a picture of students in a classroom

DaVinci Connection – November 24, 2023

Dear DaVinci Academy Community,

We hope this newsletter finds you well as we enter the festive month of December. Here are some updates and important information from DaVinci Academy:

Upcoming NWEA MAP Assessments

photo of Kelly ZenderSoon, students in grades 3-8 will be taking the NWEA MAP assessments. Teachers will be communicating specific testing dates and times with their classrooms, be on the lookout for a message from them. Preparing for standardized tests can be a manageable and even positive experience for kids with the right approach. Here are some strategies that teachers use that can also be used at home:

  1. Set Realistic Goals: Help kids set achievable goals for their study sessions. Celebrate their accomplishments along the way.
  2. Encourage a Healthy Lifestyle: Ensure that kids are getting enough sleep, eating well, and exercising regularly. A healthy lifestyle contributes to better focus and cognitive function – especially around testing time.
  3. Teach Test-Taking Strategies: Show kids how to approach different question types. This may include strategies for eliminating incorrect answer choices, managing time effectively, and staying calm under pressure.
  4. Create a Positive Environment: Foster a positive attitude toward testing. 
  5. Emphasize that these assessments are tools to measure progress and identify areas for improvement, not just a measure of success or failure.
  6. Provide Support: Offer your support and encouragement. Let them know you believe in their abilities and that you’re there to help with any questions or concerns they may have.
  7. Celebrate Effort: Acknowledge the effort they put into preparing for the test, regardless of the outcome. Reinforce the idea that learning and growth are ongoing processes.

Remember, the goal is not only to prepare for the test but also to instill good study habits and a positive attitude toward learning. By approaching standardized tests as an opportunity to showcase what they’ve learned, kids can feel more confident and capable during the testing process. This is a time for students to show off all they know!

Focus on Character - Empathy

The DaVinci Character Trait for December is Empathy.

What is Empathy?

“Empathy is seeing with the eyes of another, listening with the ears of another and feeling with the heart of another.”- Alfred Adler

Empathy is when we try to understand what someone else is feeling (and we might even feel it with them). Have you ever been with a friend who is sad or excited and you feel that feeling with them? That’s Empathy!” -Character Ed

Why is Empathy Important?

Teaching empathy is a great way to teach children to care about the feelings of themselves as well as others.

Great ways to teach empathy:

  • Acknowledge all the ways your family has practiced empathy during the week/month
  • Discuss showing empathy as a family. While watching a movie, stop the movie to discuss emotions seen in the show with your family.


  • Stand in My Shoes: Kids Learning About Empathy by Bob Sornson
  • I am Human: A Book of Empathy by Susan Verde 
  • The Rabbit Listened by Cori Doerrfeld

National Homelessness Awareness Month

With the upcoming holiday season and harsh winters, it can be a particularly difficult time for many, especially those who are struggling with hunger and shelter. Food shelves are available to provide EMERGENCY food supplies at no cost for families experiencing temporary, short-term inability to buy groceries. Throughout the year, especially the month of November, donations are made and volunteers sign up for programs that aim to feed and rehabilitate those in need. 

Consider helping one of these local food shelves this holiday season.

Anoka County Brotherhood Council (ACBC)……………………………………..(763) 422-0046 2615 9th Ave N, Anoka. Serves Andover, Nowthen, Coon Rapids, Ramsey, Anoka, & parts of Champlin. Mon & Wed 10:00 am – 3:00 pm, Tues 12:00 pm – 5:00 pm, Thurs 12:00 pm – 7:00 pm. Donations accepted: Mon – Thurs 9:00 am – 3:00 pm. 

Centennial Community Food Shelf.……………………………………………………..(763) 784-2013 www.centennial food shelf.org. Circle Pines City Hall, Lower Level, 200 Civic Heights Circle, Circle Pines 55014. Serves everyone. Mon & Thurs 4:00 pm – 6:00 pm. Closed on holidays. 

Community Helping Hand.…………………………………………………………………. (651) 464-0061 408 SW 15th St, Forest Lake. Food Shelf, thrift store, financial assistance. The food shelf serves the Forest Lake/Chisago school district area only, by appointment only.   

Hope Church………………………….………………………………………………………………………(763) 757-4266 1264 109th Ave NE, Blaine 55434. Hope for the Community free food distribution, Thurs 9:30 am – 5:00 pm. 

Mount Olive Lutheran Church …………………………………………………………….(763) 421-3223 700 Western St, Anoka. Offering free meals via drive-thru on Wednesday evenings 5:30 pm – 6:15 pm.  

North Anoka County Emergency (NACE), Inc……………………………………….(763) 434-7685 NACE serves families in crisis for Northern Anoka County. Assisting the communities of Bethel, East Bethel, Cedar, Ham Lake, Linwood, Oak Grove, St. Francis, Northern Andover, Stacy, and Wyoming addresses that are within Anoka County. Food shelf and clothing hours are Mon 9:00 am – 1:00 pm, Tues 5:00 – 8:00 pm, Wed 1:00 – 5:00 pm, and Thurs 9:00 am – 12:00 pm. 

Southern Anoka Community Assistance (SACA)…………………………………..(763) 789-2444 627 38th Ave NE, Columbia Heights. Serves Fridley, Spring Lake Park, Hilltop, Columbia Heights. Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday 8:00 am – 4:00 pm and Wednesday 10:00 am – 6:00 pm. Call for an appointment. 

Salvation Army …………………………………………. ………………………………………(763) 755-6873 www.salvationarmynorth.org. 1201 89th Ave NE, Blaine. Serves all of Anoka County. Families can use this resource once every 30 days. 

Some food shelves serve only limited areas, so call to find the one nearest you. Call United Way 2-1-1 or the Minnesota Food Helpline to see how you can help.

If you have any questions or comments, please connect with a member of our team. 


DaVinci Academy Mental Health Team

Phoenix Hathaway, K-4 School Counselor, phathaway@davincicharterschool.org 

Diana Muske, 5-8 School Counselor, dmuske@davincichrterschool.org 

Dom Jefferson, K-8 School Social Worker, djefferson@davincicharterschool.org 

PTO News

Group photo of DaVinci Academy's PTO committee.

This is a reminder that the PTO’s Butter Braids and Luige’s Pizza Fundraiser is underway. Orders can be placed either online or by using the paper order form. Order forms were sent

home with students last Friday. The order forms, and any money or checks that are collected, will need to be returned to your student’s teacher by Wednesday, November 29th. Butter Braids and pizzas will be delivered to the school on Monday, December 11th. The pickup details are still being coordinated. Look for more information to be sent out prior to the pickup date.  To manage your orders using the online store, you will first need to register your child using the “DaVinci Academy of Arts and Science Registration Link” here.  After registering your child, you will receive a welcome email from “My Fundraising Place” with additional information and how to access the virtual online store and share it with others.

If you have any questions, please contact us at DaVinciMNPTO@gmail.com.


The DaVinci Academy PTO

Gala Sponsorship Opportunities

DaVinci Academy is thrilled to extend an invitation to both businesses and individuals looking to make a meaningful impact on education in our community. We are currently offering exclusive sponsorship opportunities for our upcoming Gala event, and we invite you to join us in supporting excellence in education.

Why Sponsor DaVinci Academy’s Gala?

  1. Invest in Education: By becoming a sponsor, you contribute to fostering an environment of academic excellence and innovation at DaVinci Academy. Your support directly impacts the students and helps provide them with enriching educational experiences.
  2. Prominent Visibility: Sponsors will enjoy prominent visibility before, during, and after the Gala. This is a unique opportunity to showcase your commitment to education and community involvement to a diverse audience.
  3. Networking Opportunities: Connect with like-minded individuals and businesses passionate about education. The Gala serves as a networking hub where sponsors can forge valuable relationships within the community.

How to Become a Sponsor:

Visit our Gala Sponsorship page to explore the available sponsorship packages and learn more about the benefits of each level.

We look forward to welcoming you as a valued sponsor and celebrating together at DaVinci Academy’s Gala. For inquiries or to discuss sponsorship options, please contact Dan Rhinhart at drhinhart@davincicharterschool.org. 

Thank you for considering this opportunity to invest in education and be a part of the vibrant and thriving DaVinci community!

Gala Live Auction Items

The DaVinci Academy’s Gala is not just an event; it’s a celebration of excellence, innovation, and the pursuit of knowledge. As we gear up for an unforgettable evening, we are reaching out to our community, seeking support to elevate the live auction experience. We invite businesses, individuals, and philanthropists to contribute extraordinary items that will not only captivate our guests but also help raise funds for the academy’s continued pursuit of excellence.

Resort Retreats: A Gateway to Relaxation

Imagine the allure of a tropical paradise or the charm of a mountain retreat – resort stays are timeless auction items that promise unforgettable experiences. Whether it’s a beachfront escape, a ski resort adventure, or a secluded spa retreat, your contribution can transport our guests to a world of luxury and relaxation.

Time-Share Extravaganza: Share the Joy of Vacation Ownership

For those who own time-shares, this is an excellent opportunity to share the joy of vacation ownership with others. Donate a week or weekend at your time-share property and provide our bidders with the chance to create lasting memories in a home away from home.

Lake Home Weekend: A Tranquil Getaway

If you own a lakefront property or have access to one, consider donating a weekend getaway. A tranquil lake home escape can be the perfect auction item, offering a serene environment for relaxation, water activities, and quality time with loved ones.

Airbnb Adventures: Local Charm and Global Exploration

In the era of shared economy, Airbnb experiences have become a hot commodity. Whether it’s a cozy city loft, a countryside cottage, or a beachfront bungalow, donating an Airbnb stay allows bidders to choose their own adventure, promoting flexibility and personalized travel experiences.

Exclusive Experience Events: Unleash the Extraordinary

Beyond traditional accommodations, consider donating unique experience events. This could range from hot air balloon rides, and gourmet cooking classes, to behind-the-scenes access to exclusive events. These one-of-a-kind experiences will not only make our live auction unforgettable but also showcase the creativity and diversity of our community.

As we strive for excellence at DaVinci Academy, your support in providing exceptional live auction items will play a pivotal role in shaping the future of education. Your generosity will not only enhance the gala experience, but also contribute to the continued success of our academy. Join us in creating a night to remember, where every bid is a step toward a brighter future for the next generation of innovators and leaders. Together, let’s make DaVinci Academy’s Gala an event that echoes with the spirit of excellence and community.

For inquiries or to discuss potential auction items, please contact Dan Rhinhart at drhinhart@davincicharterschool.org 

Volunteer Spotlight - Laila B.

Meet our first Featured Volunteer for the school year: Laila B.!

Why did you decide to start volunteering at DaVinci?

I chose to volunteer at DaVinci because I wanted to actively engage in my children’s education and be a part of the school community. I believed that being involved in their school activities would allow me to support their learning, create a positive environment for all students, and demonstrate to my children the importance of community involvement and giving back. It also gave me the opportunity to be closer to my kids, spend quality time with them, and build connections within the school community, thus actively supporting their educational journey while strengthening our family’s bond with the school.

What do you enjoy most about volunteering at DaVinci?

What I enjoy most about volunteering at DaVinci is the wide range of volunteer activities available. It provides a diverse and fulfilling experience. Additionally, I find great satisfaction in interacting with the teachers and staff, as it fosters a sense of connection and appreciation for the dedication they have to the students and the school community.

What is your favorite volunteer activity?

It’s hard to pick a favorite volunteering activity because I genuinely enjoy all the activities I’ve been part of. However, if I had to choose, I would say that chaperoning field trips is my favorite. It’s a wonderful experience to accompany the students on their educational adventures and see their excitement and learning in action.

We are SO thankful for all of our volunteers!  Please click here for a current list of volunteer opportunities!

Seeking Members for District Advisory Committee

DaVinci is looking for parents and community members to join the District Advisory Committee. The responsibilities of the District Advisory Committee are enumerated in DaVinci policy 616 and include the following:

  • Recommending steps to improve the instruction at DaVinci
  • Reviewing how the current curriculum aligns with the MN standards
  • Recommending academic goals to the school board

This committee will meet three times per year. If you are interested in joining the District Advisory Committee, please complete this questionnaire by Thursday, December 7. You will be asked to explain why you would like to be a member of the District Advisory Committee and what experience or expertise you could bring to the role. There are a limited number of spots available on the committee. The Instructional Leadership Team will review the applications and appoint members to the District Advisory Committee within one month. The goal would be to create a team that represents the diversity of thought reflected by our community.

For questions about the committee, please email the Academic Director, Amy Erendu, at aerendu@davincicharterschool.org.

A Note from Nurse Cassie

portrait of Cassie Johnson

With the weather changing, it is obvious that winter is right around the corner. Winter can be extremely harsh on the skin, particularly your hands and lips. The main culprit? Lack of moisture. 

During winter, outdoor humidity drops, and indoor heating exacerbates dryness. The resilience of your student’s skin barrier is crucial in withstanding these harsh conditions, with genetics playing a role. However, there are several ways you can assist your students in preventing chapped hands and lips.

Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize.

  • To address the lack of moisture in your student’s skin, it’s essential to replenish it regularly. Applying moisturizer helps retain water and prevents evaporation. Aim for 5-6 applications per day, especially when dealing with chapped skin. Encourage students to keep their own ChapStick and lotion in their desks or lockers for easy access. 

Choose the right moisturizer. 

  • Aim for a heavier moisturizer and look for ingredients like hyaluronic acid, dimethicone, glycerin, urea, lanolin, and/or mineral oil.

Smart hand washing – Lotion to the rescue. 

  • Instruct your students to wash with soap, pat their hands dry, and apply moisturizer from their locker right away. For students with severely dry hands, tell them to avoid hand sanitizer and opt for washing with soap and water instead. 

Avoid licking or wetting lips – Chapstick to the rescue. 

  • As challenging as it may be to resist, saliva contains enzymes that can be harsh on the lips and skin, leading to dryness and discomfort. Additionally, saliva evaporates quickly, leaving the lips even drier than before. To maintain optimal lip health, students should aim to apply Chapstick as frequently as their moisturizer—around 5-6 times a day, especially when experiencing dryness. Keeping Chapstick in your student’s desk is a key strategy for addressing this concern. 

Hydrate from the inside out. 

  • A thirsty body can cause a plethora of issues, skin dryness being one of them. Be conscientious of your student’s water intake, and be sure that you’re sending a bottle of water to school with them every day.

Consider a humidifier.

  • Humidity levels will not only help ease dry, itchy skin and chapped lips, but it will also help to keep airways and noses moist – helping those hacking coughs and bloody noses.
  • Make sure to maintain and clean the appliance regularly so that it does not release bacteria or mold into the air.  

Put a glove on it!

  • Students should wear gloves or mittens while they are outdoors, and if their hands become wet after recess, they should reapply their lotion. Chapstick should also be applied when coming inside.

If redness and peeling of the skin or lips persist, consider consulting a dermatologist to determine if it is a skin condition and to obtain prescriptions for alleviating the inflammation.

As always, please let us know if you have any questions.

Cassie Johnson, RN

School Nurse


(763) 754-6577, extension 1110

Recess Attire

Fall weather is upon us. Please remember to send a light sweater or fall jacket (labeled with your child’s name) with your child if cooler temperatures are forecasted. We do go outside daily and we want to ensure students are not chilly.  Check the forecast, and then dress appropriately.

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