguson holds a B.A. in Elementary Education from Trinity International University and an M.A. in Curriculum Development from National Louis University, plus 15 additional hours of Special Education courses.

In her time at Morgan Park Academy, she also has served as Dean of Early Childhood and directed our Summer Camps and ABC programs.


Why did you choose to work at Morgan Park Academy?

I began teaching at the Academy fresh out of college. I taught second grade for eight years, loving the time I had with Kathy Keelan as a teaching partner! Then I taught at a CPS alternative school for children with behavior disorders. I learned a great deal about myself and my teaching philosophy during that time.

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Meet Our Staff: Nerissa Conley

Nerissa Conley, RN, PEL-CSN, is our full-time School Nurse.

conleyNurse Conley worked as a nurse clinician on the medical surgical-oncology floor at Advocate South Suburban Hospital before returning to school to become a licensed school nurse. She worked as a school nurse in the Blue Island School District for several years and then as a nurse supervisor in a Chicago Public Schools specialized services school before coming to Morgan Park Academy in 2015.

Nurse Conley holds a B.S. in Dietetics from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, a Master of Science degree in Food Science and Human Nutrition from University of Illinois at Urbana- Champaign, a B.S. in Nursing from Purdue University, and a Professional Educator’s License as a Certified School Nurse from the State of Illinois.


What do you enjoy most about Nursing?

Helping others. I love helping people feel better and supporting people in their time of need. Everyone has a moment in life when they struggle with something (physically, emotionally, etc.). It is very rewarding to feel like I might have helped someone overcome a challenge in some way.

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Meet Our Teachers: Scott Sowinski

Scott Sowinski teaches physics and forensic science in our Upper School and leads the development of our science curriculum. He also teaches drama, directs drama productions, and moderates the Arts Council.

Before joining the Morgan Park Academy faculty in 2016, Mr. Sowinski worked in educational consulting and school administration, and also did integrative programming with the Chicago Public Schools in technology and hybrid learning models. He was the head of curriculum and instruction on the North Side before coming home to the South Side. He also ran a private homeschooling program in New York City for more than a decade.

Mr. Sowinski is a voracious lifelong learner, working now on a Ph.D. in education policy after earning an undergraduate degree in multiple sciences and secondary education, a conservatory degree in opera, and two Master’s degrees: one in curriculum and instruction and another in education policy and organizational leadership and administration.


What is the most important lesson you want students to learn in your class?

Ultimately, my goal is to shape people, not content. What they learn will matter very little if it does not serve to better them. I want students to recognize the importance of failure, find acceptance in error, and assert the courage to rise up and become more than when they started. I want them to think deeper and relay every effort to serve our global community in whatever path they choose. There is no “most important” lesson. Rather, I strive to teach them that every opportunity ignites the potential for greater change.

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