Monthly Archives: February 2018

The 2018 Gala & Auction: Creating “Boundless” Educational Opportunities

The Biome School Annual Gala and Auction is right around the corner – February 17, 2018. This year, the theme of the gala is “Boundless.” At The Biome, we believe learning is boundless. Our annual gala is where we are able to come together and create boundless possibilities for The Biome. No matter your role in The Biome Community, we believe everyone has the opportunity to contribute to this special event.

Damion Jones, Global Director for Diversity and Inclusion at Monsanto, was first introduced to The Biome by his colleague, Deborah Patterson. For Damion, becoming involved with The Biome allowed him to extend his personal passion for STEAM education and building diverse talent in St. Louis beyond his role at Monsanto. Now, as one of our many committed board members, he has taken an active role in helping to spread awareness to why we need to change the way we educate and prepare our future STEAM workforce.

“Today, education is not geared to the way young people learn. Honestly, I think the video game industry is really who has learned the right way to engage kids. They give them problems to solve that are rooted in reality. Kids naturally ask why and where will we use this in life? We need to change the way we educate students and provide them with realistic contexts for learning. The jobs of today do not match rote memorization. Rather, they require students to be active problem solvers,” said Jones.

The active, hands-on approach The Biome takes is what inspires Damion. At the Biome, we encourage learners to ask what, why, and how. Curiosity and inquiry shape learning. For example, every grade participates in Big Question units. Big Questions are interdisciplinary projects derived from state and national standards but are guided by the passions and interests of learners. Learners answer questions such as, “What is a scientist?” or “What is energy?” With a Big Question – there isn’t just one right answer. Damion has witnessed the value of Big Questions and echoes the need for this type of learning, “By leading with inquiry, we’re allowing education to be boundless.”

This year, Damion’s advocacy and support for The Biome have been instrumental. In the 2017-2018 academic year, with Damion’s support, The Biome was proud to be awarded a $40,000 grant from the Monsanto Fund to help sustain and grow our innovative, project-based Adaptive Thinking class. Adaptive Thinking is one of The Biome’s core enrichment classes that teaches children to solve problems creatively. Furthermore, at the 2018 Gala, we will be proud to recognize the Monsanto Fund as a Diamond Level sponsor.

Damion firmly believes St. Louis has a huge opportunity to become recognized as a hub for building the next generation of diverse STEM leaders. “Consider all the infrastructure already in place – the number of STEM companies, plus the many universities – there should be no reason for St. Louis to not be growing diverse talent.” While many companies are making investments solely at a collegiate level, both Damion and the Monsanto Fund see the importance of investing at the elementary level as well. At the collegiate level, it is often too late and the number of students impacted is limited. Today there are gaps in certain STEM disciplines because many people lack awareness of these careers or are not prepared to enter these fields. Instead of waiting until college, it is important to build connections in kindergarten so that students grow up continually broadening their scope of career possibilities.

We invite you to consider how you can help broaden the scope of possibilities for students in St. Louis. To learn more about ways to support the 2018 Gala, visit our webpage. We would love for you to join us at the gala, where boundless possibilities will be created.

The Biome Outdoor Learning Space Featured in The Ladue News

The Biome was proud to be featured in Ladue News on January 4, 2018. The article featured the building of phase one The Biome’s new Outdoor Learning Space which was completed on November 18, 2017. The day was led by volunteers led by the Veiled Prophet Foundation and Royal Vagabonds. Download a copy of the story here. 

AmeriCorps Members Help Pave PATHS of Success for all Learners

Since the beginning of the school year, Biome learners in K-3 have made great strides in both academic and behavior management skills thanks to the extra classroom support provided by a team of seven extraordinary AmeriCorps members. From providing one-on-one tutoring to small group instruction, AmeriCorps teaching assistants embrace the Biome’s commitment to helping every learner achieve his or her potential.

Having AmeriCorps members in classrooms is the result of The Biome School having been chosen last summer to receive a Federal AmeriCorps grant award for the 2017-2018 school year from the Missouri Community Service Commission. In addition to providing daily academic support for the Biome’s STEAM curriculum, AmeriCorps members also participate in PATHS programming, which helps support learner’s social-emotional skills such as self-control, self-esteem and problem-solving.

The positive impact of this additional funding happens every day at The Biome School. For example, one of the AmeriCorps teaching assistants, Ivette Lozano, grew up in California in a low-income environment herself. She understands first-hand the value of early intervention for learners who may be struggling either academically or emotionally. “Just knowing that someone cares and is available to give a learner the extra time and attention he or she needs directly impacts learning success,” said Ivette. “It not only enhances a learner’s self-confidence, it can inspire them to want to achieve more.”

Ivette works primarily with learners in kindergarten and first grade at The Biome. On a typical day, while the classroom teacher may be leading a general writing lesson, Ivette may be working separately with a small group of four learners, helping them improve their reading comprehension or understand how to put their thoughts in writing and use proper sentence structure. Another day, she may work one-on-one with a learner on how to use communication skills to better manage social interactions. “When I hear a learner apologize for accidentally bumping into a classmate, I know I’ve had an impact that may last a lifetime,” said Ivette. She added that joining AmeriCorps at The Biome has inspired her to become a kindergarten teacher instead of an upper elementary teacher.

For kindergarten teacher Kristin Williams, having an AmeriCorps member in the classroom benefits everyone. “At the beginning of the school year, I walked into a classroom of 16 very lively and enthusiastic five- and six-year-olds, including some children who had never attended a preschool and had no experience in a classroom setting. With Ivette’s help, we were able to help our young learners make a faster adjustment by giving them the one-on-one attention they need at that age,” said Kristin.

Today, from reading site words to doing math problems independently, every learner in Kristin’s kindergarten is making tremendous progress. “It is gratifying to see how every day our learners are becoming more independent and self-motivated,” said Kristin, who added that her goal is to have every kindergartner in her classroom reading and doing math at first-grade level by the end of the school year.

Although Kristin and Ivette did not know each other prior to the first day of school last August, they discovered that they not only have similar teaching styles, backgrounds and experiences, they are both former cheerleaders. “We have a good time coming up with cheers and chants that we use as teaching tools to make learning fun and interesting,” said Kristin. “We want the positive experience our learners have in kindergarten to inspire them to achieve success throughout their entire academic future.”

The impact of the AmeriCorps grant cannot be understated. As Bill Kent, The Biome’s founder and CEO, said, “The importance of this additional funding ensures that we are able to provide the rigorous, experiential, and holistic education we are committed to providing for every learner who comes through our doors.”

Mind & Movement: Not the PE Class You Remember

At The Biome, there’s a new twist being placed on gym class. No longer are the days of simple jumping jacks, timed miles, and pushing through as many sit-ups as you can. Today, in Mind and Movement, students explore a wider range of physical learning activities and discover how the mind is connected to physical learning. Through a variety of themed classes, from Tennis Tuesday to Yoga Thursday, learners engage in whole body learning.

Ashreale McDowell, who comes to The Biome with a rich performing arts background, leads Mind and Movement. She received a Bachelor’s of Fine Arts degree from Webster University and since then has performed and taught professionally at a number of companies and schools. Currently, she is also a performing artist at Consuming Kinetics Dance Company.

In Mind & Movement, learners are able to take a break from the traditional classroom setting. They are given the freedom to move and to express themselves in new ways. The opportunity to teach and build the Mind & Movement program at The Biome has been an exciting and creative experience for Ms. McDowell. At The Biome, she has the freedom to structure her class in a way that exposes students to a variety of moment, unlike other teaching experiences where she was required following a more regimented program. For example, every week, learners participate in fun, interactive yoga classes. Recent research has shown that yoga and mindfulness improve both physical and mental health in school-age children. Yoga improves balance, strength, endurance, and aerobic capacity in children. Yoga can also improve focus, memory, self-esteem, academic performance, and classroom behavior, and can even reduce anxiety and stress in children (Wei, 2016). Every week learners also participate in dance classes. Dance allows the learners to practice learning choreography, memorize movements, and improve their memory.

In Mind & Movement, Ms. McDowell also actively incorporates lessons about the human body and health. Ms. McDowell shared, “As learners grow and strengthen their physical bodies, it is also important for them to understand how all their muscles work and are connected to different movements.”

Since the beginning of the year, Ms. McDowell has seen students increasingly step outside of their comfort zones and build their confidence. Often, when something is new, she will hear students say, “I can’t do this. My body can’t do that. I don’t think I’m going to be good.” Yet, in December, at the recent Winter Festival performances, she witnessed the growth of students. The same students who were reluctant at first came out of their shells and proudly performed for an audience of over 100 parents, family, and friends.

At The Biome, we believe in providing students with a holistic educational experience. Mind & Movement is just one more aspect of our educational model that helps students to build important perseverance and self-regulation skills. Rather than with just regular physical education classes, Mind & Movement helps learners to build both healthy bodies and healthy minds.