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

Nathan Stromberg's '96 Art Celebrates History of Upper School

Posted by Amy Barnard on Jan 23, 2020


Upper School Art Instructor Nathan Stromberg '96 recently revealed his original piece that remembers and celebrates the history of Minnehaha Academy and the century-old building we lost in the explosion. Roughly 425 hours (almost half a year of after-school work) went into this project that was hung in the school this January.


Stromberg, who himself graduated from MA and began teaching here in 2002, chose to exclusively use archival materials in this collage, and if you look closely you'll see the images of many MA alumni and faculty from over the years.

Many images of faculty members are intentionally placed near the rooms in the school they would have taught.

Below we are including close ups of each panel, but we encourage you to consider stopping by and checking out the work for yourself, as you'll be able to even more details up close.

Beneath each panel we've included explanations from Mr. Stromberg relating to his work.

(TIP: To watch a special student-produced video interview with Mr. Stromberg please check out this link: http://www.redhawksonline.com/2020/01/21/strombergs-masterpiece/.)


"In my collage work, I tend to work fairly intuitively and I’m always on the lookout for humorous images and bits of pop culture to hide in there, but I knew this work had to be different. Everything about it had to be thought out meticulously because it would be heavily scrutinized and looked at for a very long time. The solution was to exclusively use archival school material. Thankfully, we have a lot of it, and our archivist was fine with me destroying/re-using old yearbooks/pamphlets/promotional materials as far back as the beginning of our school, 1913, so long as I left at least 5-6 good copies."


"Much of that material was black and white, so I dyed many of the fragments with acrylic ink for the bottom layers and used the full color images for the top. Tens of thousands of fragments, 5 months and approximately 425 hours of work later, here’s the result."


The entire history of the school is here in word and image—pictures of students and faculty members who spent decades here—memories that are shared by so many people."

2020-Stromberg-Old-School-Art-6 "I sincerely hope it is a point of connection for our school and particularly our alumni, and I hope it brings people joy for a good long while."


"For all those who’ve lost a point of physical connection or the place where you made your high school or career memories, this is especially for you."


All quotes from the artist, Nathan Stromberg.

We are so grateful to both Mr. Stromberg and the donors who made this work possible.


To see a special student-produced video interview with Mr. Stromberg please check out this link:




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Topics: Upper School, Alumni Stories, Fine Arts, Faculty Stories

Discover a New Story: Building Empathy Through Cultural Field Experience

Posted by Amy Barnard on Jan 16, 2020

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Packing donated clothes for the children's home.

Last spring’s Cultural Field Experience (CFE) trip to Roatan wasn’t Abbi Slininger’s first cross cultural venture. At seventeen years old she’s already made her way to Costa Rica, Europe, and Bora Bora with her family.

In spite of this, Abbi's trip to Roatan impacted her in ways these previous excursions didn't.

"I realized that I want to live my life so that I give back...It will make me a better person and impact others if I’m not just thinking about myself," Abbi explains.

Abbi joined ten other students along with Principal Jason Wenschlag and science teacher Nancy Cripe in Roatan, a little island off Honduras, to volunteer at a children’s home this past spring.

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Abbi teaching a student at the home she spent a lot of one on one time with how to make friendship bracelets.

The group helped children in the home with homework, assisted in setting up the new tilapia farm (a source of both food and income for the home), taught crafts, painted walls, and joined a local church in their outreach to some of the poorest families on the island.

While there, the students also heard the children share the various and often difficult journeys that brought them to the home.

"I was surprised that some of them were willing to share, and that they still wanted people in their lives [after what they had experienced]," Abbi shares.

She says getting to know the children and the time she spent meeting people during the church outreach made her aware in a new way of the needs of others, as well as the very different stories that make up the tapestry of our world.

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Testing water quality in preparation for the small tilapia farm that alum Randy Bevis '87 prepared for the home. MA students brought additional materials and taught the older children at the home how to test water to keep the farm healthy.

These are exactly the glimmers of understanding that CFE Director Jessa Anderson hopes to see increase in the coming years at MA.

"We want something deeper than traditional service learning for CFE," she says. "We want students to be developing empathy, building relationships, and learning to be better global citizens."

This is a tall order. In a world where "service learning trips" face increasing scrutiny, at times seen as little more than badges to stick on a college application, or (hardly better) as a chance to feel good about doing something nice, Ms. Anderson wants more for MA students.

"It’s not just going and serving in a place and leaving," she explains.

Instead, she wants students to learn about the places and people they serve in ways that deepen their respect and empathy, as well as help them feel connected to people who may be very different than themselves.

For Anderson, this isn’t simply a matter of theory or nice ideas she learned in a seminar on social justice. As a small child, her family moved to an economically depressed neighborhood to be part of a church plant and serve the community. In a later season of life, she heard people’s stories in Northern Ireland and South Africa while serving on a peace-building and reconciliation ministry team.

These encounters changed how Anderson sees the world and sees individuals.

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Paint rollers drying after MA students helped with bathroom renovation. 

The question facing her today is this: How do you help an entire school prepare for CFE in a way that might facilitate these mindset shifts?

This year Anderson is preparing empathy-building activities for students to use during team meetings and then take on the road and into their CFE encounters.

In keeping with the year's theme—"Discover a New Story"—teams will discuss the value of learning each other's stories and discuss how to ask good questions while avoiding those that might not be so helpful. From there, a pack of conversation starters will help them draw out their teammates' stories.

Once students arrive at their CFE sites team leaders will encourage them to use these new skills to learn from the people they meet.

Whether playing bingo at a veteran's home, repairing a house in rural Kentucky, or working with an environmental conservation group in Guatemala, Anderson hopes that hearing the stories of others will bring a greater sense of connection to the wider world.

For 2019 CFE participant Langting Deng, helping immigrants improve their English at the International Institute opened up just that type of connection.

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MA students at the International Institute helping immigrants with their English.

Langting shares that she stepped into the experience with no small amount of hesitancy: herself an international student, she wasn’t sure how much she had to offer these adult language learners from Ethiopia, Chile, and other nations that seemed so far removed from her life back in China or her days at Minnehaha Academy.

But sitting alongside them at simple folding tables in the Institute's classrooms, Langting was surprised to find that her own experience as a second language learner gave her common ground with these adults. That common ground then opened doors for deeper revelations.

"I realized that there are a lot of people in the world who are similar to me; each person has their own struggles and each person is working very hard, even harder than I am sometimes."

"When we have the opportunity to go out and see people in different settings it stretches us and it broadens our view," says Anderson.

"It’s really easy to live in a bubble where you’re comfortable...When we actually see and experience [different settings] we learn to respect those realities and to empathize with people’s stories."

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Nicholas and student at the home building a model airplane.

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Topics: Upper School, Cultural Field Experience, Caring Community

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.


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."

Letter from Chris to Peter copy

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

Basketball: Minnehaha Academy v. Sierra Canyon [Photos]

Posted by Rebekah Peterson on Jan 4, 2020

What an amazing night of basketball at the Target Center! Minnehaha Academy defeated Sierra Canyon 78-58 in the ESPN Clash of Champions exhibition game.

View full gallery slideshow.

The Redhawk Boys' Basketball team played a fast-paced and exciting game to a crowd of 17,378 people - one of the highest attended at the Target Center in the last six years. It was also broadcast to more than 17,000 people on ESPN3.

A huge congratulations to our student athletes for the way they represented Minnehaha. We couldn't be more proud of all they have accomplished on the court and in the classroom.

We were fortunate to also have our very talented student Grace perform the National Anthem to begin the game. She truly shone in the spotlight on a national stage!

Students Grace, Prince (also on the basketball team), Zac, and Danyelle were featured on the big screens at the Target Center when our new Upper School video was shown during halftime. It was fun to share what life is like at Minnehaha to our basketball fans.

A huge thank you to all of the Redhawk community who came out to support the team. Your energy was palpable in the space and made the night so much fun.

Thank you also to the coaches, staff, the Target Center, ESPN, Paragon, and everyone else who made the night such a success!

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Topics: Upper School, Athletics

Minnehaha Receives AIA Honor Award

Posted by Rebekah Peterson on Dec 4, 2019

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Minnehaha Academy recently received the 2019 American Institute of Architects - Minnesota Honor Award for the rebuilt Upper School. 

"The Honor Awards recognize outstanding architecture and urban design by AIA Minnesota members and Minnesota member firms.

 69 projects were submitted in 2019 and were evaluated in five categories: architecture; interiors; renovation and restoration; and urban design and master planning. Entries were evaluated by three internationally-renowned architects for their degree of design invention, attention to detail, advancement of sustainable design, and other factors." AIA-MN.org

View photos of the Upper School.

Thank you!

Many thanks to our community who helped to make this rebuild possible with financial support and prayers. Your support has helped launch Minnehaha's next 100 years.

Thanks also to our partners who brought the project from concept to completion: Cuningham Group Architecture; M.A. Mortenson Construction (Construction Manager); Palanisami & Associates, Inc. (Structural Engineer); Metropolitan Mechanical Contractors (Mechanical Engineer Design/Build Partner); Obermiller Nelson Engineering (Mechanical/Electrical Consulting Engineer); Gephart Electric (Electrical Engineer Design/Build Partner); Loucks (Civil Engineer Design/Build Partner); PritchardPeck Lighting (Lighting Consultant); Rippe Associates (Food Service); Manage.net LLC (Technology Consultant); Augeo (Visible Mission Integration); Kvernstoen, Rönnholm & Associates, Inc. (Acoustical Consultant)
Photo credit: Corey Gaffer

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Topics: Upper School, 3100 Campus

Matt Pryor '11 on Coming Home to Basketball & Minnehaha Academy

Posted by Amy Barnard on Nov 6, 2019

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It’s not often that someone sees a sports injury as God’s providence in their life, but when Matt Pryor (‘11) tore his UCL while pitching during his baseball career at Bethel University, he came to deem the event as just that.

   “I threw a slider, I felt it pop, and it was one of those moments where I knew right away: I just blew my arm out,” Matt says. It was only his second year at Bethel, and he saw the door closing on his baseball career.

   Pryor went on to have the unfortunate but well-known Tommy John surgery. Unfortunate because it means taking a tendon from another part of the body and using it to repair a damaged UCL. Well known, because it addresses one of the more common injuries among athletes who play throwing sports, made famous by the first pitcher to ever have the surgery, MLB All-Star pitcher Tommy John.

   While some UCL injuries allow players to eventually return to the mound, this was not the case for Matt.

   “That was really tough, because my identity was so wrapped up in being an athlete,” Pryor says. “It was definitely a soul-searching time of my life.”

   He turned his attention to obtaining a degree in physical education, but even still he found himself wrestling with God and his own heart over his future.

   “Once I stopped trying to open up all of the doors myself, once I finally started asking [God] to lead me down the path that he had set up for me…[and] I started following what I felt was his will, I found that a lot of those doors that were being shut in my face opened up to me.”

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The 2A Quarter Finals, which the Minnehaha girls won against St. Peter with a score of 56-37.

Coming Home

A pickup game of basketball led to a job offer coaching JV Girls’ basketball at Concordia Academy. That role paved the way for him to step into the varsity coaching role, even as his job in physical education set him up to be the Athletic Director at St. Thomas More.

   Then, in March of last year, Matt answered the phone to discover MA Athletic Director and former Girls' Basketball coach Josh Thurow on the other end.

   “He literally said, ‘It’s time to come home.’ And here I found myself.”

   The rest, as they say, is history. After a shaky start, Matt and assistant coach Scott Scholl led the Redhawk girls straight into the State championships where they took home the title for 2019.

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Also from the 2A Quarter Finals. The girls took the 2A Semi-Finals against Albany with a score of 70-67 and ultimately took the State Championship in a game against Caledonia with a score of 72-63.

Stepping Up to the Role

When Thurow invited Pryor to “come home,” this was no flip turn of phrase. Matt had spent 13 years at MA, playing baseball, basketball, and studying. As a student he felt known and cared for by both his peers and teachers, and he welcomed the possibility of re-entering the MA community.

   Part of coming home was also stepping back under the wing and mentorship of Thurow. “He was my teacher, he was my coach; he really invested in me as a player.... So from the moment I started coaching I would go to him, seeking advice; he would always make time for me to talk basketball, give coaching advice, give life advice, whatever it might have been.”

   That’s not to say Pryor immediately felt comfortable in his new role.

   “Josh’s record as a coach speaks for itself, so there were definitely some nerves coming in and trying to fill his shoes,” the young coach admits, laughing. “At the same time though, I was so incredibly excited.”

   Matt knew he was stepping into a space rich in talent; he had previously coached against and lost to Thurow and the Redhawks Girls’ team in previous years.

   “Knowing that we were coming into the season and had a chance to compete for the State Championship, the competitor in me, I mean, that just gets me going...To be able to take over a team that has as much talent as we had, that was incredibly exciting,” he says.

   And while he acknowledges that winning a State Championship right off the bat definitely set the bar high, the nerves he feels about the coming year are less fear and more “nervous excitement” about going out and defending their championship.

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A Matter of Identity

So, is Matt Pryor disappointed that he isn’t in the baseball world today? Not really.

   What you might not know is that basketball was actually Pryor’s first love.

   “I loved everything about it. I loved the intensity, I loved the fact that the fans are right there on top of you court-side and you can hear everything that they’re saying…[but] I was a better baseball player.”

   And so, in a roundabout way, as Matt surrendered control over his path to God’s leading, he found himself back in the world of basketball, in a very different role but also with a very different perspective on life as a whole:

   “I’m so glad [the injury] did happen, because you quickly begin to realize what’s important. Once you get your priorities straight, it's kind of amazing how everything else falls into place.”

   And herein lies the challenge: To continue forward from that foundation of trust, constantly remembering that all else is shifting sand.

  “When you wrap yourself up in an identity with something that can be taken away like that,” Matt says, “that’s not a solid base.” A good reminder for us all.


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Topics: Upper School, Athletics, Alumni Stories

Upper School at Minnehaha [Video]

Posted by Rebekah Peterson on Nov 6, 2019
Do you want to know what it is like to be a student at Minnehaha's Upper School? Follow along with these students and find out! 

Topics: Upper School, 3100 Campus

Upper School Campus [Photos]

Posted by Rebekah Peterson on Nov 5, 2019

If you haven't had a chance to tour our rebuilt Upper School at Minnehaha Academy, check out this photo gallery of the campus. Then, be sure to schedule your visit in person!

If you are considering sending your child to Minnehaha, schedule a personal tour with our Admission Team. 

If you are an alum, we'd love to give you a tour as well! Contact Nicole Sheldon at sheldonnicole@minnehahaacademy.net to schedule your visit.

Topics: Upper School, 3100 Campus

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