March Newsletter: March-ing into Spring 🌸


We've been embracing spring with conversations about representation and nature.


Letter from the Executive Director


Dear MOI Community,

Representation matters. The concept of representation has been a major topic of our national conversation, from the lack of diversity at the Oscars to the movie Black Panther taking the box office by storm to the amazing new children’s books that are coming out and changing the face of children’s literature. This month, I was reminded that representation can be simple, but requires vigilance. It requires noticing all the ways mainstream culture doesn’t represent certain groups, especially the groups our students at Mid-Continent Oceanographic Institute often come from.

I recently came upon this lesson when perusing one of our newest field trip program titles, The Mystery of Imagination. In our Storytelling & Bookmaking Field Trips, 2nd–4th graders collaboratively write a story that is illustrated in real time by a professional illustrator. These stories often feature superhero-like characters, and, as Black Panther has shown us, our collective imagination has some work to do with who we imagine our superheroes to be.

In The Mystery of Imagination, our volunteer illustrator did something simple, but also revolutionary: She drew the superhero characters to actually look like the students writing the story. She did this with her choice of skin tone for characters, and by adding a hijab to the female characters, all while maintaining the whimsical and wacky artistic integrity of the students’ story (yes, that is a half-horse woman getting ready to play some basketball).


Our volunteers and our students remind me that representation comes through in all the small choices we make, and as a community, I encourage us to think about how representation shows up in the stories we choose to write and read. And if you find that your current selection is lacking in diversity, have no fear: The Mystery of Imagination is hot off the press and for sale at MOI Headquarters. I encourage you to pick up a copy for a young (or young-at-heart) person in your life today.

Stop by soon,

Porthole into Programming


Spring is a seachange of transformation and the MOI crew is thrilled to witness and support students taking control of their own stories to affect change. In the past month, our volunteers, students, and staff have landed and launched many projects.  


This year’s Young Authors’ Book Project manuscript—The Bold Untold North—featuring informational poems about Minnesota’s plants and animals is headed to print and due out on May 17th. Mark your calendars for what poet, National Book Award judge, and guest author Danez Smith calls a “little literary zoo for us to peruse.”


After-School Homework Help students went full FernGully-style in crafting haikus for Ellen’s Writers' Table tulip, Leafy. The power of their poems, whispers of encouragement, and perhaps the returning sun helped Leafy bud and bloom these past few weeks. Leafy especially loved the following:


Tulip looks pretty
It's falling down to AK
But someone can fix

-AK, After-School Homework Help Student


Tidal waves of local 2nd, 3rd, and 4th grade classes have continued rolling in to our Storytelling & Bookmaking Field Trips. If you have Wednesday or Friday mornings free, please consider joining us for these whirlwind 2 hours of creative and chaotic fun where students take center stage to craft original stories! One of this week’s teachers had the following to say about their students’ experience:

MOI was so on their A-game with great attitudes, strategies, projects, and all around wahhhhh-hooooo-ness!  Every student came away from this fantastic two hour event with a positive attitude about their writing abilities, I nearly cried from joy and I saw kids skipping down the sidewalk talking a mile a minute about what they made today at MOI!
— MOI Storytelling & Bookmaking Field Trip Teacher

Experienced oceanographers know to always keep an eye on the horizon. Stay tuned for upcoming programming news about summer opportunities as we sail full steam ahead through spring!

In the News

Young Authors' Book Project guest author, Danez Smith, has been chosen to be a judge in the Poetry category of the National Book Awards! Danez is a St. Paul native and was a finalist for the National Book Award in 2017. 

All Eyes Forward

We're looking for organizations to partner with for summer programming like last year's ReVoice Podcast Camp. Let us know if you work for, or know of, an organization that would like to team up with MOI.

Student Spotlight

The King's Story

Once upon a time there was a king who ruled the kingdom. He was very strong. He could beat anyone in the world. Once a giant tried to beat him but the king was too strong. He was sooo exhausted. He went to sleep.

As he was sleeping a fairy came and made the king an ant. Then the giant was laughing so hard that he said, “Now I am the strongest.” Then the ant got mad and bit the giant a lot of times. Then the giant got scared and ran away. Then the king got big again and celebrated.

by Musa, After-School Homework Help student

Partner Spotlight


We want to give a special shout-out and thank you to Fredrikson & Byron, who generously sponsored our Trivia for Cheaters fundraiser, and a team comprised of MOI volunteers and supporters! Fredrikson & Byron is "where law and business meet." Their teams across the country "bring business acumen and entrepreneurial thinking" to everything they do. As a small organization, we've benefited greatly from the support and input of Fredrikson & Byron, so we were happy as clams to partner with them for this event!


In addition, we want to thank Trivia Mafia, which is "the world's best bar trivia." While we haven't been everywhere in the world, we have to say, their trivia has been the best we've found in the Twin Cities and the Midwest. Plus, they helped us put together a stellar trivia tournament, which gives them a gold (sea) star in our book!

MOI Hat #1 Bill Murray.jpg

And finally, thank you to all our other partners, players, donors, and supporters. Your work and support mean a lot to us, and we couldn't do any of what we do without you, from Trivia for Cheaters (where we raised over $18,000!) to our day-to-day programs (where we serve over 1,000 students each year). From the bottom of our hearts (and the Lost Ocean floor), thank you

P.S. Want to match Bill? Check out our online store for an MOI Winter Pom Hat!