Category Archives: Academics

Fantasy Geopolitics

North Lakes Academy teacher Eric Nelson has taken off with his Fantasy Geopolitics project and is taking it to new levels. It started off as a small idea he created to get his students to become active in world issues. This competition forced students to get involved and discover what was going on in the world, and they really enjoyed it.

“It was very competitive, for someone who isn’t all that engaged in school, it caused me enjoy school more and I put in a lot more effort” said Colton Thell (12). Fantasy Geopolitics changed his perspective on work ethic, classes, and school.

Fantasy Geopolitics is essentially about running the world. First, you create teams of countries that you draft. Once you’ve drafted enough countries, which usually consists of one to five per student, you gain points depending on how many times those countries are mentioned in three different news sources: The New York Times, Al Jazeera and Reuters. Once your country is mentioned in one of these sites, you gain points. The goal is to score as many points as you can, and is very similar to the popular Fantasy Football game many NFL fans use.

“It’s a social learning game that follows countries and world leaders as they compete for news headlines, it’s Fantasy Football for history standards,” Nelson said.

NLA will be implementing this throughout the school. Christopher Stewart, the other social studies teacher at NLA, is already using this creation in his 9th grade Civics classroom. Nelson will be taking Fantasy Geopolitics to another level by making it an elective for the second semester of the school year. Fantasy Geopolitics is exploding at NLA, and it’s even being taken further beyond the classrooms.

Three months ago, Nelson took a trip to New Orleans to get Fantasy Geopolitics on its feet with a start up organization. This organization helped take Fantasy Geopolitics further than Nelson had ever thought he could. He worked on his project, and how others could benefit from it.

In order to have taken this idea further, he needed to find and prove why Fantasy Geopolitics was solving a problem for students.

“I did a lot of testing of my assumptions, so I assumed Fantasy Geopolitics is solving a problem, which is students were disengaged in learning about the world they live, in an era which global competence matters more than ever,” Nelson said, explaining why Fantasy Geopolitics will make a difference for students across the nation.

Nelson made an impression in New Orleans when he pitched his idea. After all the work, it had finally taken off.

“It was awesome… the hardest thing I’ve ever done, the most fun, and the most rewarding.” Nelson said.

Nelson is using what teenagers use most to his advantage: FaceBook. Fantasy Geopolitics has a FaceBook page that students and adults can access to learn more about the project. Currently, Fantasy Geopolitics is in its pilot stage, and is only being used in three different schools currently. Although that is pretty minimal, it is available here at NLA. Make sure you check out the Fantasy Geopolitics FaceBook page, and get active in the world we live in.

This has spurred another competition between Nelson and Stewart, as evidenced in the following exchange during the interview:

Stewart: “My posts in [the] Fantasy Geopolitics facebook page is 95% more successful than anything [Nelson] has posted so far.”

Nelson: “True story. No one reads it because it’s above one hundred and forty characters.”

Stewart: “It’s okay, it’s 95% more successful.”

Nelson: “That’s true, statistics. Nazis also used those, to kill Jews.”

Stewart: “Propaganda sometimes is what you need to rule the world.”

[Dean of Students Cam Stottler walks by]

Nelson (jokingly, staring after him): Stottler’s a tool.

College Prep 101 event at NLA upper school


An event titled College Prep 101 was held at the North Lakes upper school on Monday, November 18th. The event was hosted by vice president of academic affairs at North Central University, Dr. Thomas Burkman. The night was spent focusing on when to start planning and how to be successful, going deeper into topics such as dual credit options, financial aid, taking ACTs/SATs, and filling out applications.

The event was a success, filling much of the new upstairs commons.

“It was about 70% full,” said Logan Haller (10). He was one of the few students who attended the event. “The chairs were deceivingly uncomfortable,” he said about the red chairs used for the event, “I sat in them for two hours; I could barely walk.”

Though the event was attended mostly by parents, students took a lot away from the event.

“I got excited for college,“ Katie Alamo (10) said, “College is really important and it’s do-able.”

“It gave us a really good outline of what to do,” added Liv Dufour (10).

Dufour and Alamo are referring to the powerpoint presentation Dr. Burkman presented. It went through what students and parents can do to prepare for college at each grade level.

“[I learned] that I need to save for college,” Haller said, “..and I can’t do it by having a job, I have to do well in school… You can’t possibly save enough…the only way you can really save for college, per-say, is to get good grades and good SATs.”

Senior meeting

November 8th, during advisory Mr. Stottler held a senior meeting. In the meeting he talked about the data of seniors this year. Thirty percent of seniors this year are failing one or more classes. 5 out of 8 kids getting their technology taken away are also seniors. Also that many have been absent and tardy consistently. Mr. Stottler talked about the consequences and new possible interventions. Many of the seniors were mad and upset.

Brandon Flash(12)  says  “If we’re failing, let us fail. If we are late, let us be late. Let us deal with the consequences  (which results in our grades), it’s our responsibility, and ours to deal with.”

Cody Warren(12) “If Stottler wants to get a better response, he needs a better approach. Punishment isn’t always the answer, it just makes people not want to listen even more.”

The majority of the Seniors feel that they know if they are doing bad or not and know the consequences.


Nelson: The New Socrates?


Mr. Nelson, TLC and US History teacher, has updated his method of in-class teaching. Since early March, Mr. Nelson has been using the Socratic method with his US History class, working with each class to make rules for him and the students to follow. Once all the rules had been explained, the classes pledged to follow them by standing on their seats.

The rules are split into two sections, a set of rules for Mr. Nelson and a set of rules for the class. The class rules are quite simple; 1) stay interested, 2) do not stay BTL (Below the Line) the whole period, and 3) hold each other accountable.

The rules for Mr. Nelson include: 1) no lectures, 2) no irrelevant homework, 3) no final exam, 4) only relevant sources/topics from 1950’s and up, and 5) your grade can only go up. The one that caused so much commotion, and the one most related to the Socratic Method was “No declarative statements. Only helpful questions.”

This rule had all the classes interested. Mr. Nelson not making declarative statements seemed far from possible. To their surprise (and slight annoyance), Nelson managed to master not using declarative statements by the end of the first week. He asks questions like, “Is it in our best interests to watch this video?” or, “could we read this article together?” The questions leave plenty of space to make the students feel like they have total control.

Asking Nelson about his decision to start this new method, he replied, “Doesn’t school become education when students become teachers?”

Touche, Nelson.  Touche.

Newsflash! Here are your NLA National History Day Winners!

Shawn Williams (10), Brooke Unze (11), Hailey Mason (11), Laura Stolz (11), Margret Krueger (11), Ryan Staffaroni (11) Not pictured: Alissa Gmyrek (10)

Going to Regionals: Shawn Williams (10), Brooke Unze (11), Hailey Mason (11), Laura Stolz (11), Margret Krueger (11), Ryan Staffaroni (11)
Not pictured: Alissa Gmyrek (10)

Jesse Goetz (11) and Courtney Ketchel (11)

Special Award Winners:
Most Interesting Project: Jesse Goetz (11) and Courtney Ketchel (11)
Perseverance Award: Marcus Weiss (11) – not pictured


NLA Receives New Google Chromebooks

North Lakes Academy recently received a couple of new Chromebooks through a website called Donors Choose. Mr. Stottler says that the website “helps teachers attain items for classroom use by way of donations from the public.

These new Chromebooks come with the Google Chrome OS installed on the laptop and are specially made to surf the internet. They are designed in such away that the only thing you can do is surf the web.

When asked how are these new laptops going to benefit North Lakes Academy Mr. Stottler said,  “The main use of the Chromebooks is to allow substitute teachers to have access to attendance, lesson plans left by teachers to show appropriate movie clips or videos, and as a backup to staff in case their laptop or computer crashes.”

Substitute teachers now have a way to make class better when a teacher is absent from school.

ACT Prep Class — Is it Worth It?

This year, NLA offered ACT prep classes with sessions in September, October, and January already completed, and another to begin this Saturday. The cost for this five-week course is $200. The class covers test-taking strategies specific to the ACT and also goes over some content (like the four uses of a comma) relevant to the ACT which should help you score better. The question is, is it worth it?

The Pros:

This class does a good job of preparing you for the specific format of the ACT. That sounds inconsequential, but knowing how to take this standardized test can make all the difference. Just ask Ty Nosser (11) a smart, straight-A student, but one who had to quickly fill in the last 20 bubbles of his English test when he ran out of time.

For example, in the Reading section 35 minutes are allowed for completion of 40 questions. Someone taking a normal approach to the test would most likely read each passage carefully and then answer the questions one by one. However, this strategy does not work for the ACT; 35 minutes is not enough time to complete all the questions this way.

This is what the class does well: teaching students the best strategy to use for each test.

The Cons:

While it is helpful, it is not absolutely necessary. If the cost is too much, the book Cracking the ACT, given to students who enroll in the course, costs only $20. It goes over almost everything that the class covers. The downside to having only the book is that studying this way requires self-discipline and no additional support is offered.  If users actually go through the reviews and practice tests, it is similar to taking the class.  What the class offers in addition to the book is time with an instructor to go through the book, review answers, and address student questions.  Those enrolled in the class are also given additional practice tests that are not found in the book.

Ultimately, the ACT Prep class is very helpful. If cost isn’t a factor, then take it – it can only help you.  And if you take it, take it at NLA – the exact same course taken elsewhere costs considerably more – Kaplan Test Prep, for example, starts at $299.

North Lakes Class Meetings

North Lakes Academy has always prided themselves on being a college preparatory high school. This means they operate, teach, and mentor in a more college-like fashion. Every year NLA tries new and interesting ways to boost this achievement; this year alone they have added CIS and AP classes to the board, and have also started a new and more thorough ACT prep class that is available to any student for a small fee. Just three short weeks ago North Lakes Academy decided to add another college-prep activity to their schedule.

Wanting to try something new to help NLA students succeed past high school North Lakes Academy staff decided to round up every student and make them aware of what the future holds.

The week before North Lakes Academy students and staff went their separate ways onto a much deserved winter break they did just this. Divided by grade, each group was given a presentation with helpful information regarding their future. Being a college preparatory school, the main topic of each discussion was, you guessed it, college.  North_Lakes_Academy_new_resized

Among other things these are a few of the topics each grade discussed. For the seniors this meant planning their last hurrah at their beloved high school and receiving some last minute pointers on how to handle their post-high school years. The juniors talked about applying for colleges, getting ready and prepared for college, prepping for the ACT test, and, just as the seniors had done, preparing for their senior trip. The sophomores had it a bit easier talking about prepping for college and the upcoming grad test they would be facing. The freshman had it easy, after all they have 4 more years of high school before they hit college, talking about preparing for college and working on receiving good grades now.

The staff of North Lakes expected these meeting to be a great success and of much help to their students. Although not all students agreed with them, the general consensus did. Here are just a few short responses given by students regarding the success of this grant endeavor.

“I didn’t feel the class meeting helped me much, I am a senior so I already have it all figured out. It is too late to change anything now.”

–Allan Whitney (Senior)

“I thought it was very helpful, I learned a lot about preparing for college that I didn’t know before. I also found it helpful to just hear someone talk about my future it helped me sort it all out.”

–Breanna Knutson (Junior)

“The meeting definitely gave me a LOT to think about, I am totally reconsidering what I am taking next year, and even next semester, now. I am so stressed about college!”

-Margret Krueger (Junior)

Although only a few quotes are printed numerous students were interviewed and asked about how they personally feel the meeting went. The general population had very good things to say about it. It is safe to say that the North Lakes Academy’s first annual class meeting was a success.

Where are they now? The Alumni of NLA – Courtney Finch

Tried and true, all the way through! North Lakes Academy Husky Press is bringing to you an article about another one of our alumni Courtney Finch. Having graduated only last year, Courtney Finch is the freshest alumni of NLA yet!

After Courtney graduated from high school, she decided to take a much deserved get-away before divulging straight into college, so she spent this summer traveling around the U.S. with her family. They started their daring adventure right here in Minnesota and continued on to North Carolina, and then back again. After that, Courtney still hadn’t filled her vacation-sweet- tooth and decided to embark on another journey with her boyfriend and his dad to Montana. All-in-all Courtney spent over a month traveling around the country this summer and she refers to this time as, “the best memories of my life so far.”

After traveling, Courtney buckled down on her school work and joined Century College in hopes of obtaining her Associate of Arts degree. From there she plans on moving onto another college to earn her 4-year degree.  “After Mr. Saunders’ psychology class, I was really inspired to pursue that as a career, so in the future, that is what I see myself doing.” Currently Courtney is working as a Mad Scientist. Yes, you read that right, she is a Mad Scientist! She is not as crazy as some of her successors were, such as Albert Einstein, however, her job is brilliant. Courtney describes her job like this: “In a nutshell, I go out to elementary schools around the metro area and teach kids K-6 about science and why it’s fun and I just generally get them excited about it. I couldn’t imagine a better job for myself, and not only that, but my job lets me have crazy hair. Right now, my hair is bright pink.”

Courtney says working and college are different from NLA because she feels more self-sufficient in her current position. “I feel like NLA was a good stepping stone in my life, but now is the time to make my own path in the world.”

In preparing Courtney for her new path she says that NLA helped her realize what type of person she is and what her life goals should be. North Lakes also did an excellent job in helping Courtney overcome many obstacles and has helped greatly in preparing her for the “real world”. “I would like to thank many of the staff at North Lakes because they have been so helpful in teaching me everything I needed to know, and not only that, but they cared about what they were teaching me, and that really meant the world.”

North Lakes was no cup of tea though, once Courtney entered the “real world” she felt as if she had stumbled upon it and had a hard time adjusting, almost like when Alice stumbled upon Wonderland. Things that are “no-brainers” to the adults around us were hopelessly confusing to Courtney. Applying for jobs, colleges, and financial aid all threw her though a loop. Courtney was able to find her way through the whole mess just fine, however she wishes NLA would have done more in preparing her for these things so that the jump after high school wasn’t so great. “I think NLA should just have a class that teaches you all about practical things like that, where you learn what you need to do to apply for different colleges and things like that.”

Courtney is currently loving-up-life and describes the way she lives as, “My life is really fun. Every day is a new adventure and I never ever know what’s going to happen, so I live my life day to day, excited to see what’s going to happen next!”

Courtney is no longer our equal. She is something more; therefore, we should deeply digest her advice. She offers this food for thought: “Don’t spend the money you get from graduation all in one place. Save it for college books and stuff. Prepare yourself now for college because it’s gonna be a long haul. Pick a career that you’ll love and not a job that you only do for the money. Life is always better when you’ve got a few good friends. And always be yourself.”

Where Are They Now? The Alumni of NLA- Peter Shumacher

The Husky Press continues on our journey to bring you the stories of the Alumni of North Lakes Academy. Where have our brilliant graduates gone? Who still lives at home? Who is the next Steve Jobs? Together we will figure these things out one week at a time during our tenacious task to track down our alumni and figure them out. This week we are honored to have Peter Schumacher as our next featured Alumni.

Peter Schumacher graduated from North Lakes Academy in the spring of 2011, part of the first Graduating class of NLA! From North Lakes, Peter went on to the University of Iowa in Iowa. Peter decided to give college a try so that he could experience being totally independent from his parents and other guiding figures in his life. Peter also hopes to receive his degree in English with a high emphasis on creative writing.

Peter enjoys being in college because there is “[A] Lot of freedom and chances for exploration.” However, this freedom comes with a price, Peter also feels that it can be difficult to juggle everything in college, “There’s a funny diagram that sums it up pretty well: It shows a triangle. At one point it says “Good Grades,” another says “Enough Sleep,” and the third says “Social Life.” In the center it says “Choose two.” That’s probably the best way to describe it.” Peter comments on how hard it can be staying on top of things and figuring it all out, “There are so many events and gatherings and presentations happening every day that it can get a little overwhelming. You want to try out all sorts of things but don’t know where to start.”Although college may be tricky at times, Peter still finds time to be in several event-planning groups, and is doing well in handling the stress of it all.

North Lakes prides themselves in being a college preparatory charter school. Peter believes they did a lot to help prepare him for college however that doesn’t mean they couldn’t improve in some areas. “NLA’s atmosphere of a close-knit family helped to make me feel more open and comfortable with myself, which is honestly really valuable in college. Especially in a big place like the U of Iowa, people don’t really care where you came from–it’s all about who you are, and how comfortable you are with yourself. I think NLA could have pushed the idea of going to college a little more. College has been an incredible experience for me, but I owe the fact that I came here more to my parents than to NLA. I think if NLA tried to encourage it more, maybe even have a program or two dedicated toward helping people get into college; that would definitely be helpful to future students.”

                How does a tiny high school like NLA compare to a huge university such as the one Peter is attending? “Well, for starters [The U of Iowa] is exponentially larger. I‘ve had classes that have more people in them than NLA’s entire student body. THAT took some getting used to. Aside from that, they’re kind of hard to compare. College and high school are such different things, that trying to narrow down just HOW different they are would take quite a bit of time.”

Today Peter is still attending the University of Iowa. He admits, just as our past alumni had, that he is in debt and hopes to pay it off a quickly as possible. Peter wants all high school students to know this- “I highly recommend going to college, but also make sure you go to the one that is right for you. Don’t be afraid to follow your gut–sometimes it knows what’s best for you. Aside from that, be sure to explore as much as possible. The best time of your life is coming up, and you don’t want to miss out!”