Archive | December, 2014


Birth of first gorilla at Como Zoo quickly turns to sadness

Posted on 10 December 2014 by robwas66

IOC_12_14_ComoZooThe joy of a new birth at Como Zoo, turned from elation to sadness within a matter of days. The baby male gorilla who was born in the early hours of Nov. 19 to mother Alice, sadly died on Nov. 23.

This was the first gorilla birth for Alice and the first gorilla birth in Como’s 55 year history of being a leader in gorilla care and conservation.

At approximately four pounds at birth, the baby gorilla appeared healthy, strong and was bonding with Alice. After the birth, he and Alice were under zookeeper watch and care around the clock. The baby had appeared as if he was doing well through Saturday evening. He had a strong grip and was vocal. Alice was showing positive signs of maternal instinct, had been observed nursing and cradling the baby.

Despite best efforts to monitor and record the baby’s food intake, many times Alice would cradle her baby to her chest with her back towards the observing zookeepers making it difficult to determine when, and if, nursing was indeed taking place. To prevent undo stress on new mothers, and allow them the necessary time to bond with their baby, it is imperative that zoo staff and veterinarians not intervene unless absolutely necessary.

On Sunday morning it was apparent that the baby was weak and his health failing. While the intervention process was happening the baby was set down by Alice and the zookeepers were able to retrieve him without the need to immobilize Alice. Resuscitation efforts on the infant were quickly preformed but were unsuccessful. Preliminary hypothesis is that the death might have been caused due to complications with food intake.

A gorilla gestation is approximately eight months. At birth, baby gorillas weigh between 4 and 5 pounds. It is extremely important for mom and baby to bond shortly after birth and for the baby to begin nursing. Typically Zoo staff will not intervene unless the health of the infant is compromised or the mother shows no motherly instinct. In cases such as that, zookeepers would step in and with veterinary staff determine next steps for reintroduction, hand rearing or even a surrogate type situation. Each animal at Como Zoo has its own Birth Management Plan.

Gorilla mothers are very protective of their babies. A gorilla mother will carry the baby on her chest for the first three months. At about 6-months-old the baby will move to ride on the mother’s back and begin playing and moving around on the ground close to mother. “Gorillas are very family oriented,” said Jo Kelly, Senior Zookeeper.

“The entire Gorilla SSP shares the Como Zoo’s heartbreak over this sad event,” stated Dr. Kristen Lukas, Director of Conservation & Science at Cleveland Metroparks Zoo, and the Chair of the Gorilla Species Survival Plan. “It is always difficult to lose a young one but we fully understand the significance of this particular birth for Como Zoo and are very sorry for your loss.”

Out of 437 gorilla births at Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) institutions since 1980, 26% of males and 20% of females did not make it to their first birthday. In wild-living western gorilla populations, mortality rates in the first year of life have been reported up to 42% and in mountain gorillas, first-time mothers have 50% higher infant mortality rates than second-time mothers.

Another gorilla in the group, Dara, is also pregnant and due soon.

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Korean immersion school opens in St. Paul

Posted on 10 December 2014 by robwas66


Sejong Academy balances the immersion needs of students depending on their skill level. “Some parents want more Korean instruction while some other parents are concerned about their students getting grade level instruction in English,” remarked Sejong Academy Executive Director Brad Tipka. “I believe this is a challenge that will continue and we will work to make sure students are learning content in English and Korean.”


Sixty-two students in grades kindergarten to sixth are immersed in Korean language and culture at the new Sejong Academy at 1330 Blair Ave. N.

Executive Director Brad Tipka, who was hired in September, knows that not all of the students at Sejong Academy will use Korean language professionally, “but I believe immersion education goes well beyond the potential use of the target language.”

He added, “I dream that our students will be responsible and culturally understanding global citizens. We have a very diverse student body and staff, and I believe being able to work in a diverse environment is a critical life skill for all students.”

Tipka grew up in a small Minnesota farming town and then headed overseas for eight years. He met and married his wife in Indonesia. “Without a desire to understand people from diverse backgrounds, none of this would have been possible for me,” observed Tipka.

During his time overseas, Tipka lived and taught in Korea for five years and developed a strong love for the language and culture. He said, “I believe that Korea as a country and Korean as a language represent strong opportunities for students in Minnesota.

“What I saw in Korea and what stands out for me about Korean people is a dedication to family, education, hard work and persistence – these are all great qualities to instill in our students!”



Sejong Academy Executive Director Brad Tipka

A public, tuition-free, Korean immersion charter school, Sejong Academy plans to add seventh grade classes in next year and eighth grade classes in 2016.

After opening in September 2014, Sejong scaled back its immersion program from full to partial. “As a startup immersion school, our upper grade level students do not have the Korean language fluency to comprehend grade level content in Korean,” Tipka noted. “Ideally, as we mature we will have large groups of students whose Korean language proficiency will allow them to study higher level grade level content in Korean.” He added that this is a common problem with immersion programs.

“Some parents want more Korean instruction while some other parents are concerned about their students getting grade level instruction in English,” remarked Tipka. “I believe this is a challenge that will continue and we will work to make sure students are learning content in English and Korean.”

Through the Sejong Home Connect program, staff works to make sure all families have home access to the internet and online school programs, including break or gap programs that offer extended learning time.


The school did receive some criticism in September for the large number of Karen students enrolled there. The Karen (pronounced Ka-REN) are an ethnic group from the mountainous border regions of Burma (Myanmar) and Thailand, where they are the second largest ethnic group in each country. There are approximately 6,500 Karen living in Minnesota with an additional 500 refugees from other ethnic groups in Burma. St. Paul currently has the largest and fastest-growing Karen populations in the U.S. The Karen people speak a variety of languages, none of which include Korean.

Tipka noted that the Karen immigrants are being taught intensive English at the school along with Korean language classes.

Sejong Academy is also offering Saturday enrichment courses, and has provided home-based instruction because the need for more English is strong, according to Tipka. “While we do have a few new-to-country Karen students who speak very little English, many of our Karen students are approaching fluency in English, as well,” Tipka pointed out. “There is a huge range and differentiation in the classroom is one of our critical professional development topics this academic year.”


Overall, Tipka says that comments from parents about what their children are learning at Sejong has been extremely positive. The school hosted a Chuseok Festival (a Korean holiday similar to Thanksgiving) after only being open for three weeks. Students gave short speeches in Korean and sang Korean songs, impressing their parents.

Grace Lee, a second-generation Korean American born and raised in Texas, serves as Sejong Academy board chair. Her third grader and sixth grader attend Sejong. “They enjoy the close school community, because they get to make friends with everyone,” Lee observed. “They also enjoy learning Korean. Lastly, through some of the blended learning opportunities, they are able to progress at an accelerated rate.”


A local police officer visited the third and fourth grade class as they learned about people in the community.

She added, “My dream is that this school will partner with the community and families to provide our students with a top-notch education, exposing them to the beautiful diversity and opportunities in our world; so that each student would dream big – not only for his/herself, but for his/her family, community and the world.  I hope that our school would equip each student to realize these dreams and that each student would become socially responsible global citizens in the process.”

Lee pointed out that South Korea is Minnesota’s sixth-largest export market, up from 14th just one decade ago. South Korea, which offers economic opportunities for Minnesota manufactured goods and for agriculture and service exporters, is a source of growing demand and was the location of the first trade mission of Governor Dayton’s in 2011. South Korea will host the 2018 Winter Olympics.

“I know firsthand how many opportunities there are for students who can speak Korean to work professionally with Korea,” noted Tipka. “Also, there are many opportunities in Minnesota, such as studying Korean at the U of M, or even testing out of having to take a foreign language in university, that will benefit our students.”
The school recently started a Futsal League (a version of soccer) with the Friends School.

“We are committed to doing whatever it takes to help our students, and their families, achieve their dreams,” said Tipka. “Whether that includes visiting homes to show families how to access the local library, providing home computers for families, adding Saturday school enrichment programs and maximizing our daily classroom instruction, we are confident that the school is moving forward with a great educational program and building solid connections to the community.”

Learn more at http://www.sejongacademy.org.

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Theatre Unbound tests the limits of the art Jan. 10 at Hamline University

Posted on 10 December 2014 by robwas66

IOC_12_14_ExtremeTheatreOn Sat., Jan. 10, Theatre Unbound will unleash its annual “24:00:00 Xtreme Theatre Smackdown,” a raucous evening of chance, challenge, wins and wipeouts. Central to the Smackdown are the more than 40 Twin Cities theatre artists who create and perform 6 new short plays in the span of 24 hours.

“The Smackdown has turned into its own category of theatre,” says Stacey Poirier, Theatre Unbound Artistic Director. “There’s really nothing else like it. The energy and excitement of the crowd is palpable – screaming, cheering, waving foam fan fingers. It feels more like a wrestling match or monster truck rally. It inspires some truly intense and amazing performances by the actors. Sometimes it’s brilliant and sometimes it’s a disaster of devastating proportion. The Smackdown is like the Xtreme Sport of theatre.”

“Everyone jumps in with both feet,” says comedienne Ahna Brandvik, past participant. “They make broader, braver choices. And the audience – oh, they’re along for the ride!”

Audiences will experience a (lighthearted) competitive atmosphere, including referees equipped with whistles, impromptu challenge matches between playwrights and directors, and audience participation wars.

How it works

In November, the general public suggested script ingredients via the Theatre Unbound Facebook page. In December, they are invited visit the website www.theatreunbound.com and vote among 50 finalists in the categories of: a line of dialog, an emotion, a prop, or something random. The winning ingredients must be included in each Smackdown script. On the evening of Fri., Jan. 9, the winning ingredients will be revealed to six teams of two playwrights,who will write through the evening. At 5am on Sat., Jan. 10, all the scripts are gathered up – ready or not! – and assigned to a director and a cast. Rehearsals are conducted throughout the day, with technical rehearsals skidding to a halt just in time for the performance at 8pm.

Crushinator the Corset Buster, the madcap Smackdown-Champion host, retired in the middle of last year’s event. Will she pull a “Brett Favre move” and find her way back to the Smackdown arena? Or will the new mystery host make a bigger splash with audiences? It’s anyone’s guess….

In keeping with Theatre Unbound’s mission, 24:00:00 Xtreme Theatre Smackdown offers opportunities to dozens of women theatre artists. Theatre Unbound is one of a dozen or so women’s theatre companies across the nation working to shrink the gender gap on America’s stages.

“24:00:00 Xtreme Theatre Smackdown” will take the stage at the Hamline University Anne Simley Theatre, 1536 Hewitt Ave., for one night only on Jan. 10, 8pm. General admission ticket prices are $18-$20, and reservations can be made by calling 612-721-1186 or ordering online at www.theatreunbound.com.

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St. Paul Hockey Club now in fifth year

Posted on 10 December 2014 by robwas66

IOC_12_14_Hockey1Boys and girls born in 2002 or later who are interested in learning and playing hockey with little cost and time commitment are invited to join the Saint Paul Hockey Club at the North Dale Rec Center. The Club is now in its fifth year providing a program for girls and boys in St. Paul to learn hockey skills and safety. Kids learn skills with qualified coaches and divide into small teams to play games. There is a $50 USA Hockey registration fee and players will need skates, a stick, and a helmet with mask. The USA Hockey registration is free for kids born in 2008 or later, and some equipment available for borrowing. Players may join at any time throughout the season.

The club skates two evenings per week and Saturday mornings during the outdoor ice season. Special events are planned for 2015 on Jan. 17 at the St. Paul Winter Classic; on Jan. 24 at the downtown WinterSkate rink; and to end the season in March.

Details, schedule, and registration information are available at stpaulhockey.com.

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Murray students present rain garden proposal

Posted on 10 December 2014 by robwas66

IOC12_14MurrayRainGardenOn Nov. 19, 20 students from the Environmental Inquiry Immersion class at Murray Middle School presented their proposal for a rain garden on the school property. Students analyzed water collection, soil types, percolation test data, and took account of curb appeal, as well as type of plants that would be native to the area and beneficial to desirable insects and birds. District consultants and St. Paul Public Schools facilities staff are very interested in working with the students and the neighborhood Transition Town Team to bring more sustainable and environmentally friendly landscape projects to Murray. Timothy Chase, science instructor at Murray, hopes to follow up with all represented groups on the panel to discuss grant writing and ways to work with an already proposed resurfacing of the parking lot project, tentatively scheduled for summer 2015.

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Bethel Lutheran sponsors living nativity Dec. 20

Posted on 10 December 2014 by robwas66

IOC12_14Nativity_4Bethel Lutheran Church, 670 W. Wheelock Pkwy., will host a living nativity (a re-enactment of the Christmas story) on Sat., Dec. 20, beginning at 6pm. The event will blend scripture reading, actors portraying the biblical account, and live farm animals (cow, sheep, goats). Live shows will last 15-minutes beginning at 6pm, 6:30pm, 7pm, and 7:30pm. Following the enactment, children are welcome to approach the animals as part of a petting zoo, and all guests are welcome to enjoy hot coffee, cocoa and cider, as well as cookies and treats. The event is free and open to the public (no tickets required). 670 W. Wheelock Pkwy. is on the corner of Maywood and Wheelock, with the parking lot on St. Albans St. (on west side of church).

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Friends School names new head

Posted on 10 December 2014 by robwas66

IOC12_14_LatrishaFriends School of Minnesota (FSM) has announced that Dr. Latrisha Chattin will become the school’s fourth Head of School, effective July 1, 2015. Her appointment results from an intensive process to identify a successor to Lili Herbert, who announced in December 2013 that she would be retiring at the end of the 2014-15 school year.

Latrisha Chattin resonates strongly with the school’s mission—her philosophy of education and commitment to Quaker values are a great fit with FSM’s academic program and culture. With advanced graduate work in special education and extensive classroom experience, Chattin brings considerable expertise in working with students with diverse learning needs. She is enthused about working with the school on FSM’s diversity goals and leading in deepening FSM’s community relationships.

“Friends School of Minnesota’s commitment to educate the whole child and instill Quaker values reflects my personal upbringing and professional priorities,” she said. “As a product of a Quaker school education, I am honored by this opportunity to carry on this legacy and lead a community of nurturing, forward-thinking peacekeepers who believe education is intellectual, emotional and spiritual.”

Chattin is currently teaching and providing administrative coverage at Wyncote Elementary School in Pennsylvania. Previously, she was the Site Director for two nonprofits. Chattin has an Ed.D. from Arcadia University and an M.S. from St. Joseph’s University. She is a graduate of Grinnell College and William Penn Charter School in Pennsylvania, the oldest Quaker high school in the country. Chattin is an attender at Chestnut Hill Friends Meeting in Philadelphia.

The School Committee’s decision to appoint Chattin was based upon the unanimous recommendation of the Head of School Search Committee, which carried out an eleven-month, nation-wide search. The Head Search Committee’s final discernment process was evidence-driven, spiritually led, and informed by feedback from FSM students, faculty, staff, parents, alumni, and Quakers in the community.

Latrisha will lead the school in its 27th year, taking over from Lili Herbert, whose leadership guided and improved FSM during her nine years as Head of School. Herbert increased the school’s enrollment and doubled its endowment. She oversaw and raised funds for two major building and grounds projects that strengthened FSM’s academic program by beautifying and improving the functionality of its space. She collaborated with faculty to further develop FSM’s strong academic program, deepening FSM’s commitment to Quaker values and progressive education. Through her service on the Friends Council on Education’s Board of Directors, Herbert connected Friends School of Minnesota to the nationwide network of Friends schools. Herbert moves on to pursue a research and writing project and earn a Masters of Divinity at Earlham School of Religion.

FSM is an independent K-8 Quaker school in the heart of St. Paul’s Midway neighborhood. In the tradition of more than 80 Friends Schools across the United States, FSM meets children’s intellectual, emotional and spiritual needs in an environment that nurtures social consciousness. FSM is committed to the Quaker values of peace, justice, simplicity and integrity.

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HM Elders plan monthly activities

HM Elders plan monthly activities

Posted on 10 December 2014 by robwas66

April2014IOC_HmalineMidwayEldersThe popular “Chair Yoga” class led by Nancy Giguere returns for an 8 week series on Thursday mornings beginning Jan. 8 from 10:30-11:30am. This free class is moving to a new location–the auditorium at the Hamline Midway Library, 1558 W. Minnehaha Ave. Chair yoga focuses on range of movement, alignment, stretching, strengthening, awareness, breathing and relaxation. All movement is done while seated or standing using the chair for balance.

The Caregiver Support Group is open to anyone caring for older adults or persons of any age with special needs. This group is facilitated by Monica Gallagher and trained volunteers. The group will meet on Thur., Jan. 8 from 6:30-8 pm (and meets regularly on the second Thursday of each month) at Hamline United Methodist Church, 1514 Englewood Ave. There is no cost and new attendees are always welcome.

Dr. Steve Vincent, from People’s Center Health Services in Minneapolis, will make a presentation on “Elder Health Care” at the Hamline Midway Elders monthly luncheon on Tues., Jan. 13, from 11:30am to 1pm. Free blood pressure checks will be provided and transportation for neighborhood seniors can be arranged with advance notice. Second Tuesday monthly luncheons are held at Hamline United Methodist Church, 1514 Englewood Ave.

HME are excited to be partnering with the Hamline Midway Library again for the upcoming winter series that will be held at the library and feature guest speakers on a wide variety of topics. Programs will be held on Wednesdays, 1-3pm. New York Times bestselling author William Kent Krueger kicks off the series on Jan. 14 – and folks of all ages are invited to attend any/all programs. Refreshments will be provided.

For more information on any of the above programs, please contact Hamline Midway Elders at 651-209-6542 or info@hmelders.org.

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Como Conservatory to celebrate 100th anniversary

Posted on 10 December 2014 by robwas66

IOC12_14_ComoConservBy JANE MCCLURE

We may be approaching the height of winter, but on the drawing boards at Como Park, a centennial garden is blooming. The Marjorie McNeeley Conservatory will celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2015 and part of the celebration will include the planting of a centennial garden.

Michelle Furrer, manager of the Como Campus, said the garden is one aspect of the celebration being planned. “It’s an exciting event for us,” she said.

The city’s Parks and Recreation Commission has reviewed garden plans over the past several months, not just for the Centennial Garden but for other gardens as well. City staff has worked to secure grants to improve the gardens.
The goal is to have the centennial Garden completed by June 2015. That is when St. Paul is hosting the American Public Gardens Association conference.

The association has been involved with cities including St. Paul for many years. It was founded in 1940 as the American Association of Botanical Gardens and Arboreta. Its name was changed in 2006.

The association is considered to be the premiere association for public gardens in North America, with more than 500 members spread across all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Canada and seven other countries. Individual members live in every state, the District of Columbia, Canada, and 24 other countries. The association is dedicated to increasing the knowledge of public garden professionals throughout North America, and it shares information, provides professional development and networking opportunities, conducts research and raises public awareness of what its members do.

Como Park Zoo and Conservatory is a focal point of the group’s visit, especially the conservatory and its many gardens and features. While there are plans for visitors to explore other areas of the park, the gardens will be a focal point.

What is now called the Marjorie McNeely Conservatory opened its doors to the public as the Como Park Conservatory on Nov. 7, 1915. It was built as a “show house” where visitors could come in all seasons to enjoy tropical and semi-tropical splendors, and a shelter for the many plants the park displays in its indoor and outdoor gardens. It is one of the few remaining original Victorian style glasshouses in North America and is about two acres in size. It has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1974. That means changes to the structure and its grounds require review and approval by the St. Paul heritage Preservation Commission.

It was renamed in 2002 in memory of the late Marjorie McNeely Conservatory at Como Park, after her family made a contribution in her honor.

Garden improvements are part of the park and conservatory’s ongoing master plan, said Furrer. Plans call for redeveloping the park’s Forecourt Gardens, which will include the new Centennial Garden. ‘The garden will serve as a focal point of the centennial celebration for the conservatory, which interpretive messages about the volunteers and visionaries who created the conservatory. It will also provide an outdoor setting for regular visitors as well as after-hour events. As part of a phased pan to create a more managed landscape in front of the visitor center, it will be designed in a way to improve the flow of pedestrians. It is also envisioned as a natural gathering spot for people waiting for the Como facilities to open, or a meeting place for families and friends.

The Centennial Garden is to be the first garden area completed. It would complement a circle garden and English gardens, as well as the planned renovation of the lily pond.

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Winter at the Hamline Midway Library offers plenty of reasons not to hibernate, with activities for all ages and all interests

Winter at the Hamline Midway Library offers plenty of reasons not to hibernate, with activities for all ages and all interests

Posted on 10 December 2014 by robwas66

IOC10_14LibraryGraphicHamline Midway Library, 1558 W. Minnehaha Ave., will feature Toddler and Preschool Storytimes on Fridays from 10:30-11am on Dec. 12, 19, 26 and Jan. 2, 9, 16, 23, and 30.

On Sat., Dec. 13, from 1:30-3pm, the Saturday Club theme is Lego Tiny Town. Participants can view a miniature city made of LEGO pieces and learn advanced LEGO construction techniques, as well as making a paper cityscape to take home. The activity is free and available on a drop-in basis.

The Friends of the St. Paul Public Library present the silent comedy “Spite Marriage” on Wed., Dec. 17, 7-8:30pm. Starring Buster Keaton and featuring a live, original score by local duo Dreamland Faces, the comedy finds Keaton so smitten by a stage actress that he accidentally joins the cast of her latest production. The fun really begins when she marries Keaton on a whim to get even with an old flame.

All St. Paul library locations will be closed for the holidays on Dec. 24 and 25. Most libraries close at 5:30pm on Dec. 31, with Dayton’s Bluff closing at 4pm. All locations will be closed on New Year’s Day and Martin Luther King Day on Mon., Jan. 19.

Sat., Jan. 3 is a busy day for book lovers of all ages. The Saints and Sinners Mystery Book Club meets that day from 1-3pm to discuss good mysteries. The title for January is “The Chocolate Snowman Murders” by JoAnna Carl. Contact Geraldine Balter for more information at gerribalter@gmail.com or 651-224-5570.

Also on Jan. 3 is Kids Book Club for book fans ages 8-12, meeting 1:30-2:30pm, and Teen Book Club for readers ages 12-18, meeting 2:30-3:30pm.

Mon., Jan. 5, 7-9pm, the library launches a new three-part series for adults, Maker Monday Incubator, featuring the theme Gizmos and Gadgets. How do we encourage children to see themselves as creative problem solvers and engaged learners? Adults can start by doing it themselves. Participants will use LEGO gears, pulleys, and levers to make whimsical mechanical gadgets that spin, whir, and wiggle. Pre-registration encouraged. The series is led by Peter Hoh, a science instructor based in St. Paul. The series continues on Mon., Jan. 12 with Paper Engineering and Mon., Jan. 26 with At Home and At School.

Thur., Jan. 8, 10:30-11:30am, the Hamline Midway Elders present a class on Chair Yoga with Nancy Giguere, with gentle exercises focusing on range of movement, alignment, stretching, strengthening, and relaxation—all while seated or using a chair for balance. The class will continue on Jan. 15, 22, and 29.

The Second Saturday Science Club for Kids on Sat., Jan. 10 meets in the auditorium 1:30-3pm for experiments and art projects with ice. Led by Peter Hoh and Jackie Lannin, the activities are designed for kids ages 6 and up and their families. Pre-registration encouraged.

The Wednesdays at 1:00 @ Hamline series re-launches in 2015 with renowned local author William Kent Krueger on “Why Books Matter.”

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