Monthly Archives: October 2017

Exploring the Big Questions of Our World

 How do things grow? For our 2nd grade learners, this question leads their investigations for their current Big Question Unit. Big Questions are real-world questions that encourage learner curiosity and inquiry. Questions are explored through interdisciplinary projects guided by the passions and interests of our learners. Big Questions embrace The Biome’s rigorous, experiential, and holistic approach to learning. 

Rigorous Academics

In second grade, for over a month, learners have dug deep into discovering what grows above ground, below ground, and how things grow in our natural world. At every turn, from literacy to math to science and to art, learners were challenged to learn how things grow. During their daily literacy time, learners built their background knowledge of plants, trees, and the creatures that help plants grow. In math, leaners documented how we grow and change by practicing their measuring skills. Together they’ve gathered data on their height, arm spans, and shoe sizes. In our outdoor space, they learned to investigate and observe the parts of plants and work on their drawing and sketching skills with the assistance of Mr. Keough, who is both an artist and our Adaptive Thinking teacher.

Experiential Learning

A key aspect of project-based learning is the integration of activities that allow learners to take an active, hands-on approach to their learning. During Ms. Turney’s class’ recent visit to Bowood Farms, “What”, “Why”, and “How” came from every direction. During their visit, learners met with Susannah Eisenbraun, Biome Parent, and employee at Bowood Farms. Together, they explored the various plants and vegetables in the garden and even got to taste green beans right off the vine. Last, learners had the opportunity to gather plant observations and sketches that would ultimately influence the class mural, which displays all that grows above and below the ground.

Holistic Education

At the Biome, learning doesn’t end when we leave the classroom. As the class started talking about growth, learners shared their predictions of how they might grow between now and May. One learner predicted that they would grow friendlier as a class. Ms. Turney’s class decided to make this a class goal and began to develop some strategies to ensure their success. The first place they decided to work on this goal was on the playground. After a dispute at recess over playground blocks, learners took the opportunity to draw and share their feelings about how they could have made changes to the situation. After a class discussion, a decision was made to take an inventory and share the blocks equally – another great real-world opportunity to practice their base ten math skills!

Ask our learners if the enjoy these Big Questions? Without a doubt! Second-grade learners, Miles and Grace, explained, “Big questions helps us learn about things we don’t know about in our brains yet.” In Big Question, we see that one simple question, “How do things grow?” can flourish into deeper questions and interests. Near the end of the unit, Miles and Grace excitedly shared, “My favorite part was going to Bowood farms. I love being in nature and learning about plants. I learned about how plants grow, but now I want to know why they grow where they do, and how they get their shape and color! “

The St. Louis Mullen Foundation: Fostering a Deep Commitment to the Community

An active connection to our community lives at the heart of The Biome. Key to this connection is the long-term impact volunteers have played in the development and growth of The Biome. Ron Zalonis, a long-time volunteer to Youth Learning Center (YLC) and The Biome, clearly reflected a deep and heartfelt connection to his community.

 Ron’s Generosity

Ron, a transplant to St. Louis from San Francisco, quickly found a home within the Central West End community. He was known by most as the go to expert for computer and IT help. Not only was his reputation recognized by his expertise, but also by his overwhelming generosity. Ron would not only fix everyone in the neighborhood’s computer, but he would always do it for free, refusing any kind of payment. For years, Ron volunteered at YLC, helping to set up and fix computers. In YLC’s last year of operating an after school program, Ron donated over 2 weeks of time helping to fix a dozen laptops that had been donated to the organization. Ron was proud to spend the time updating the hardware and installing software so that the departing students would have a computer to take with them to middle and high school. When YLC tried to pay Ron, he simply ripped up the check and said, “No, no this was for this kids.”

The Ron Zalonis Technology Grant

This past summer, Ron Zalonis passed away in his home in the Central West End. Without any close family or relatives, Ron’s many friends were left not knowing what to do. Many wanted to contribute to Ron’s funeral; however, a decision was made based on what they believed Ron would have wanted, his body was to be donated to science and donations would be collected for a charity that represented Ron’s passions and generosity. Together, the CWE neighborhood came together to host a celebration of his life on Sunday, August 27th at Rosie’s Place where over $6,720 was raised for what would formally become the Ron Zalonis Technology Grant organized by the St. Louis Mike Mullen Foundation. The Biome was proud to receive this gift on September 8, 2017. The gift will go toward fulfilling both The Biome’s and Ron’s mission of helping students to become builders of the future.

About The St. Louis Mullen Foundation

The St. Louis Mullen Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that hosts the annual Mike Mullen Days. In 1999, a proclamation by St. Louis Mayor Clarence Harmon declared May 2 as Mike Mullen Day in recognition of Mike Mullen, an impactful community activist in the Central West End neighborhood. Years later, a group of his friends honored the day with a surprise party. The celebration turned into an annual tradition to raise money for Mullen’s selection of charities. Next summer will mark the 8th Annual Mike Mullen Day. The Biome is proud to be the first charity selected for the upcoming Mike Mullen Day.