Star Readers Stand Out in Lower School

“There is no substitute for books in the life of a child,” said Mary Ellen Chase,  one of the most influential New England authors of the twentieth century. Providence Academy believes, just as Chase did, that reading is an essential part of every student’s education, particularly in their lower school years. Students have a designated period almost every day for reading, as well as weekly trips to the library. From books about dragons to classics such as “Sherlock Holmes” and “Robinson Crusoe,” lower schoolers have access to a variety of literature that can fuel their imaginations and their love of reading.

Mrs. Galgano poses with her basket of star pins and medals on her way to award more students for their diligent reading.

This is where the yearly Director’s Reading Challenge (DRC) comes into play. The challenge is tailored to each grade’s reading level, usually requiring that students read a certain number of minutes each night or a certain amount of pages each month. Lower School Director Mrs. Nancy Galgano, began this program about twenty years ago as a challenge for the lower school class she was teaching at the time. 

Galgano explained, “I had special books that I ordered and when a student reached a certain level, they would get to keep a book from my own collection. Then at the end of the year, students would get a little prize for reading a certain number of nights each month.”

All of that changed because of one student who truly loved to read. “There was one boy who read every single day of the year,” Galgano recalled. “For that boy, I started giving out the medal because it was an extraordinary commitment and because it was so extraordinary, it was an inspiration for other students, who began to do the same thing.”

Mrs. Galgano and Mrs. Jaeger had out the iconic medals to those who successfully completed the 2021-22 Director’s Reading Challenge

Kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Sarah Evens, is one of many teacher who play an essential role in the reading journey of lower schoolers. She underlines the importance of the DRC in leading students towards a lifelong passion. “I believe [the challenge] creates that love of reading because it becomes like a habit,” Evens explained.

“It changes the mindset from having to read to wanting to read by putting the choice in students’ hands.” Evens continued. 

Galgano agrees with Evens, noting, “We make it a challenge because it’s mostly voluntary, so it excites the kids and motivates them. [The incentive] makes reading more fun!” She continued by saying that even though the ultimate prize may be a medal or a star-shaped pin, “The reading challenge is not meant for people to get a medal, but to build the habit of reading, which is so important to their future.”

Mrs. Simons’s Kindergarten class smiles with their first-ever Director’s Reading Challenge medals

While some lower school students may identify the DRC as another piece of homework, third-grader Thomas O’Grady finds this a delightful part of his life. “I like it because you get the pins and the medals, but my favorite part is that I get an excuse to read,” he commented. 

As a student who is known for reading all the time, sometimes even in class, it’s no surprise that O’Grady truly loves reading. “I like that characters get to go on cool adventures. In my favorite book “Dragonwatch”, the two main characters get to fight evil dragons to protect humans, and I know that won’t ever happen to me, so I like reading about it,” he said.

With another successful year of the Director’s Reading Challenge coming to an end last Friday, it is more important than ever to remember the power that reading has in shaping a child’s future, and that nothing can substitute it.

Floating Away with Physics

Connor Shore ’22 smiles while holding the balloon during the inflation process

The advanced physics class decided to cap off their year by launching a high-altitude balloon last weekend. The launch was the first of its kind in the history of the class and the capstone of an entire experiment centered on gathering data on cosmic ray muons.

High altitude is required to detect the muons and therefore necessitates a balloon capable of withstanding the elements at a high altitude. Muons are created when cosmic rays (high-energy protons) collide with the nuclei of atoms in the upper atmosphere. These muons are extremely unstable and usually decay before they reach the earth’s surface making them much harder to detect. By using a balloon to lift the detector into the upper atmosphere, more muons can be detected before they decay. 

“By raising the detector thousands of feet into the air, we can get much more accurate data than if we just simulated the muons using a computer program,” noted Christopher John Festin ‘22.

Christopher John Festin ’22 makes final adjustments to the gyroscope before launch

The project required weeks of building and preparation. Needing a balloon, the muon detector, and a way to track the entire package, there was plenty of work cut out for the Advanced Physics class. 

“I feel that since we have such a small class (12 people) we can really specialize on what we want to work on in the project and get things done,” added Matthew Narog ‘22. 

The launch day was an entire event for the physics students. The day started with a trip to Mr. Plusinski’s father’s cardiovascular clinic, Northern Cardiovascular Clinic in Edina where the students learned about the physics of ultrasounds and other medical equipment. After a mini physics lesson, the class drove out to Montgomery to launch the ballon. 

“It was cool to see how what we were learning in class can be applied to the real world” commented Mary Rillens Lee ‘22, who is interested in a career in the medical field. 

After a few attempts to launch the balloon, the third time was the charm. The balloon quickly rose up into the air and began its flight. Within a few minutes, the balloon was completely out of sight and was being tracked by the onboard GPS

Matthew Wooden ’22 celebrates when the balloon successfully launched on the third try.

After a staggering five and a half hours of flight, the balloon finally landed in upper Michigan less than five miles from lake superior. 

“Mr. Plusnski sai MAYBE the balloon would make it all the way to Iowa, now it is sitting 300 miles away in upper Michigan,” remarked Macalister Clark ’22 on the astonishing distance the balloon traveled. 

The class quickly made plans to retrieve the balloon over the long upcoming weekend in order to collect the data stored inside the detectors for next year’s class to analyze. 

The Holy Spirit Shining Through: PA Chapel adorned with new Stained Glass Window

First views of the new stained glass window, awaiting installation. PAW photo courtesy of Father Michael McClellan

Students sitting down during mass may have recently been second-guessing themselves or perhaps walking towards the altar noticing something a bit different, and with good reason. The PA Chapel, Chapel of Our Lady of Divine Providence, now holds a new stained glass window, depicting the Holy Spirit as a Dove, shining down on the chapel.

In addition to this visible reminder of an invisible reality, the new window also aids in one of the main purposes of a chapel, to gradually point one’s eyes up to God. The chapel accomplishes this best by the pews guiding worshippers to look towards the altar, then the altar leading them right to the cross and pediment, and now to the new beautiful stained glass window.

The idea of this project was sparked three years ago between Chaplain Father Michael McClellan and Chairman of The Board of Directors, Mr. Robert Cummins. Working to accomplish many goals for the chapel, this recent one was modeled after a similar window in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome and re-made here by a stained glass window company, Gaytee-Palmer.

Even though this idea came easily, the process to get it here and the work to put it up was more difficult. Not only has this project, like most other things, suffered COVID-related delays, but it is also an intricate task by nature, even when things run on schedule.

Gaytee-Palmer installers working above the tabernacle earlier this month to put install the stained glass window. PAW photo courtesy of Father Michael McClellan

As one might imagine, installing a window that is itself a work of art, above a pediment, on an altar, above a tabernacle is difficult work. “They came in to do measurements and quickly realized that it was going to be harder than they thought”, recalled McClellan. The installers even had to put in a bunch of scaffolding to even reach the window but the students and staff agree the work was well worth it.

Now that the window has been installed and there are no other plans currently in the works for the chapel, it is important to reflect on the benefits of such additions. “The chapel provides a very rich and holy aesthetic when guiding us into the highest form of prayer,” noted Flanders. “When we are put in a more serious environment, we tend to have a more serious and enlightened understanding,” he continued. The window and other beautiful adornments are more than decorations, they are an invitation to prayer.

A place of worship shapes worship itself. The beauty of the chapel and its physical traits help to open minds to the beauty of the Faith. In reflection, Sam Trombley ’22 added, “All the physical things are there, what’s needed now is for students to be respectful and solemn when we come to Holy Mass. I hope students can [come to] understand the great joy and importance present at every Mass…but change happens slowly; one can only work on their own interior life and not let others bother them.”

From Blue Waters to Yellow Walls: Lobsters join the Upper School

The Providence Academy Track and Field Team is known for its competitive spirit, so it is unsurprising when new students join and show prospective talent. On Friday May 13th, three transfer students demonstrated their speed in a race after school coined ‘Lobster Fest’. The three students, Wallis, Claudius, and Da Pinchi, transferred from the prestigious local HiVee to race and amassed many fans by the end of the day.

Sam Trombley ’22 and Mac Clark ’22 make the new students feel at home showing them familiar faces leading up to Lobster Fest.

The transfers were initially invited to the school by Jack Lindberg ‘22 and Matthew Narog ‘22 with the approval of Upper School Administrative Assistant Mrs. Kate Gregg and the sponsorship of Upper School English Teacher Mr. Adam Schmalzbauer. The idea was hatched the night of PA’s Prom on May 7th and was swiftly put into action on the following five days to accommodate for the students’ peculiar needs. Luckily, Lindberg had prior experience with similar types of students and equipped Schmalzbauer’s room with a comfortable tank for them to stay in. “We did have some trouble finding the proper type of water,” commented Narog. 

Even with that difficulty, everything was ready to go for the 8:30 A.M. bell, but the transfers were nowhere to be found. They nonchalantly arrived around 9:30 A.M. to join their first class of the day: Senior Seminar. Fittingly, they became a part of a ‘fishbowl’ discussion on the book Persuasion by Jane Austen. “They learned about the dangers of vanity and the limits of persuasion,” explained Schmalzbauer. 

As they stayed with Schmalzbauer throughout the day, he got to know their character. He described, “Wallis was quite inattentive while Claudius was rambunctious. Da Pinchi was definitely a scholar and I predict that he would have had very good scores.” He continued, “I enjoyed having them in my class and miss them, but I understand that they had to return to their true home.”

Claudius, Wallis, and Da Pinchi (pictured left to right) soaking up knowledge from Schmalzbauer’s literature classes.

As the transfers prepared for their race at the end of the day, excitement built in the student body. Flyers had already been put up in days prior, but everyone, from Seniors to Freshmen to faculty, was buzzing with excitement on Friday. As soon as the last bell rang, a crowd swarmed in the atrium where the race was to take place. Mac Clark ‘22 and Sam Trombley ‘22 acted as security to keep the crowd at bay while Joseph Uzelac ‘22 announced the festivities. As Wallis, Claudius, and Da Pinchi paraded out, their weights and odds were announced. Da Pinchi was the favored racer, especially after eating five pieces of shrimp (compared to the others only having one), while Wallis was the underdog of the afternoon. 

Tension was high as the racers got ready and once the race commenced, the atrium erupted in encouraging yells. Although shrimp was placed in front of the competitors for motivation, the racers were not used to such a vigorous school day and were reluctant to move. In particular, Wallis refused to move and his coach Lindberg remarked, “It was just not his thing.” 

Lucas Priemueller ’22 displaying his overwhelming excitement as his coachee, Claudius, make his first move.

After a few slow-moving minutes, Claudis, coached by Lucas Priemueller ‘22, was declared the winner after moving the farthest, which was approximately one marble tile.

Priemueller explained, “He was quite prepared after going through some of Coach Hohenecker’s grueling workouts.” Da Pinchi came in second with his coach, Narog, explaining, “He is more a jack of all trades. He is not necessarily the best, but he can do many things.” Wallis, after moving nowhere, came in last. 

The atrium cleared out instantaneously and the racers were taken home to rest and take a …bath. Their experience at Providence was overwhelmingly positive and they brought good to the school.

Schmalzbauer explained, “They did a great job at demonstrating the powers of freedom to students.”  While they only appeared for one day, they helped close out the year with a laugh. And, although Wallis was the loser in the race, Lindberg made sure to say, “He was a winner in his taste.”

Senior Sentiments: Con-GRAD-ulations, Seniors!

“It’s surreal,” “I can’t believe it’s actually happening,” “I’m sad to be leaving,” and “I’m looking forward to what’s next,” sum up the mixed sentiments of the senior class as they inch closer to graduation day. 

June 3rd is hours away and seniors feel the weight of it all. The realization that high school will no longer be a present experience, but a memory, has stopped many seniors in their tracks. Although everyone knows students’ time at PA culminates in walking across a stage and shaking Headmaster Dr. Todd Flanders’ hand, it’s shocking to realize the long awaited day is actually approaching. For some, it’s almost as if it won’t feel real until the day has passed. 

Providence Academy Spanish Teacher Señora Fran Ramirez smiles as she proudly hangs students’ graduation cards in her classroom. Emma Wohlwend ‘22 is one of many students who share grad party invitations with teachers, a charming opportunity that a small school like PA provides through strong relationships with teachers.

Amidst all these emotions, big things are happening: decision day for colleges has passed, seniors finished painting the senior rock, and many have sent out grad party invites. Despite the fast paced nature of the last couple of weeks, the Class of ‘22 is still taking time to reflect on the chapter of their life that will soon be over. 

“I’ve grown up with this school, these teachers, and these people. I’m sad to be leaving something that’s been a part of my life for so long,” confessed Sophia Gable ‘22, after finding it complicated to articulate her feelings toward graduation. 

“I feel like I’ve just lived here the past 14 years,” remarked Lifelong Lion Eli Schmidt ‘22 with a chuckle.

Schmidt is one of twenty PA seniors who have been attending Providence Academy since Pre-K. These students can easily say that a beautiful brick building on a hill has been their second home for almost eighty percent of their lives. 

“Over the years, there were times I wished I went to a bigger school and other times I’ve been very grateful to have been here for so long,” continued Schmidt, “But in the end, I’m glad I’m a Lifelong Lion because that’s what God planned for me. And at the same time, I’m looking forward to what’s next.”

Seniors Liz Trubeck, Sophie Koch, Anna Heaney, and Ava Wasserman make their handprints on the senior rock with fellow classmates, participating in a long-standing Providence Academy senior tradition.

There’s a lot on the horizon for the sixty-eight soon-to-be graduates. Seniors visualize years full of new responsibility, travel, independence, new people, new things, and the ability to stretch themselves in new ways. 

Additionally, as teachers send off yet another graduating class, they can’t help but notice how much they’ll miss these seniors. 

Upper School History teacher Mr. Ian Skemp shared his thoughts smiling, “Morale is high in this class. They have a certain level of comradery that you don’t see in every graduating class. Their willingness to enjoy each other’s company and maintain civility despite differences has prepared them well for college.”

Overall, as these individuals make the transition from students to alumni, it’s clear they will bring PA values on each of their journeys, wherever they may lead.