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Eagle Ridge Academy spreads its wings in

Minnetonka building
Published February 9, 2017 at 1:35 pm
By Gabby Landsverk, Sun Sailor Newspapers
Eagle Ridge Academy, a charter school newly arrived in Minnetonka from its previous Eden
Prairie location, brings new old-fashioned education to more students than ever, with a classical
curriculum and a newly-debuted and unique seminar program.
What were doing at Eagle Ridge is providing an environment where students are continually
taught how to search for wisdom, truth, beauty and goodness, said Erika Powell, the academys
upper school principal.

Eagle Ridge Academy, previously located in Eden Prairie, moved in July to a new, expanded
Minnetonka location. The new space created room for an additional 400 students this year. The
academy building, once an office space, will undergo further reconstruction this summer to add
second-floor classrooms and an auditorium. (Sun Sailor photos by Gabby Landsverk)
The curriculum combines a foundation of understanding, basics in reading, writing, math and
logic, which builds into a more comprehensive liberal arts education in the higher grade levels.
The subjects are integrated, with students encouraged to see how the study of art involves
history, or the study of Latin is related to contemporary language and literature.
In a classical education, all the pieces work together, said Mary Cornelius, a school
communications specialist who was a student at Eagle Ridge in her high school days.
The core values are still the same, she said. Its exciting to see so many new faces of students
who now get to experience this unique style of education.

Students at Eagle Ridge Academy participate in an afternoon of special math-based activities,

part of the Academys new Otium Classicum program. activities. (Sun Sailor photos by Gabby
Eagle Ridge moved from its Eden Prairie location in July, to increase the schools student
capacity. This school year, 400 new students have been added to the class rosters, for a total of
1,200 students in all grades.
Cornelius said the expansion will continue, with approximately 1,600 students expected by 2024.
The building itself will soon be ready for phase two of construction, first in March with minor
renovations, then beginning in earnest as students empty the halls for the summer.
The second floor will be redesigned into classroom space, while a large portion of the first floor
will be redesigning into a large auditorium.
That community space, Cornelius said, will be used for a variety of school-wide events to bring
students, staff and faculty together in new and exciting ways, including a new monthly seminar
dubbed the Otium Classicum for students in grades 6-12.
The idea behind it is right in the name otium refers to a break from regular study, but a
classical break, Powell said. In ancient Greek times, it was used as an opportunity to pursue
academic interests they didnt have time for in regular study.
The otium is in contrast to negotium, the Latin word for daily activities. In a classical Greek
education, it was considered to be artistically and philosophically valuable to break from
ordinary work in search of enlightenment through leisurely contemplation.
Another phrase for the concept is restful learning, the sort of educational play that children will
enthusiastically dive into on their own, if given enough free time and energy to do so.
The philosophy is to give kids this time to explore great things about classical education and
spark an interest in areas they might not otherwise encounter, Powell said.
Thus far, the seminars have included a classic movie viewing and discussion and a presentation
from the University of Minnesotas Physics Force team.
We consider ourselves pretty nerdy around here, and thats okay, Powell said. There are fun
things about science and math that you dont necessarily get into during regular class work and
thats what this time is dedicated to.
Art teacher Lisa Johnson was part of the creative force behind the seminar, bringing together
faculty from multiple departments to create engaging presentations and hands-on projects.
Art teacher Lisa Johnson shows off a woven tapestry made by Eagle Ridge students, part of the
Academys new monthly seminars that encourage creative thinking, learning and contemplation
through special activities. (Sun Sailor photos by Gabby Landsverk)
The very first iteration of the seminar was dreamed up by Johnson. Students brought it materials
from home to weave together into tapestry, later joined into one giant piece to be framed and
displayed in the schools halls.
She said the multicolored and intertwined art is a perfect example of Eagle Ridges educational
We want to make sure that when kids leave here, theyre able to be good citizens. Whatever
their vocation and calling is, theyll be ready, Johnson said.
That includes traditional hallmarks of learning, such as logic, grammar, arithmetic and science,
but also more nebulous traits: an appreciation for art, a thirst for knowledge and a sense of civic
Were working to develop the whole student, and in that process, theres a lot of things you
cant measure, Johnson said. Can you teach virtue? We dont know, but were trying. Its about
getting people to reach their full potential.Powell added that the seminars also give new
students a chance to engage with their classmates and make new social connections.
Youve got kids of different ages, different grades, all working together, Its really important
that as weve added all these new students, were also working on building a sense of community
and belonging, Powell said.
While the program is a work in progress, the academy plans to continue the seminars through
next year, at least. From her experience as an educator, Johnson said keeping kids of all ages
engages and learning is no easy feat, and so far, the Otium Classicum seems to be working.
As a teacher, you get to see how their minds change as they learn, how over time their ideas
grow and become more nuanced, Johnson said. Wisdom begins in wonder, thats a quote
from Socrates. And what were really doing here giving kids a chance to develop their curiosity.
Contact Gabby Landsverk at