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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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/