Kids for the Boundary Waters


by Julia Ruelle, junior writing coach

I spent nearly every free moment of Thanksgiving break writing thank you letters. No, not to my family or friends. Instead, these thank you’s were intended for mailboxes in Washington D.C.. About a week before, I had been in D.C. meeting with politicians with an organization I’m incredibly proud to be a part of: Kids for the Boundary Waters. I first camped in the Boundary Waters with my family when I was around 8 years old and my love for the wilderness has only grown since that inaugural trip. For those who may not be familiar with the Boundary Waters, it comprises 1.1 million acres of wilderness interconnected by lakes and rivers and is our nation’s most visited wilderness.

I became involved with Kids for the Boundary Waters last May, after entering and winning the Ely Outfitting Company’s teen essay contest for a fully-outfitted parent-free trip to the Boundary Waters. A young man named Joseph Goldstein was one of the judges for the contest and later founded Kids for the Boundary Waters, assembling a board of directors from the best entries in the contest, to encourage youth to advocate for the protection of the Boundary Waters from an especially polluting industry: sulfide-ore copper mining.


My first trip to D.C. with Kids for the Boundary Waters was in June, right after the trip I earned from the essay contest. It was thrilling to transition straight from the place I loved to taking an active role in protecting it. Clearly I was hooked, as five months later, I caught another plane to D.C.. There, I joined 5 times more teens than the first time from around the country.

On this trip, I learned that I am far from being the only one in my generation with a passion for the Boundary Waters. The first night we arrived, we all piled into a hotel room after the more official orientation meeting and began to get to know each other a little better. Hearing story after story of ridiculous fun in the Boundary Waters, the shared joy and passion of the room was palpable. I was blown away by the depth of their love for the Boundary Waters.


Our two days of lobbying were action-packed. From 8 am to around 4 pm, we had meetings all around the Hill. As a board member, I led a group of about 6 teens to numerous meetings. Meetings often were with staffers whose specialty was natural resources or environmental issues but in some we were lucky to have the congress member’s own attention. For example, four of us were from our district, MN-03, and got to meet with newly-elected Dean Phillips for his first meeting with constituents since elected! Phillips kindly made time for a meeting with us in a makeshift office (maybe a large closet?), as he is not yet settled into an office of his own. It was thrilling to be making direct contact with decision-makers and knowing that we were making a difference.

As it is easy to fall into apathy with test after test at school, I found it extremely refreshing to step back and get some perspective on what is really important to me. I’m not saying that it is necessary to miss a week of school to take stock of your passions, but I am positive that finding something that drives you can make a huge difference in your outlook on life.


What does Thanksgiving Mean to You?

By Ellie Retzlaff, sophomore writing coach

As the Thanksgiving feasts start to be assembled across America, there are a few things that you should remember before you dig into your food:


  • Give Thanks


Everyone says it, from you parents nagging you to be grateful for what you have to your teachers reminding you that you are lucky to be able to go to school each day. But truth be told, there’s a reason that everyone says to give thanks, that’s because it is important. The meaning of Thanksgiving, like many holidays, sometimes gets lost in the modern day consumerism that takes place across our country. Especially with Black Friday being the day after, it becomes easy to fall into the trap of eating your delicious food, going to bed, then waking up bright and early the next day to go shopping. But in the age where there are school shootings going on, wildfires tearing across the country, and countless disasters that are destroying people’s lives, I challenge you to remember all the things that you have to be thankful for. Write it down or tell it to your family, because your gratitude is important and deserves to be remembered.


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  • Connect with your Relatives


Part of the fun of Thanksgiving is that, in many cases, you get to see your extended family. And while some would argue this to be a reason to hate Thanksgiving, I disagree. Family can be tricky at times but these moments with your siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, parents, and cousins, are valuable, even if you constantly disagree with everything they say. Thanksgiving is a time where you can eat your food and simply be glad for the fact that you get to see all of these people who you love, even if its deep, deep, down. I recommend starting conversations, especially with people you don’t see often, you might learn some things. And if your struggling for what to say, here are a few tips:


  • Avoid Politics


This should go without saying, but don’t talk politics with your relatives. Don’t do it, you will just regret it.


  • Ask people about things they are passionate about


If you are looking to have meaningful conversations, this is a good way to go about it. Talking to someone who is passionate is far more interesting than a monotone discussion about the weather. And if you have to talk to a lot of people, interesting conversations is the only way you will survive.


  • Care about the conversations you are having


You know how when you hate what you are doing, time seems to pass five times slower? Well a great way to not be bored, is simply to listen and care about the conversation. Not only is this polite, but it also helps you to enjoy getting to know your relatives better.

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  • Be Helpful


Thanksgiving is a lot of work. There is the food that needs to be prepared, like the turkey which takes literal hours and is extremely confusing on how to actually cook the thing, and then there is the other hundreds of foods that goes into making Thanksgiving one of the best food holidays of the year. Besides the food there is other things to do, like cleaning the house before guests arrive and making sure there is enough plates, and then there is actually setting out those plates and making the dining room look nice. All in all the point being that putting on a thanksgiving gathering, whether it be for two people or twenty people, is a lot of work. So don’t be the person that hangs out in there room for the day or avoids the kitchen at all costs. Being helpful is the nice thing to do, and it can even be fun to help your family all while making memories.


  • Plan your Black Friday Shopping


In the tradition of Thanksgiving, I had to include something about Black Friday shopping. Black Friday is a complete mess of crazy people buying things they don’t need, for deals that aren’t even that great. But yet, it can still be very fun, especially if you go with your friends or family and find your way through the chaos together. Because Black Friday is insane, my only advice to you is to plan your trip beforehand. Know which places you are going, what deals are where, and have a buddy system in case anyone gets lost in the crowd.


Thanksgiving is one of the greatest holidays out there, but it can be even better if you remember to be thankful, actually talk to your family, help out the host, and have a complete plan on Black Friday for when things get crazy.


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3 Poems + Artist Statement


by Stuart Pease, Minnetonka High School teacher



Taken against the long, blind body of time,

this night and every other will be lost.


We offer them names, but the stars don’t talk to us.


I wonder if I’ll ever really be here, right now.

I think of this life as a record and time as the needle

pushing me closer to the end.


I wonder how many times I’ve been played.


On a two-way street, staggered street lamps

pull me in out of darkness.


I want to be small enough to lay down between two blades of grass.



In the beginning it was said

that time would be our rival.

That only at our end we would see

the true meaning of our lives.

We wanted it sooner.

We broke up against it

like shale against diamond.

It was obvious, then, that

time would not bend. Not

limestone bedding with a saltwater tongue.

It would not break clean enough to set.

Just fracture,


and burn,

but never bend.

Only a gifted few would see the truth of this sooner,

their lives taken early for this single,

threadbare vision.


Road, Wall,  and Body (revisited)

Taken against the long road of time,

my life is not yet a borderline.


Not yet a broken Pangea.


Not yet even a Pangea.


Thrown against the wall of time,

my body is starfire bursting,


a blood-petaled begonia in bloom.


I am still a seed

falling to the ground ungerminated.


I long to the feel the rain.


Once there was soil, aching to be tilled.

Now there is a bridge spanning everything and held up by nothing,

but I still pay the toll.  


Artist Statement:

The concept of time has dominated my thoughts for as long as I can remember. Despite our attempts to measure and keep track of it, time is able to slip away and grind to a halt. My purpose with these three poems was to attempt some sort of new measure for time, to see beyond the time that was given me, and to locate myself falling through it. What I love about this endeavor to measure time is that it fights back. I both simultaneously enjoy and abhor the struggle to measure it. At times, it is downright terrifying to consider the massive amount of time that has already passed and what little amount of time I will occupy. At other times, it is humbling, and even comforting, to know my insignificance in the grand scheme of it all.

—Mr. Pease

To the Rescue!


By Ellen McRae, junior writing coach

Superman! Batman! Wonder Woman! Iron Man! Captain America! Everyone has heard of these legendary superheroes. We all know their stories of bravery and triumph.

After hearing the news of the death of Stan Lee, comic book writer and editor in chief of Marvel Comics, this past week, I began reflecting on the importance of superheroes in our society. Where did the idea of “superhero” originate? And why are superheroes so popular in our culture?

Upon further reflection, I realized superheroes act as an example of triumph over evil. Superheroes are the ultimate success story. The first comic books arose in the late 19th century but didn’t take off until the creation of Superman in 1938, during the Great Depression Era. In times of darkness where hope is lacking, superheroes rise up to save the day!


Superheroes, through their valiant efforts and daring rescues, are a source of hope and inspiration for all. People begin to believe that someone is there, watching out for them, fighting against the evils of the world. Superheroes fight crime, save people from tragedy, and always win against the villains at the end of the story. They offer the hope that society needs to make it through times of trouble.

Though they’re most famous for fighting in grand battles, superheroes also overcome daily struggles that relate to our own. Just like everyone else, superheroes deal with feelings of worthlessness and inadequacy. They act as the underdog, fighting against all the big and scary problems of the world. Even though it’s difficult, superheroes rise in the face of adversity and strive to do the right thing.


At the end of the day, superheroes inspire people and exemplify triumphs over hardships. Superheroes empower those around them and encourage us to see ourselves as the protagonist of our own stories.


‘Tis the Season


by Tessa Lundheim, sophomore writing coach

Falling Into Fall

When there’s no more buzz from the bees,

and the leaves fall from the trees,


When sun rays go to bed early,

and birds fly off in a hurry,


When disguised children run through the streets,

and neighbors give out tasty treats,


When scrumptious pies wait in the oven,

and chilly days come more and more often,


When hints of holiday tunes come to the ear,

and everyone is filled to the brim with cheer,


Oh, what a great time of year!

I’m ready to fall into fall.

-Tessa Lundheim


Fall always inspires me to write poetry. I view it as a graceful and cozy time, and poetry helps me express my view of this season. However, most of the leaves are now gone, and Halloween is over, so I’d say it’s time to move on.

There’s no denying it, I’m an extremely festive person. I love everything about holidays and parties. To me, there’s nothing more fun than shopping for party necessities, baking tasty treats and decorating the house with seasonal ornaments in preparation for guests and good times. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still hard when summer comes to an end and the days get colder, but once I’m used to the change of season, I’m ready to celebrate!

While many Minnesotans dread the deep winter with every inch of their being, I am without a doubt a snow enthusiast! Every time it snows, I stop what I am doing, run around the house to open all of the drapes, and admire the snow. I could stare at it for hours. I love how the intricate snowflakes flutter down to the ground. They coat the land with sparkly frosting, and they cover the trees with smooth blankets of white.

That aside, snow is actually pretty interesting. Here are five fun facts about snow:

  1. Snow isn’t actually white. Similar to liquid water, snow is clear, or translucent. We see color because some light is absorbed and some is reflected by objects with color. Since snowflakes are tiny crystals with many small surfaces, snow reflects and absorbs light variably, causing snow to appear white.
  2. An approximate of one septillion ice crystals fall from the sky each winter in the US alone. That’s 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 ice crystals!
  3. In 1911, Tamarack, California got the World Record for the most snow in a month. They got a total of 32.5 feet (390 inches) of snow in January. For perspective, that’s about the size of a three-story building or a stack of three elephants!
  4. The deepest snowfall was found on Mount Ibuki in Japan. The snow on this mountain measured 38.9 feet (465.4 inches) deep.
  5. The phrase “No two snowflakes are exactly alike” isn’t entirely true. It is extremely rare for two snowflakes to look the same in nature because they all experience different environments and settings. However, Kenneth G. Libbrecht, a physicist at the California Institute of Technology, found a way to artificially develop “identical” snowflakes under equal conditions in the lab. He calls his creations “identical twins because they are like identical people.” Libbrecht says (for a New York Times article) that both twin snowflakes and identical people “are too similar to just happen by chance, but not absolutely precisely identical to the last molecule.”


the place to bee: People’s Organic

By Rebecca Schumacher, senior writing coach

For the first installment of our study spot reviews, I buzzed over to People’s Organic, a coffee shop and restaurant that serves organic food and beverages with locally grown ingredients. Though the menu can be a little daunting (can anyone explain to me what nitrate free bacon means?), it’s wonderful to see a chain restaurant based on sustainability and environmental consciousness.

Could this be the prime study spot we’ve been searching for? We’ll have to see what the three categories reveal.

zing & zest

The beverage menu is extensive, featuring everything from tea lattes and apple cider to oolong and mochas. The sea salt caramel latte I ordered was not to bitter and not too sweet, although the sea salt caramel flavoring was almost too subtle. Despite the bakery’s vast array of delicious looking scones, muffins, and bars, I opted for fries and aioli. The aioli was basically sriracha sauce and mayonnaise, and the fries didn’t significantly differ in taste from McDonald’s. I’d definitely recommend sticking to the beverage menu to inspire productivity. ⅗ bees.



The aesthetic of People’s Organic aims for the earthy atmosphere that one would expect, with hardwood floors and plants hanging from the ceiling. I appreciated the mini wooden clipboards used for checks and handwritten chalkboard menus. The back to nature aesthetic would certainly inspire the innovator in all of us. ⅘ bees



Given that People’s Organic is located on Minnetonka Boulevard, a relatively busy street, and that the coffee shop aspect is pared with a restaurant, the noise of conversation and clatter of dishes rests just above the ideal studying level. However, with overstuffed armchairs tucked into the corner and dozens of whimsical coffee flavors, great things could be accomplished inside People’s Organic. ⅘ bees.


Narwhals & NaNoWriMo


By Aspen Schrupp, Sophomore writing coach

Perhaps you are a writer, perhaps you are a winner, or perhaps you are simply someone who enjoys a new adventure.


If any or all of the above apply to you, you should have NaNoWriMo on your calendar.


“NaNoWriMo… what is that?”


Don’t worry, the confusion is mutual. Upon hearing this term, I assumed NaNoWriMo was another word for narwhal. Granted, this was seven years ago, but the ambiguous nature of the title still remains.


Anyways, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month. Now, the word novel may seem daunting, but trust me- the most frightening thing about NaNoWriMo is its name. Simply put, NaNoWriMo sets manageable goals to help you reach 50,000 written words by the end of November. 50,000 may seem like an intimidating number, but NaNoWriMo makes it seem easy. Plus, think of how wonderful it will feel to know that you- yes you!- have written enough words to complete a short novel!


Curious how it works?


Each day you update your word count on the NaNoWriMo website ( to earn a variety of unique badges such as something in my eye, caffeine abuse, and secret noveling; not to mention the fact that if you hit 50,000 words, you win!


Seeing as today is November first, your journey may begin now- perhaps at this very moment, whereas others may be unsure of what to write about. If this applies to you, don’t worry; writers’ block always seems to be on the prowl! To help you conquer this dragon, here are some writing prompts that may spark an idea in your head:


  • In a world where magic is gained through interactions with others, how does your protagonist/antagonist gain power? What does their magic look like?
  • Experiment with perspectives! Perhaps you tell a story about humans from an animal’s, the sun’s, or different third party’s viewpoint. An example of this is The Book Thief told from Death’s perspective.
  • A character is accused of murder; what (actually) happened?
  • Retell a popular story, but alter an element- writing it from the villain’s perspective, placing it in a different setting, etc.
  • In the afterlife, a character is sent to “The Bad Place”, which- contrary to popular opinion- is not fires and darkness. Instead, it is a place to better oneself so they can go to “The Good Place”. Your character is the worst of the worst; describe their journey to get to “The Good Place”.


Perhaps you are a writer, perhaps you are a winner, or perhaps you are simply someone who enjoys a new adventure.


If any or all of the above apply to you, it’s time to begin writing.