Minnehaha Academy Blog

Visiting Minnehaha's Upper School [Photos]

Posted by Rebekah Peterson on Feb 5, 2020

"What's it like at the Upper School?" 

This is one of the big things on the minds of eighth graders as spring comes into view. 

Last week, these students had the opportunity to find out for themselves what Upper School is like! Eighth graders spent the morning visiting classes such as physics, English, world history, and phy ed, participating in activities and meeting teachers. They learned about what ninth grade courses had in store for them and the fun things they would learn.

After a snack break, students learned about electives such as fine arts and world languages. 

We can't wait to welcome these students to the Upper School halls next fall!

See the entire photo gallery.

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Topics: Middle School, Upper School

A Spectacular Revival: The Minnehaha Fundraiser

Posted by Rebekah Peterson on Jan 25, 2020

The Spectacular Revival was a spirit-filled evening of fun and fundraising for Minnehaha Academy. 

Thanks to all who attended, donated items, and gave their time to make the evening a wonderful event. 

People stepped under the tent for revival-style music and festivities.

Following a delicious picnic-style dinner, Brother Blake and David Hoffner performed an entertaining skit written by Nathan Stromberg. Attendees spoke up and gave testimonies on how Minnehaha has blessed their children and families.

Then Auctioneer Dan led a live auction of fantastic items donated by our community.

Following the live auction, Rev. Dr. Harris led the group in a gospel song.

A great time was had by all. 

 

Topics: Middle School, Upper School, Lower School

Selfless in a Selfie World

Posted by Amy Barnard on Jan 7, 2020

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It’s mid-September. Through the floor-to-ceiling windows of Mr. Sauer’s third floor classroom you can see the first flickers of fall color speckling the green canopy below. Class is over, and senior Peter Shaffer grabs his books, ready to move on to the next class.

"Shaffer," Mr. Sauer stops him. "I have something for you."

Kris Sauer, English teacher and assistant cross country coach, slips a white envelope into Peter’s hands. "I don’t know what’s in it," he says.

Peter looks at the envelope, confused. It’s a letter from former cross country and track teammate, Chris Schold, written four years earlier and filed away in Mr. Sauer’s cabinet for safe keeping. Today Chris studies economics at St. Olaf and is preparing for his upcoming position at Optum, but during these four years the letter made a trek from the rubble of the old building, to Mendota, and finally to Mr. Sauer’s new classroom.

"What is this about?" Peter wonders.

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Peter Shaffer just before qualifying for State.

Later that evening, when Peter opens the letter at home, he understands. Mr. Sauer often gives his students the opportunity to write a letter to their future selves. Four years after they graduate, he mails those letters back to the students so they can see and remember the wishes they had for themselves on the cusp of leaving MA.

Chris Schold, however, chose not to write to himself, but to write to Peter, who was just in eighth grade at the time.

Now a senior, Peter opens the letter to find words of encouragement and an exhortation to continue forward in excellence. "I was surprised at how much he noticed about me in seventh and eighth grade, and that he thought to write to me about it," Peter shares, adding that he felt humbled to be on the receiving end of such a gesture.

For his part, Chris considered just doing the assignment and writing to himself, but, "I started to think about how this assignment could actually be used to bring greater good to the team."

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Peter's positive attitude and willingness to "stick with it" when things got tough impressed Chris throughout their time in cross country. "I wanted to let him know that he was a great student and athlete and it was a pleasure to get to know him. It seemed like a good way to finish out the year and make an impact on someone else."

Chris’s decision exemplifies a key value that staff and faculty at MA hope to nurture throughout the community: Considering the needs and feelings of others, and how you can be part of making someone else's life better.

In a world where popular media and culture often glorify self promotion, faculty continually challenge students to consider how their actions and choices impact not only themselves but also those around them.

Class Constitution

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Each teacher has his or her own way of offering this challenge throughout the school year. If you step into fifth grade teacher Nichole De Haven’s class early in the year, you might catch her working on the Class Constitution with her students.

"How do you want others to treat you this year?" she asks her students. "What are your hopes for the ways others do or don't interact with you?"

The students brainstorm a list together that goes up on the whiteboard.

"Do you notice anything interesting about this list?" Ms. De Haven asks the group.

Inevitably students start to recognize that their peers hold similar hopes and values (kindness, truth telling, etc.) as themselves. This revelation plants seeds of empathy and nudges students to consider how their words or actions may impact their peers.

Fifth grader Katie Jane shares this realization: "It’s important to hear other people’s ideas and what they have to say. I don’t want someone to ignore me when I’m talking, so I should respect them when they are talking."

As they work through these values, the students develop a Class Constitution—a series of agreements they make for how they want to treat each other.

"It’s really helpful to have their wording, not just mine," says De Haven, noting that the process gives the students a sense of ownership. The class then agrees as a community to "uphold the Constitution" that they’ve created.

Random Acts of Kindness

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Middle School Counselor Sarah Rothstein also works hard to reinforce the community values on campus. Herself a transplant to Minnehaha with experience in two public school districts, she shares that she’s witnessed firsthand the uniqueness of the Minnehaha culture.

"I’ve never worked in a school where for the most part kids tell you the truth, and when they make a mistake and they own it," she says.

Rothstein is quick to clarify that Middle School students at MA aren’t perfect, and they definitely aren’t immune to the many quirky friendship dramas and behavior issues adolescents are famous for, but, she says, "As a whole the kids here really want to do the right thing. Although they make mistakes, they own them; although they have friendship troubles, they want to work them out."

Wanting to reinforce the good she already saw happening as well as broaden students’ ideas about serving and loving others, Ms. Rothstein instituted the Random Acts of Kindness board. Each year she writes out cards that recommend ways to serve others or help others feel safe and included in school. Over the course of a number of weeks, students chose cards from the board and then report back on what they did.

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Some examples include:

  • "I let someone go in front of me in line."
  • "I told someone that I was thankful for her because she always makes me laugh."
  • "I helped babysit for my neighbors."

Serving Others With Our Bodies

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Even in the more unexpected places, like physical education class, instructors work with students on developing an awareness of others.

On a blustery Wednesday morning in October, fourth graders from Jordan Fitch’s phy-ed class toted rakes as big as themselves into a yard just a few blocks from the school. After a brief prayer for their time together and the family who owned the home, the students got to work pushing leaves into piles and then bagging them up.

In all, students served six neighborhood families through raking this fall.

"I’ve been trying to teach our PE students that our bodies aren’t just here to serve our needs alone, but that we are called to serve God and serve others with this gift that we’ve been given," shares Mr. Fitch.

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Students praying for the people whose yards they would be raking that day.

Before raking he shared this scripture to help set the tone:

"For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me." (Mathew 25:35-36)

While Fitch loves sports and loves the growth that comes from learning to be part of a team or to push oneself physically, underneath everything he wants students to connect their faith with all aspects of life.

"I would love students to see everything they do in PE as an opportunity to serve God and to honor Him," he says, reaffirming that a primary way we serve God is to serve others. "Raking was a unique experience to do that."

Full Circle

While these examples are just a few of the many ways faculty encourage students towards an awareness of and empathy for those around them, they typify an undergirding mindset seen in classrooms across campus.

Upper School Spanish instructor Anne Calvin notes, "Ultimately it’s about being the body of Christ. We call out the good in our students but we also name the things that are undesirable such as, 'that doesn’t have any place here.' The desire is to have an environment that is Christ-like, where the Holy Spirit is present. It’s not just a poster on the wall, but it’s rooted in something much deeper and more profound in how we view one another, that we do bear the image of God."

 

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Topics: Middle School, Upper School, Lower School, Caring Community

Student-Led Book Fair Marketing

Posted by Amy Barnard on Oct 10, 2019

A special thanks to the parents , teachers, and former parents whose artistic skills made this year's trip to Oz all the more special!

In order to connect the classroom more tightly to real-world scenarios, the Middle School called on eighth graders to take a lead role in marketing this year’s book fair.

Through the project, the students learned to examine and evaluate marketing materials, think through diverse audiences, pitch a concept, receive critique, and make adjustments based on feedback.

Product Conception

Taking the cue from methods used in current marketing practices, library assistant Susan Besser and art instructor Steve Taminga introduced the needs of the customer (the Lower and Middle School Library) to the marketing team (eighth grade art students).

They explained that the library was partnering with Scholastic to be the publisher’s “brick and mortar” store for the week October 7th, and they needed help advertising the event through promotional posters.

The instructors and students discussed the differences between their two primary audiences (Lower and Middle School students) and examined sample marketing materials, thinking through things that have and haven’t worked well in the past.

Taking Critique

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From here the students were sent off to prepare pencil sketches of their proposals, which were then presented to Ms. Besser and Mr. Taminga for critique before making further revisions.

Once they had an approved design concept, students worked on their final project which they presented to the class as a whole, opening up the floor for “cool” and “warm” comments.

“We had students from the audience share what worked or what they thought could use improvement,” says Ms. Besser, explaining that being able to give gentle but constructive feedback (as well as being able to receive that feedback) is an important element of the unit.

Finally, faculty displayed the promotional posters along the main hall of the school as a way to draw students’ attention to the upcoming event.

One Step Further

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In addition to posters created in the fine arts room, students who were part of Ms. Wildes’ 8th Grade Technology class designed promotional advertisements on Canva using the skills they’ve been learning this semester. Ms. Besser spoke to the students, presenting them with a similar challenge that she presented to the arts students, and then Ms. Wildes set them free to begin designing.

This opportunity to use their newly developing marketing skills in a real-life situation deepened students’ understanding of their craft as well as nudged them into new layers of receiving critique and finding ways to improve their work based on constructive feedback.

Topics: Middle School, Academics, Fine Arts, Cultivating Potential, Exceptional Academics

Lower and Middle School Homecoming Pep Fest [Photos]

Posted by Rebekah Peterson on Sep 29, 2019

Homecoming Pep Fest at the Lower and Middle School was so much fun! The Homecoming Court led the students in fun games and friendly competitions. Photo Gallery.

Topics: Middle School, Upper School, Lower School

Sticky Faith at Minnehaha Academy

Posted by Amy Barnard on Jun 25, 2019

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When then-junior Ava Perez Erickson’s faith hit “its lowest point,” she could have given up. She could have accepted that up to this point she had been a “circumstantial Christian,” that is, a Christian simply because the dice were rolled and she ended up in a Christian family attending a Christian school and surrounded by Christian ideals.

“I saw a world filled with multiple religions, each claiming to be the way,” she says, looking back on this season. “I watched people consciously attack their neighbors and fill the world with suffering...I no longer had complete trust or confidence in God; in fact, I was no longer sure if I had ever felt his presence.”

Ava’s questions nibbled away at her childhood faith, eventually leaving behind what felt like a shaky framework of ideals that couldn’t hold the weight of her doubt.

Ava's struggle mirrors that of many across the nation.

Roughly 50% of church-going, graduating seniors walk out of their school doors that last time and away from their faith journeys.

Some wrestle with similar questions to the ones Ava faced. Others struggle with the tension between faith and science. Some don’t see faith as relevant to their busy lives.

But this statistic leaves us with a question: What about the other 50%? Why did some face the questions and realities of an imperfect world and somehow continue the faith walk?

Sticky Faith

A few years back Fuller Seminary researcher, Kara Powell, came to Minnehaha Academy to discuss what she and research partner Chap Clark call “Sticky Faith,” that is, faith that sticks with individuals through the challenges and changes of life.

Drs. Powell and Clark point out that while parents hold the most important role in their child’s faith development, the wider community must also come alongside students’ growth—and struggles—in order to nurture a vibrant faith that actually grows instead of shrivels in the face of questions. 

While each student must take ownership for their own faith journey, we as a community have a responsibility to provide scaffolding for that journey. Following are just a few of the areas of "Sticky Faith" that MA integrates into our community.

Understand the Core

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Sticky Faith starts with understanding the core of what it means to walk with Christ, as opposed to simply affirming certain beliefs.

Powell and Clark say that young people (and their elders) often equate faith with “spiritual disciplines, ‘good works,’ and living as an example of Christianity that would please God.”

You might reread that last line and wonder, is that really so off?

But this lifestyle of external faith—dos and don’ts, if you will—doesn’t sustain Sticky Faith; at the end of the day, it misses the point of our faith.

From their earliest years at Minnehaha, students engage with the Bible. The awesome parts, the beautiful parts, the confusing parts, and the disturbing ones.

“We’re with the Israelites right now, and things aren’t going well,” laughs first grade teacher Britt Guild. ‘’They keep making mistakes and worshipping idols.” But this, she points out, is an opportunity to ask, what is God trying to tell us?

And what is he saying? What is the point of faith, if not to be a good person and do things that please God?

“At the heart of Sticky Faith is a faith that trusts in God and that understands that obedience is a response to that trust, in everything,” explain Powell and Clark.

When, during advisory or a class discussion, students engage in difficult discussions about race, family culture, or differing beliefs, this is an opportunity to trust. We call them to speak with respect and to listen well not because “it’s what nice people do,” but because we know that God calls us to act in love. We trust that when we relate in ways that honor God and his principles he will bring greater good in those conversations than we could make happen on our own.

Wrestle Openly With Doubt

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Doubt, explains Powell, "is most toxic when it goes unexpressed."

For Ava, doubt had been building slowly but deeply. Unspoken doubt tends to overwhelm our vision, keeping us stuck in the questions. This is the place so many leave their faith.

“When asked about my faith, I said what I was supposed to say rather than truthfully admitting my anger towards a God who did not pay attention to me, despite my constant pleas for direction and assurance [in my faith],” Ava admits.

There is, however, great hope in the face of doubt.

Research shows that when their community allows students to express and openly struggle with their doubt, those students are actually more likely to develop a rich, deeply rooted spiritual life that flourishes

We want students to know that hard questions and difficult discussions are honored and even welcomed here.

This spring during advisory time, Middle School students explored Lee Strobel’s work The Case for Christ. While Strobel’s book is a journalistic look at the evidence for Christ from the fields of science, philosophy, and history, faculty didn’t push students to ignore any lingering doubts.

Instead, they offered time to be open about and wrestle honestly with their uncertainty. For some, Strobel’s work offered many helpful answers. For others, new questions arose which allowed for deeper discussion.

At the Upper School, Dr. Jeffrey Crafton’s Senior Capstone gives students an opportunity to discuss and even challenge the foundational beliefs of Christianity. From the existence of God to the problem of evil, Dr. Crafton gives an overview of the topic and then opens the floor for discussion.

“The thing I loved most about his class is that not everyone had to have the same viewpoint,” says 2015 grad Alexander Ramos. “That stirred up so much conversation, and that was completely okay.”

Dr. Crafton explains that the class “is designed to help students make the transition from ‘this is what I’ve been told to believe’ to ‘these are decisions I’m making for myself about what I believe.’”

This, says ‘01 grad Stephanie Williams O’Brien, helped prepare her when she faced her own crisis of faith just a few years after graduation. “I felt equipped to wrestle through it because of my experience at MA and the ways that Dr. Crafton would push us to ask these questions and not just settle for lame answers.”

Take Part in the 5:1 Ratio

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On that fateful day in January, when Ava felt the crushing weight of her many questions, she climbed the steps to Mr. Hoffner’s room. “Mr. Hoffner," she said, "I need your help."

By seeking out David Hoffner, her New Testament teacher, Ava was actually taking one of the most important steps for those who develop a faith that sticks: connecting with older mentors.

Powell’s work suggests that students flourish when they have at least five adult, non-parent mentors who can provide a listening ear as well as engage in faith and life discussions.

Faculty members, like Middle School math teacher Andrew Beach, look for open doors to share pieces of their own faith journeys with students, both the victories and the disappointments. Because of this openness, students are more likely to feel safe sharing their questions and struggles, as well as asking for prayer.

“I am truly impressed," Beach says, when noting his students' willingness to be vulnerable about these things, "because they seem to have a trust of our advisory class. And then to hear the responses of the students! I think that’s been the neatest part—to hear the students respond respectfully and then to come alongside and encourage, especially when someone is struggling with something that's deeper.”

At Peace with the Process

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Sticky Faith develops when we help students recognize that the faith walk is a process. You don’t suddenly “arrive” one day, with every question answered.

That day Mr. Hoffner didn’t pluck all of the stones from Ava’s path to make it question-free. He didn’t offer her the three-step plan to demolish doubt or an apologetic to help her feel God’s presence again.

Instead he entered into the place of doubt alongside her, allowing her to process her questions and acknowledging that there were some things he couldn’t answer.

“Mr. Hoffner told me that questions allow us to delve deeper into faith because they require us to search out answers through prayer or reading the Bible,” Ava shares. He also warned her that she wouldn’t find answers to every single question: if we understood all things completely, faith—that is, trust—would be unnecessary.

“My questions have taught me to never stop seeking answers,” Ava shared in her graduation Baccalaureate speech. “By seeking answers we grow in faith.” The very process forces us to come face to face with the God who is, as opposed to the incomplete and weak images of God passed down by culture or influenced by our own biases.

Today Ava studies Biomedical Sciences at Liberty University. Instead of being afraid of the questions that her studies might stir up, she has learned to lean into them and ask, what is God trying to tell us?

Instead of crushing her faith, Ava's season of doubt, combined with a community willing to give her space to process, birthed a deeper trust and a more integrated faith walk.

 

Topics: Middle School, Upper School, Lower School, Academics, Cultivating Potential

French Students Take Home National Honors

Posted by Amy Barnard on Jun 18, 2019

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Middle School French students have acquitted themselves very well again this year on Le Grand Concours (the National French contest).

Seventh Grade French Honors:

Honorable Mention
16th Nationally and 4th in Minnesota
Robert “Xavier” Wilson


Bronze Medalists
14th Nationally and 3rd in Minnesota
Elaina “Célia” Johnson

12th Nationally and 2nd in Minnesota
Tito “Cédric” Sanchez

 

Eighth Grade French Honors:

Honorable Mention
21st Nationally and 20th in Minnesota
Jonah “Félix” Hixon  

19th Nationally and 18th in Minnesota
Makenzie “Rose” Streed

15th Nationally and 14th in Minnesota 
Ruben “Guy” Rubio Ramirez

14th Nationally and 13th in Minnesota
Danny “Daniel” Geyer


Bronze Medalists
12th Nationally and 11th in Minnesota
Kayla “Angélique” Riddley • Sofia “Claire” Howland

11th Nationally and 10th in Minnesota
Kennedi “Marie-Claire” Brumley

10th in the Nation and 9th in Minnesota
Ella “Sylvie” Pickerign • Jasmine “Agathe” Waktola


Silver Medalists
7th Nationally and 7th in Minnesota
Halle “Zoé” Whitman


Gold Medalists
4th Nationally and 4th in Minnesota
Daniel Ma

3rd Nationally and 3rd in Minnesota
Elizabeth “Elisabeth” Weber

 

Félicitations à tous!

Topics: Awards, Middle School, Academics

Middle Schoolers Take Top Honors in National Latin Exam

Posted by Amy Barnard on Jun 17, 2019

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In 2019 over 139,00 students took the National Latin Exam throughout the world. Minnehaha Academy Middle School students grabbed hold of this opportunity to shine, bringing home some solid honors.

Latin IA Awards:

11 students took the test and 9 students won awards.  

Special Certificate of Achievement:
Savannah Silvia Switzer • Curtis Decimus Craig • Ben Marcus Stromberg • Gabrielle Aemilia Wamre • Solomon Rufus O’Bert

Outstanding Achievement:
Aidan Marius Ghylin • Hailey Tullia Hill • Gavin Petrus Beck • Sienna Fulvia Kath
 

8th Grade Latin Awards:

17 students took the test and we had  14 winners.  

Cum Laude (with praise) Award:
Alex Petra Torstenson • David Dominicus John • Benji Septimus Koeckeritz • Justin Lustinus Nakatani

Magna Cum Laude (with great praise) Award:
Jonathan Primus Karpenko • Stella Silvia Kalmoe • Jack Lacobus Borgeson

Silver Medal, Maxima Cum Laude (with greatest praise) Award:
Owen Ioannes Hoffner • Kate Viola Mahoney

Gold Medal, Summa Cum Laude (with highest praise) Award: Simon Simonus Poelman • Lars Octavius Ramgren • Gabriel Horatius King • Grace Quinta Kassebaum • Elizabeth Flora Novak

Gratulationes omnibus!  We are so proud of you all!

 

Topics: Awards, Middle School, Academics

Middle School Career Day [Photos]

Posted by Rebekah Peterson on Apr 12, 2019

 

 

Middle School is a time for exploration and discovery!

On Friday, Middle schoolers had the opportunity to hear about various careers from Minnehaha parents who work in architecture, law, and medicine, among others. 

After attending career seminars, students listened to keynote speaker Ellen Ruiters ('93). Ellen currently works at World Vision and talked to the students about how in Middle School the most important thing for them to know is "who they are and whose they are." She encouraged students to explore their gifts and talents.

Thanks to Paul Udris, Paul Lukas, Dan and Angie Anderson, Priscilla Koeckeritz, Abe Quiring, Dr. Kristina Howland, Erica Gossard, Heidi Streed, and Ellen Ruiters for speaking to our students today.

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Topics: Middle School

Basketball, Swim Pep Fest

Posted by Rebekah Peterson on Apr 5, 2019

Yesterday, our Lower and Middle School students gathered in the gym to celebrate the recent Minnehaha Redhawk state championship titles earned in boys' and girls' basketball and boys' swimming.

The Upper School Boys' and Girls' Basketball teams and swimmer Andrew K, welcomed the students into the gym with a high-five tunnel before the fun and games began.

Athletic Director Josh Thurow introduced each team member and recognized their accomplishments. Jalen Suggs was also awarded Minnesota Player of the Year.

Lower and Middle School students competed against Upper School students in a contest where the Upper School student shot a basket and then the younger student had to copy the move using a smaller hoop.

All age levels competed against each other in a fast-paced game of knock out, with Girls' Basketball team member Mia winning the game.

Jalen and Chet competed in an entertaining dunk over contest, showcasing how much air they really can get!

The pep fest ended with everyone linking arms - Lower School students, Middle School students, Upper School students, teachers, and staff - for a time of prayer.

It was a great event and a fun way for our students to build community across age groups.

Special thanks to Steve Ramgren, Jim Nelson, and Carrie Johnson for sharing videos and photos.

Topics: Middle School, Upper School, Lower School, Athletics

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