By Lynsey Fleck, Instructional Coach
The 2021-22 school year featured many amazing learning opportunities for students, excellent learner growth, and an ever-growing community of learners here at MELA. It also brought some obstacles, challenges, and many more interruptions to face-to-face instruction than we’d hoped for, which makes keeping the learning going is of extra importance this summer.
Below are a few things that you can do at home to help your child keep his/her literacy skills fresh over the summer:
And last but not least….
Go places, have experiences, and talk to your child daily. These things are critical to developing your child’s background knowledge and vocabulary, which have a huge impact on reading success!
We have worked hard this year to provide social-emotional learning for all students at MELA. Social-emotional learning teaches students crucial life skills, including the ability to understand themselves, develop a positive self-image, take responsibility for their actions, and forge relationships with the people around them. As we close the door on another school year, we begin anew with a summer full of opportunity and hope for everyone! This summer season is a perfect opportunity to take advantage of making social-emotional health a priority. After the exhausting year that students, educators and parents have been through, we all really need it.
We want to set families up well to easily incorporate wellness activities into your summer fun, so with the help of our Occupational Therapist, Amy Lou Anderson, we have created an SEL packet for the summer. If you would be interested in one of these, please reach out to Ms. Erin Rudbeck or myself, Mrs. Autumn Terlouw, and we would be happy to send one home with your student(s). We have also included different websites the provide free/reduced cost events throughout the summer:
Autumn Terlouw, MSW, LICSW
Erin Rudbeck, MSW, LGSW
Today we finish off our series of "We Love Our School" by hearing the perspective of our administration and office team. Read our bios here!
Written By: The Teacher Leadership Team (Lisa Horn-4th Grade Teacher, Jessica Anderson-Music Teacher, Kat Waltz-Kindergarten Teacher, Andy Theis-5th Grade Teacher)
What the Leadership Team does:
Teacher leadership is not a destination, but a journey. At MELA, the teacher leadership team helps administration and staff on this journey by providing a bridge to bring together all parts of the school community to create a more positive school culture and improve student achievement. Teacher leaders can be seen at MELA mentoring other teachers, facilitating professional development meetings, having weekly conversations with administrators, and taking initiative on different ways to increase student achievement. Here are a few words from the teachers that are a part of the leadership team:
Working at MELA, I now understand why the school is known as the “little school with the big heart”. The staff here are so kind and care about each other, uplifting the accomplishments of others during our weekly staff shout outs on Fridays. Relationships come first between students and staff above all else. Students are rewarded for positive behaviors by teachers with MELA tickets, celebrating them being mindful, empathetic, leaders, and being accountable in their learning. MELA is full of heart and you can see it in every student and staff member that brings their own unique identity and positivity to our school to make it a safe and welcoming place for all.
“Little School with a Big Heart” is what MELA is known for in our community. The positivity and inclusiveness between the staff, students, and families is what makes MELA a one of a kind school. The staff go above and beyond to ensure each student and family’s needs are met. The culture within the school is one of acceptance, love, and support. I truly could not ask to be a part of a better school community!
Between the incredible staff and amazing students, MELA is a very special place. From day one, I truly felt at home. Our close-knit community and commitment to building and maintaining relationships is a key component to our success. As a small school, students and staff and able to get to know each other across all grade levels. Staff members look out for all students regardless of grade or age. They say it takes a village, and I feel as if we are that village. MELA is an incredibly special school and it will always hold a place in my heart.
My favorite thing about working at MELA is the people. With our school being smaller it allows for so many opportunities to interact with other grade levels and staff. I look forward to Wednesday Passion Projects because I get to teach another grade level and build those relationships early as they move up to my class in the next year or two. MELA is my second home and I love coming ‘home’ everyday.
Trevor Abel, Dean of Students
One of the many groups of people who have a profound effect on the learning of scholars here at MELA are our paraprofessionals. Paraprofessionals are multi talented individuals who provide instructional, behavioral and other support to scholars both inside and outside of our classrooms. We have paraprofessionals who work with individual students as well as support small groups of students. They work with our classroom teachers to meet and support the individual learning needs and goals of our scholars.
We are fortunate to have six qualified individuals who serve our school as paraprofessionals. They are in a majority of our classrooms and do great work every day. One of the strengths of our paraprofessional team is their ability to build and maintain relationships with students. Most of our students know who they are, even if they are not in their classroom on a regular basis. Our paras each bring flexibility, and their own strengths to help us meet our goal of providing the best educational experience possible for our student population.
Here are some things that our paraprofessionals LOVE about working at MELA:
"One thing I appreciate about MELA is its small size. I can see our slogan, 'The Little School with the Big Heart,' at work each and every day. Constantly I see kindness and willingness to help from not only my own students, but students from every grade level. I feel that our small size grants me the opportunity to build relationships with scholars that I might not otherwise get a chance to see."
"Another thing I love is our after-school program on Wednesdays. I enjoy seeing scholars from almost every class play and interact with each other, while doing new activities that bring out their creativity. Additionally, I enjoy being able to spend time with the scholars that I otherwise don't get the pleasure of having in my own class."
"There is always a staff member to come by and cheer you up."
"I love the support and confidence that we get from our teachers."
"I love how we work together as a family here at MELA."
Our paraprofessionals are an integral cog in the MELA machine and we could not achieve our organizational goals and mission without their tireless work. So thank you paraprofessionals, one of the things we love about MELA is YOU!
Today in "We Love Our School Series", we highlight student voices at our charter school. Read below to learn about MELA students love about their elementary school!
Student Council at MELA is made up of third, fourth, fifth, and sixth grade. They meet twice a month and contribute towards improving the school culture and community at MELA. At their last meeting, student council members decided to share some of the things they love about their school.
Thank you MELA student council members for sharing the wonderful things that are happening at our school. We all love MELA!
Throughout this 22-23 school year, we have been highlighting the unique and personalized programming of our elementary school. Starting today, we thought we'd shift the focus to the heart of our school. The wonderful community of individuals of parents, students, and staff members.
In this post ,we would like to highlight our families and how they feel about our school. Hear what the parents of children at MELA Charter School have to say below...
"There are so many great attributes to the Minnesota Excellence Learning Academy! First of all it is a charter school. This allows teachers to give more attention to each student. I like the fact that kids wear uniforms which symbolizes discipline and unity. Second, it is located in the beautiful and safe neighborhood of Maple Grove, close to clinics, hospitals and shopping areas. Last and best of all, there is an apparent diversity in the administration, staff and student body which you will not encounter anywhere else. Everyone can see anyone who looks like themselves there!
Most importantly, the staff and teachers really care about the students’ academic progress and personality. They have really proven themselves especially during the pandemic to protect the students’ health and safety. I believe MELA is doing an excellent job molding our children into future good citizens, teaching them good values such as empathy.
We would have loved our kids’ school to be close to where we live and to provide transportation services there. Nonetheless, we bypassed the schools in our area and drive 22 minutes just to get them to this school which we love so much!"-Carla E. (a parent of three lovely students at MELA)
"What I love about our school is the love our educators and administrators have for our kids. They are not just faces in the crowd. Everyone’s collective goal is the success and growth of each student." -Jahnekia B. (mom of two wonderful MELA students)
“My kids are thriving at this school. I love the teachers and school administration - great communication and assistance at all times. Definitely very hands on with the kids and ensuring they are learning and growing. They have the small groups where the kids are assessed individually and challenged to grow & learn. They have passion projects the kids love and always look forward to.” -MELA Parent (of two of fantastic students)
MELA sees our parents as partners. They serve on the school board, are active members in our PTA, and some are even staff members! We believe that a child's success is only as strong as the relationship between family and school. That's why we pride ourselves in open and honest communication with one another. Together we work so every child is seen, heard, believes, and achieves.
Written By: Mr. Bob Lay, Physical Education Teacher
"Physical education provides cognitive content and instruction designed to develop motor skills, knowledge, and behaviors for physical activity and physical fitness." (CDC.gov) At MELA Charter school, every student receives 30 minutes of physical education and 30 minutes of recess every day. Read more to learn what this looks like at our elementary school!
Students describe the Physical Education classes as being fun and non-threatening. I'm fortunate to work with all of the students at MELA, and each grade is developmentally different from the others.
This has been an amazing school year and I feel very fortunate to have helped my students' growth, confidence, and skills in Physical Education!
Blog post written by: Cynthia Kuenzel (Reading Interventionist), Jessica Anderson (Groves Certified Interventionist) and Kaitlin Hamby (Math Interventionist)
The task of an interventionist at MELA is to give scholars another opportunity to practice and refine the skills that are being learned in the classroom so they are able to reach their learning goals. We like to think of our time with scholars as “an extra scoop” of learning time to make sure that reading or math skills are firmly grasped, understood and can be applied to classroom work.
Both the reading and math interventionist positions are new opportunities for the scholars at MELA this year. Data from formal classroom assessments are used to identify those scholars who are in need of extra support in learning grade-level skills. Informal assessments and teacher recommendations can also be used. The interventionists work with the instructional coach and classroom teachers to understand the academic needs of a scholar. Once the needs are identified, the scholar can begin to work with the interventionist, usually in a small group with their grade-level peers. Working with the interventionist is in addition to their work with the classroom teacher in whole group instruction and small group instruction: that “extra scoop”.
Math - Ms. Hamby
As a math interventionist, I work with small groups of scholars on math concepts such as counting, place value, multiplication and division, addition and subtraction, fractions and decimals, and more. Scholars receive personalized instruction based on their individual needs. We work together to strengthen their math skills so that they can feel confident in the classroom as well as achieve their math goals! I feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to work with many scholars at MELA each and every day.
ELA (English Language Arts) - Mrs. Kuenzel
Reading is a very complex task. To assist the children at MELA in acquiring the skills necessary to be a reader, I work in small groups on the grade-level reading skills that the scholars need more time to achieve. For kindergarten children, this has meant working on the letter names and sounds, a prerequisite for decoding words and beginning to read. The younger elementary groups are working on quick recall of high frequency words and word families in addition to repeated readings of text. These repeated readings help improve the scholars’ automaticity, giving them essential practice in applying known skills. Increasing their automatic ability to decode also increases the comprehension of the text they are reading. In the older grades, we work on increasing their reading accuracy and automaticity which also improves their reading comprehension. The goal is always to help each scholar gain more reading skills and to see themselves as readers.
Groves Intervention Services- Ms. Anderson
MELA uses the Groves Curriculum to teach phonics to PreK, Kindergarten, 1st Grade, 2nd Grade, and 3rd Grade. As part of this curriculum, students are supported by having a Groves Certified Interventionist, Ms. Anderson. The Groves Interventionist meets with students one on one or in small groups twice a week and teaches out of the intervention manual for each grade level to help students that need an extra scoop of practice with their phonics skills. The Groves Interventionist also helps teachers with Aimsweb testing and does progress monitoring on Aimsweb with the students that they meet with.
Written By: Micheal Gears, Academic SPED Teacher; Olivia Hermans, Academic SPED Teacher; Amy Lou Anderson, Occupational Therapist; Erin Rudbeck Social-Emotional Learning SPED; and Kristyne Bazinet Speech and Language Pathologist
The MELA special education team works to support our scholars with disabilities through the use of individualized education programs that target their specific needs. Services provided include support for academics in reading, math, and writing; speech and language development; occupational therapy; and behavior and social skills. When providing these services, educators work with scholars individually or in small groups.
At MELA, special education teachers Olivia Hermans and Mike Gears provide academic support for our scholars. Amy Lou Anderson is MELA’s occupational therapist, and Kristyne Bazinet is our school’s speech therapist. Special education administrators Ashley Evans and Kristin Fischer also work to support the team here at MELA.
Our social workers, Erin Rudbeck and Autumn Terlouw, help our scholars work on behavior and social skills through individualized and small group lessons. During these lessons, students work on a variety of skills, such as emotion regulation, friendship skills and coping skills that can be utilized both within the school environment, but also when they are out in the community. Ms. Erin and Ms. Autumn are not only available to provide resources to the scholars while they are here at MELA, they are also able to help connect students and their families to resources that they may need within the community. They are always happy to help!
This fall the MELA team followed guidance from the state of Minnesota to review each individualized education program before winter break. This allowed our team to be responsive to our scholars’ academic, social, and emotional learning needs that have been impacted by the pandemic.
Also, just as classroom teachers have needed to adapt how they deliver instruction to provide distance learning to scholars who are quarantining or isolating, so too have those of us in special education.
Even beyond Zoom and Google Meets, though, the team has worked to integrate technology into what we do with our instruction. For example, using a program called MobyMax has allowed teachers to better identify what level our scholars are at in reading, writing, and math. This information then allows us to meet the scholars where they are at and provide the most beneficial instruction.
Mike, Olivia, Kristyne, Ashley, and Kristin are all new to MELA this year and have collaborated with Autumn, Erin, and Amy Lou to provide a positive learning environment that nurtures and supports all of our scholars in ways that help them reach their full potential.
We love working with all of our scholars, and we are grateful to be able to work with the team of educators and families that supports them.
Blog Post Written By: Danna Morales, ELL Teacher
At MELA, the English Language Learners Service (ELL), provides additional support to students so they can obtain the skills needed for their academic success. The ELL program has students from different countries, native speakers of different languages, and academic levels. Our program is designed to meet the students' needs, as we focus on what they know as well as their strengths, as we know each student can be highly motivated and encouraged according to their proficiency level and background.
The services can be provided as a “push in”, when we work with the students within their own classroom environment, or “pull out”, when we work in the ELL classroom. These activities can be individual (1 student + teacher) or in small groups of students (between 2 to 4 students + teacher).
We always welcome with open arms students that come from other schools or even newcomers to the country.
Students receive personalized instruction according to their needs. We use the scores obtained in the ACCESS Tests that determine the levels of progress in English language learning of each student in the domains of Listening, Reading, Writing and Speaking. In addition to these test scores, we work side by side with their classroom teacher to make sure we have a very good understanding of their individual needs.
Being bilingual has a lot of great benefits for children and adults. We at MELA, encourage families to keep using their first language, with the understanding that we want to help the students to be bilingual and equally successful in both languages they speak. We focus on student learning by giving them the tools for success such as letters and sounds, vocabulary, reading comprehension, language organization, writing, reading, math, among others.
ELL students have goals as in each classroom and each time a student achieves a goal for the lesson or week they receive recognition, as we use these goals to encourage students to continue to engage in the activities we do on a daily basis.
We also work on Social-Emotional skills using MELA Tickets, when the student demonstrates the expectations of being Mindful, Empathetic, Leader and Accountability. These Tickets are taken by the students to their classrooms and are placed in MELA ticket boxes. These are counted at the end of the month in order to celebrate their growth on a regular basis.
Written By: Brooke Fisher, 6th Grade Teacher
Sixth grade is a huge year not only for learning but also for transitions. We are working on skills everyday to help students transition to a middle school model for next year, while also teaching independent skills and group skills they will need in the future.
Our literacy block is the first half of our day and is composed of writing, whole group, small group, and independent work time. For writing we have spent the month of February researching a civil rights leader and creating an informational essay on that person. Students also get practice going through the rubric with me to see where their strengths are in their writing and where their areas of growth are for the next assignment.
For the whole group, we are wrapping up an entire series on weather and the plastic pollution problem that the world is currently in. Students have been identifying themes, main ideas, and questions about these texts both while we read and after we read. Small group instruction focuses on a novel at the students reading level where we really narrow in on their comprehension of a text and the story elements that are taking place. When not meeting with a teacher, students have their own independent work they can complete which could include; reading a book of their choice, working on developing skills on lexia or moby max, creating sentences using chosen words, and comprehending shorter texts at their level.
The sixth grade students use the CPM curriculum for math. Students are taught a concept through problem solving either as a class or in small groups. We then discuss the lesson and work through some practice problems. After the lesson the students work through a few questions on their own, and these questions focus on past concepts that have been taught so that students are constantly reviewing these concepts. We are moving into our variables, expressions, and solving equations chapter, getting more into the algebra part of the 6th grade standards.
Written By: Andy Theis, 5th Grade Teacher
Fifth grade has been packed full of learning, laughter, and love. This is such an incredibly special group of students, and every day is a new adventure. We have been very busy working on a variety of things to strengthen our academic skills, social/emotional well-being, and relationships with each other.
Literacy: Our literacy block consists of multiple components including whole group lessons, small group instruction, and writing. Our whole group lessons are integrated with science, as we work on skills such as finding the central theme, comparing and contrasting, cause and effect, asking and answering questions, and using text features. Our current topic is severe weather. We have been learning about different kinds of severe weather, how it develops, and how it impacts us, our communities, our environment, and our world. Writing goes hand-in-hand with what we are learning in whole group reading. We have been working on writing narrative analysis essays about severe weather. Students gather information from texts we have read together, as well as texts they have read independently, and use that information to write their essays. During small group instruction, students are able to work on skills that are personalized, while reading chapter books together. Students take part in engaging conversations as they read and analyze the text.
Math: We use Bridges in Mathematics for our curriculum, which allows for an extensive look into many focus skills. Bridges lessons and activities give students the opportunity to learn through discussions, investigations, group activities, games, and hands-on activities. During whole group lessons, 5th graders have been working on fractions. During this unit, students learned how to identify and model fractional parts, find equivalent fractions, find common denominators, add and subtract, and simplify. We are moving into multiplying and dividing fractions. Students also participate in small group lessons. During small groups, students work on skills that are geared towards their personal needs. Small groups change based on the needs of the students. Pre-assessment, post-assessment, and informal observations help determine student needs.
Blog Post Written By: Ms. Lisa Horn, 4th Grade Teacher
Fourth grade is quite the learning adventure! We continue to build on concepts learned in third grade like multiplication and division, but take it to a whole other level when we learn strategies on multiplying two digit numbers, and then introduce fractions and angles. Fourth graders also write daily and learn to add detail, purpose and personality into their writing. Our scholars never fail to rise to the challenge and display amazing growth. My favorite part of fourth grade is seeing emotional growth and supporting students through conflicts and emotions. I engage with hands-on activities throughout the year and constantly adapt to the learning needs of the individual students.
During whole group literacy instruction, we teach important reading skills while also integrating science. Most recently we have been learning about severe weather! We continue our literacy work in our small reading groups. All students meet with the teacher 4 days a week to get more personalized reading instruction that caters to their reading level! Students have been working on stretching their sentences by adding more detail and answering who, what, when, where and why questions in their writing. After learning about all of the severe weather that happens, students began researching more about one of these to write a nonfiction piece. Their stories are such a wonderful way to show off learning, research skills and writing.
In math, we use Bridges Math Curriculum to help build a solid understanding of math skills while also learning multiple strategies to solve addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division problems. We focus heavily on small group instruction for math as well. All students meet with the teacher 4 days a week to get more personalized math instruction that caters to their needs! During small groups our students work in stations which include technology, hands-on, independent practice, and meet with the teacher. In these stations I have observed collaboration, team work, problem solving and stamina.
Written by: Ms. Emily Hanrahan (3rd Grade Teacher)
3rd grade is a big year for our students! We learn new concepts, like multiplication and division, while perfecting and practicing things that were learned in previous years, like reading skills and cursive. Though we put in a lot of work, we never fail to have fun while learning in our classroom! Scholars are engaged in their learning through hands-on activities and projects that connect to their interests.
MELA Tickets: In our class we follow our MELA expectations by being mindful, empathetic, leaders, and accountable. Throughout the day students in 3rd grade pass out MELA tickets to peers they see displaying these expectations. We also have conversations about our emotions and how to handle those emotions daily.
Mindfulness: Calm Connect, our mindfulness program, is a patented system used around the world that contains dozens of short digital sequences designed to calm the nervous system and build a bridge to the social world quickly and effectively.
Student of the Month and Most Improved: The Student of the Month and Most Improved students get to sit at a special table in the lunchroom to celebrate!
During whole group literacy instruction, we teach important reading skills while also integrating science. Most recently we have been learning about severe weather! We continue our literacy work in our small reading groups. All students meet with the teacher 4 days a week to get more personalized reading instruction that caters to their reading level! We are also working on improving our cursive writing. We just finished reviewing all our lowercase and uppercase letters and will now move into writing cursive sentences.
In math, we use Bridges Math Curriculum to help build a solid understanding of math skills while also learning multiple strategies to solve addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division problems. We focus heavily on small group instruction for math as well. All students meet with the teacher 4 days a week to get more personalized math instruction that caters to their needs!
Blog Post Written By: Ms. Heidi Donner, Second Grade Teacher
A second grader's day at MELA is filled with love, learning, and lifelong skills. This year has focused on relationship building and giving our scholars the tools to be successful throughout their education. Not only has our learning been about academics, but it has also focused on relationships and how to navigate disagreements in a healthy way.
At MELA, we recognize and follow the expectations of being mindful, empathetic, leaders, and accountable. Here are a few of the ways we address and celebrate social-emotional learning:
**Calm Connect our mindfulness program, is a patented system used around the world that contains dozens of short digital sequences designed to calm the nervous system and build a bridge to the social world quickly and effectively.
**Mindfulness with Justme is a series of seven mindfulness videos that are able to be applied to real-world situations. The skills our second graders learn have helped them during stressful times.
**Celebrate Student of the Month and Most Improved every month. The Student of the Month and Most Improved students get to sit at a special table in the lunchroom to celebrate!
**Students can earn MELA Tickets by showing mindfulness, empathy, leadership, or accountability. One MELA ticket winner each month gets an ice cream treat and celebrates with the class!
Students acquire a wide range of phonics skills in the Groves Literacy Framework through explicit phonemic awareness, letter-sound, and formation instruction. This curriculum was developed at Groves Academy, uses an Orton-Gillingham-based curriculum, and is rooted in decades of literacy and brain research. Most importantly, our instruction is culturally relevant; students can see themselves in the stories we read and the activities we do. Second grade is the first time our scholars get to dive into cursive! Not only is it important for students to be able to decode cursive, it also provides practice for fine motor skills.
Bridges in Mathematics
Students gain a deep understanding of concepts, proficiency with key skills, and the ability to solve complex problems. The curriculum is composed of three distinct but integrated components: Problems & Investigations, Workplaces, and Number Corner. Students practice the skills they learn in math lessons during the math workplace games that they play during centers. In addition to Bridges, we have tailored small group lessons to help target students learning individually. We believe learning should be tailored to each student to provide the best instruction possible.
Using the knowledge they acquire from our Literacy Instruction, second graders plan, write, and edit their writing. Second graders are focusing on using more complex language in their writing and learning about different writing structures to deepen their understanding.
Blog Post Written by: Nichole Moretine (1st Grade Teacher) and Paula Barros (School Principal)
Welcome to 1st Grade!
After a wonderful time in Pre-K and Kindergarten, learning how to be a student at MELA, our 1st graders continue to learn more foundational skills, but now they are more independent and they make deeper connections in their academic life.
You will notice that your child will become a much more confident reader and writer. In 1st grade, we continue to use the Groves Method for phonics practice, and now that they are more used to this curriculum, they make great progress being able to sound out more complex words.They will also start using complete sentences and spelling words with increasing accuracy. Additionally in literacy, students will ponder about what they read, and talk about story elements, like the main ideas of stories.
In Math, we continue to use the curriculum Bridges in Mathematics. During this year, students focus intensively on the four critical areas specified by the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics in Grade One:
What are Students Doing Currently in 1st grade?
January's thematic focus is “Clouds and the Water Cycle”! Students have been reading and discussing the book Clouds by Erin Edison. The young scholars are identifying and applying “Question Words” such as Who, Where, What, When, and Why throughout their literacy unit. Students have enjoyed creating clouds with cotton balls, creating snow people by cutting and gluing shapes, acting out the water cycle, watching “Weather” in Brainpop, Jr., and playing with friends in the snow. Our next steps will be identifying the four types of clouds with descriptions, as well as creating stories about individual adventures in the snow! We are especially excited about reading our stories to one another in our class “Speaker Chair” and having a “Gallery Walk” with our illustrations.
We can't wait for your child to join MELA and share our excitement and enjoyment in our learning!
Written By: Ms. Kat Waltz and Ms. Erika Finanger, Kindergarten Teachers
Students acquire a wide range of phonics skills in the Groves Literacy Framework through explicit phonemic awareness, letter sound, and formation instruction. This curriculum was developed at Groves Academy, uses an Orton-Gillingham based curriculum and is rooted in decades of literacy and brain research. Most importantly, our instruction is culturally-relevant; students can see themselves in the stories we read and the activities we do.
Bridges in Mathematics
Students gain a deep understanding of concepts, proficiency with key skills, and the ability to solve complex problems. The curriculum is composed of three distinct but integrated components: Problems & Investigations, Workplaces, and Number Corner. Students practice the skills they learn in math lessons during the math workplace games that they play during centers.
Using the knowledge they acquire from our Literacy Instruction, kindergarteners plan and write complete sentences. Then, they draw a picture and add details to match the sentence. In kindergarten, we explore fiction, nonfiction and opinion writing.
Smithsonian Science Curriculum
Inquiry-based learning where students get to observe and experiment with materials that deepen their learning through lesson-by-lesson progressions. Students also engage in hands-on science activities and STEM bins to deepen their thinking skills.
Blog Post Written By Paula Barros (School Director) and Emily Edland (PreK Teacher)
Free Pre-Kindergarten. All Day Program. Tablets for Every Student. High Quality Emotional, Social, and Academic Education.
“It takes a village to raise a child” -here at MELA we take this proverb seriously when talking about all of our children, but especially when talking about the youngest of our scholars. Pre-Kindergarten is a wonderful time, full of discoveries, friendships, happiness, and new learnings, but it can also be overwhelming as it is the first time the children are in an Elementary School. To ensure that the children have the best time in their new setting, we establish partnerships with the families, and we work hard to create an environment full of love, respect, and deep connections to ensure that our students feel like they are at home away from home.
As we are a small school, it is possible for the children to establish wonderful connections with our wonderful school staff as well as the older grade students that are often available to model to our Pre-K students how to be a student at MELA; showing our expectations and importance to be mindful, empathetic, leaders, and accountable. As some of the older students have been at MELA since they were Pre-K students themselves, the sense that “it takes a village to raise a child” has a full meaning of belonging in a community that feels like a family, where everyone looks after one another.
We praise ourselves for taking care of our students' well-being, social, and emotional learning. But Pre-K is not only a time for playing. We have an outstanding academic curriculum that focuses on deep learning and student success.
In the Pre-Kindergarten classroom, we use:
The students also have access to top quality educational apps like Dreambox, Lexia, as well as many other programs, as all of our students utilize 1:1 technology.
Our 4 year olds love to play and learn with each other. Additionally, we have designated times for singing songs, reading stories, playing and working in small groups! During the past few weeks the kids have enjoyed playing outside in the snow! Check out some pictures of some of their adventures below!
-Ms. Lynsey Fleck, Instructional Coach
Keeping Learning Going Over Break
While the holiday break is wonderful and all of the relaxing is great, having a few ideas for structured activities can be really helpful in breaking up the days. This week we are sharing some ideas for fun activities you can do at home to keep your children’s skills fresh while they are away from school.
Divide and Sort
This can be done while decorating cookies, gingerbread houses, or doing other holiday activities. Choose a variety of decorating candy items (gumdrops, nonpareils, M&Ms, etc.) Ask your child to count out a given total of each item (Example: 20). Then have him/her split the total equally into several bowls, containers, or piles (Example: Put equal amounts in each of the 4 containers). This provides a great opportunity to practice both counting and splitting items into equal groups.
by Paula Barros, School Director
“The greatness of a community is most accurately measured by the compassionate actions of its members.”
Coretta Scott King's powerful words resonate with us at MELA deeply. As “The Little School with the Big Heart”, empathy is one of our school’s expectations, and the one I personally value the most - as when you truly care about others, it is easier to be mindful, accountable, and a good leader.
As we value this expectation so greatly, it makes sense that we seek to establish relationships with others that share our values. You probably have already read in previous blog posts about our partnerships with Canine Inspired Change, and the University of Minnesota’s science program - InSciEd Out. You probably might have read our blog post about Art at MELA, and the wonderful partnership we have with the MN Orchestra, MN Capoeira, MN Opera, Heart of Dance, MPR Class Note Artists, among others that are yet to be highlighted here on our blog.
In this post, I would like to highlight another partnership that we are very thankful for - the one we have with the Maple Grove Fire Department, in particular with Firefighter and Inspector, Shannon Burton.
Shannon Burton has partnered up with MELA way before the Covid-19 pandemic started. During his many visits, his dedication towards our students is truly noticeable and his connection with them makes the things that he teaches more significant and meaningful.
On one occasion, he talked to our students about fire safety and what to do in case of a fire in their houses or our school. Here are some pictures of when he visited our students in 2019, when our current 1st graders were in Pre-K:
Also in 2019, after learning all about fire safety, the 4th grade students (that are currently in 6th grade) developed such a strong relationship with Mr. Burton, that they even invited him for a special lunch at MELA!
But then, came the pandemic, and we were distance learning and/or limiting the amount of people in our building. Mr. Burton was very concerned about our staff and community well-being, and he made sure to reach out on many occasions, to schedule virtual field trips, and check in about our staff and community’s general wellness. During the virtual field trips he facilitated, he answered questions about the pandemic, fire safety, and gave us a tour of the Maple Grove Fire Department! The students really enjoyed seeing the truck and their equipment!
Recently, he joined our 5th grade class to talk about several areas of fire safety and share very important information for young babysitters to have when alone with littler children. The students were actively involved in the discussion and asked relevant questions about what they were taught. Building community is crucial for our school. If you are interested in partnering with us, please send me an email - firstname.lastname@example.org
By Trevor Abel, Dean of Students
At Minnesota Excellence in Learning Academy, it is our mission to support each child in becoming an engaged and curious learner, a confident self-advocate, and a creative problem-solver by setting high expectations and nurturing a positive culture that honors diversity, collaboration, and optimism. Our staff works extremely hard every day to fulfill this mission for our scholars, however, there is also a key partnership which we rely on--our families.
Without family support, our scholars would be missing a key component to their education. It is crucial that we have a strong partnership and collaborate together. There’s a saying that "It takes a village to raise a child." We truly believe that to be the case. We want to form a strong partnership and team with our families in order to provide the best education possible for all of OUR scholars. Part of that partnership includes community building, which we try to do through our family events.
With the COVID-19 pandemic still on our minds and greatly affecting how we operate, we have switched many of our family events from in-person events to virtual events. Last school year we hosted several family bingo nights, and this past week we held a virtual Jeopardy night where families came and learned trivia facts about the different teachers and staff members at our charter school. We know that this is not ideal, and in the future we hope to get back to holding in-person events. In the time being, we appreciate the support and involvement our families have given us during the pandemic.
Family engagement is important, and we, the MELA staff, understand that everyone has different work schedules, different ideas about family involvement, and different amounts of time which they are able to spend working with us. We want to listen to the ideas our families may have. We want to support and value whatever ways they are willing to work with us, and hear what we can do to improve the whole family’s educational experience at our school. We know through these partnerships that we can continue to give all our scholars at MELA the best educational experience possible.
Davis, C., & Yang, A. (2005). Parents & Teachers Working together. Northeast Foundation for Children.
Matching Student Interest with Teacher Talent: Passion Projects
- Ms. Danielle Fields, Executive Director
"Creativity is intelligence having fun." -- Albert Einstein
Learning should be fun! It is part of our core commitment “fostering a genuine love of learning from the first day of school” and our approach “we choose to make an impact through joyful, positive, and inspirational interaction”, “we believe that learning is more than academic, and focus on the creativity within the whole child” to education. Passion Projects are an original idea created by MELA for creative expression and inquiry that students may not otherwise have an opportunity to explore.
Who doesn’t remember saying as a student “When will I ever need to know this?” Passion Projects apply literacy and math skills to activities children can take with them for the rest of their lives. Many of our Passion Projects are offered because a teacher has an outside passion that they want to share with the student body. Students then get to select from a variety of unique learning opportunities that peak their individual interests.
This year at MELA, all students have the opportunity to engage in the following Passion Projects: Outside Adventures, Robotics/Makerspace, Dance, Spanish, Art Class, Gardening, Cooking Class, Science with the University of Minnesota, Computer Programming with Amazon, Chess, and Dog Training (Therapy Dogs with Canine Inspired Change). Whereas Wednesdays can feel like the looongest day of the week for most schools, it is the day of the week that our students look forward to the most!
Here is what students have to say about Passion Projects:
Maya Angelou said it best, “You can’t use up creativity. The more you use the more you have.” Passion Projects make learning come to life in joyous ways. Our school takes pride in fostering future problem solvers, inventors, and world-changers.
What Do the Arts Look Like at MELA? -Ms. Jessica Anderson, Music Teacher
MELA is fortunate to have a wonderful arts program that is continuously growing and changing to meet the needs of our scholars . The arts at MELA can be understood through music class, partnerships with the community, passion projects, afterschool arts programming, and future planning with an arts grant.
Scholars at MELA have music class two times a week. In music class, students have lessons that follow the national music standards. Within these standards, students experience many different instruments such as bucket drumming, Orff instruments, auxiliary percussion instruments, recorders, ukuleles, boomwhackers, and handbells. Some recent notable music class experiences include field trips to see the MN Orchestra, Heliopsis, a guest artist duo, came to perform for students, and students were able to perform parts of an Opera in music class last year during hybrid learning.
At MELA the arts are able to thrive through our incredible partnerships with many great organizations. Here are our partnerships:
On Wednesdays, students have the opportunity to experience the arts as part of their passion project. By the end of the year, each student will have had one trimester of an art themed passion project. Some of the art passion projects include: movement, dance, painting, and the culinary arts.
Afterschool Arts Program
MELA’s after school visual arts program offers a unique opportunity for students to experience the arts in a unique way through Capoeirara. Capoeirara is a form of martial arts that combines dance and music elements as well! Capoeira is led by Mestre Guerreiro. Additionally we have licensed art teacher that engages students in an hour of art class as well.
MELA is fortunate to have received the Comprehensive Arts Planning Program Grant for 2021-2023. With this grant, MELA is creating a strategic plan to help shape and expand the future of arts programming at MELA. If you are curious to learn more about this grant or to take part in this planning process, please contact Jessica Anderson at email@example.com.
Canine Inspired Change (CIC)
By Erin Jorich, Communications Director for CIC
MELA is proud to Partner with Canine Inspired Change (CIC) to offer a Therapy Dog program at MELA Charter School. Read below to learn more about this program and how our students benefit from it!
Canine Inspired Change (CIC) is a St. Paul-based nonprofit organization that provides social-emotional therapy dog programming at schools and institutions throughout the Twin Cities. Supported by volunteers and their CIC-trained family pets, CIC has partnered with schools, like MELA, to facilitate therapy dog sessions with students to overcome trauma, social struggles and isolation by sparking meaningful connections with dogs, volunteers and each other since 2010.
Each CIC program is specifically designed for a school and their demographic. A typical in-school program will consist of 8-10 weekly sessions. In a CIC session students will:
CIC at MELA
CIC and MELA first teamed up in 2018. MELA students have gained a tremendous amount of pride and a sense of accomplishment through CIC’s programming. Staff and volunteers have often shared that MELA is one of their favorite schools to work with their dogs! MELA students are always eager to learn and participate when the dogs arrive.
Dogs have a powerful way of connecting humans to themselves and their community. CIC looks forward to creating more canine-inspired connections at MELA in the coming years.
You can find out more about Canine Inspired Change at https://canineinspiredchange.org/