Year of accomplishments at Northwest Passage

One of the four pillars of the Northwest Passage High School, Coon Rapids, mission statement is “Seeking our Path.”

It is most often used to describe each student’s freedom to design their own individualized learning plan, but can also be seen within the staffing, curriculum delivery and expansion of opportunities as the school transitions into the future, according to Peter Wieczorek, director.

The 2012-13 school year was a year full of changes, accomplishments and exploration for the high school, Wieczorek said.

The year started with several staffing changes and additions. Wieczorek, veteran biology teacher and adviser, accepted the position of director.

Social studies teacher Ryan Haasch led a music production class that is working to build a recording studio in a former supply closet, while special education teacher Anna Benz expanded and enriched the gardening program by using community experts and finding donated supplies.

Thirteen students participated in this year’s Minnesota Association of Alternative Programs STARS statewide competition taking home a first place in audio video promotion and a first place in advertising, plus a sixth place in human relations/decision making. Three other teams also made the finals in audio video promotion.

Six students from the Service Learning Council traveled to Denver, Colo., for the National Service Learning Conference to present the schoolwide integration of service learning across the curriculum.

Advisory ambassadors visited the state capitol to meet with legislators and discuss the value of charter schools to students in Minnesota.

A schoolwide partnership with the Minnesota Literacy Council continued with students conducting email correspondence with adult English language learners in St. Paul.

The school year concluded with 27 seniors graduating.

Travel, in the form of educational expeditions, continues to be a focus of the school, according to Wieczorek. All students participated in an advisory retreat to YMCA Camp Icaghowan.

Additional expeditions included dog sledding and snowshoeing in Ely, winter camping in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area, backpacking in Canyonlands National Park, Utah, shoreline restoration on Grand Isle outside New Orleans, La., and exploring the nation’s capital in Washington D.C.

This past year also included a number of firsts for the school, Wieczorek said. In April students planned and organized the first ever prom with over 60 participants.

Several fundraising events took place for the first time including a Give MN campaign that saw Wieczorek ride the roller coaster at Mall of America for three straight hours and an “Explore Your World” silent auction with the Wildlife Science Center to raise funds for the school’s expedition program.

As the 2013-14 school year approaches the transition will continue, according to Wieczorek. “Staff is eagerly awaiting the arrival of the school’s largest group of incoming freshman,” Wieczorek said.

“There will be an increased focus on science, technology, engineering, arts and math projects, including upgrades to innovative technologies. A student designed recording studio should be completed in early 2014 and monthly student run expos featuring music, spoken word, performances and a coffee shop will begin in October.

“Despite all of the changes, Northwest Passage High School will continue to prepare students for post-secondary success by offering student-focused curriculum, a safe small learning community and opportunities for students to explore their world with educational expeditions.”

Northwest Passage High School is a tuition-free public charter school located in Coon Rapids.

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