Monthly Archives: April 2018

Lessons from the King

Submitted by:  Willie (Bill) Kent Jr., President & CEO of The Biome School

In 1970, arguably one of Flip Wilson’s most popular characters, Geraldine Jones, popularized the catchphrase, “The devil made me do it!” This catchphrase was often the character’s excuse for transgressions. Reflecting on some behaviors witnessed in today’s arenas of public debate, we have allowed our passions to lead us down a narrow and isolated path of insults, dishonesty, anger, and propaganda. This debased behavior seems evident in all areas of public discourse, including that of public education.

History often provides a void, a space calling for moral leadership, courage, and love. During the mid-1950s history created such a void and educated, passionate, and principled leaders like Dr. King and others stepped into the breach. Dr. King was not the only leader of his time to challenge America to, “Be true to what you said on paper,” however, the articulation of his message, mastery of history, and education allowed him to stand prominently and answer the call to service.

Today, history has created another void and is calling for those who have the moral leadership, courage, and love to pursue an equitable and fair educational system in America. The needs of our children require that we “put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander” and move towards a society in which all children, especially those from underserved communities, have the opportunity to build “Intelligence plus character.” According to Dr. King, “that is the goal of true education.”

In America, and more specifically, in Missouri, we cannot realize this vision for our children through lawsuits over public funding and dishonest feuds between Charter Public Schools and Traditional Public Schools. As a community, we should join forces on the steps and in the halls of the Missouri Capitol building to demand that our children and equity in education become priorities not only in words but also in policy and funding.

We all support child well-being; we all want children to succeed – no matter their zip code. Let us step into this moment of history and educate generations of children who “think logically and scientifically.” Our commitment to teaching children to protest should not outpace our calling to develop an educated and literate community. History is calling for leaders who will reignite the vestiges of “the press, the classroom, the platform, and the pulpit” with “objective and unbiased truths.” Properly educated, our children can answer this call.

Geraldine’s excuse that “The devil made me do it” is no longer sufficient to explain away our bad behavior in the public square. Dr. King taught us that “If we are not careful, our colleges will produce a group of close-minded, unscientific, illogical propagandists, consumed with immoral acts. Be careful, ‘brethren!’ Be careful, teachers!”

Dr. King elevated his conscious and thinking to create an inclusive and loving vision for America. Let us remember that “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.” Fifty years after his assassination, we must remember the lessons that he taught us; we must not forget how he elevated his thinking and conscious. For the sake of our children, isn’t it time that we catch up?

Planting STEM Talent Today for the Benefit of Tomorrow

The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” – Chinese Proverb

The time to plant a seed is now. Slalom sees the importance of planting seeds in their community early and often. We continue to hear research highlighting the growing gap of STEM talent. We see the number of unfilled positions continue to grow year after year. In 2010, just 5.4 STEM jobs were posted online for every one unemployed STEM worker. In 2016, STEM employers faced a dire picture: 13 STEM jobs were posted online for each unemployed worker—or roughly 3 million more jobs than the number of available, trained professionals who could potentially fill them (New American Economy Research Fund, 2016). David Harrow, Community Engagement Lead at Slalom, emphasized we need to start investing at the elementary school level, “The [STEM] gap is so large that we can’t just focus on the next 3-5 years. Rather, we need to focus on the next 10-15 years. Not doing so would be short-sighted.”

From the first time Slalom visited The BiOME, they saw a different approach: every student was engaged. David enthusiastically explained that “The students weren’t just learning math, but they were learning a project-based approach. It allowed every student learn in their own way.” For many who tour The BiOME, it is this rigorous, hands-on approach that they find refreshing. Many are inspired to see just how willing and excited students are to learn. Stefanie Thelen, General Manager of Slalom St. Louis, was so inspired by the BiOME school and its ability to engage, build curiosity and critical thinking skills, she has directed Slalom to be a BiOME school champion.

Since the beginning of the school year, Slalom has taken an active role and become valued members of our school community. From joining us monthly at our Literacy Mornings and reading with our learners, to supporting our annual gala as a Diamond level sponsor, to creating and leading new afterschool programs, Slalom has enthusiastically responded to every opportunity by saying, “yes, count us in!”

Slalom’s community engagement mission is “to help make St. Louis into a city in which every person loves their work and life.” Slalom believes the rising tide raises us all.  This mission fits seamlessly with The BiOME’s approach to education. The future of our community depends on how we prepare our children. Slalom’s support of The BiOME is centered on the belief that in order to create future STEM talent, we need to plant the seeds now.  Educating our children is a shared responsibility between our schools, community, and businesses. We need to partner and widen our lenses as we prepare for the future.


Making Reading a Priority in St. Louis

There is no doubt that literacy plays a powerful role in every facet of early education, which is why here at The Biome we cultivate an atmosphere where our learners grow to be readers. Without a strong foundation in literacy, a strong STEAM education is not possible. Therefore, teachers and staff at The Biome focus much of their efforts on making reading a fun, enjoyable skill for each and every one of our children. Cultivating a love of reading is especially crucial in early elementary education. If we can instill the value of reading into our learners, their future opportunities will be boundless.

On Friday, March 2, The Biome celebrated Read Across America Day by taking a school-wide field trip to the St. Louis Public Library’s Central Library. During this off-campus excursion, they participated in the nation’s very first Read Aloud Flash Mob with the students at Lafayette Preparatory Academy. What makes your average ordinary field trip to the library a flash mob? When cued, different grades began reading Green Eggs and Ham. During this symphony reading of Dr. Seuss’ famous children’s book, individuals involved with The Biome School held signs displaying different facts about literacy, such as “Literacy begins at home.” The result was a fun and playful chorus of Dr. Seuss rhythm and rhyme. At the end of the day, learners were given their own copies of the book, as well as a library card to further enhance their developing interest in reading.

In Missouri, only 36% of students are proficient in reading (NAEP, 2015). The Literacy Flash Mob not only encouraged our learners here at The Biome to find enjoyment inside the covers of a book but also advocated for the importance of literacy in early childhood.

The effort behind building a strong foundation in literacy is continuously making an impact at The Biome. Recent STAR Reading scores, a research-validated, state-specific assessment, evidenced The Biome’s dedication to improving literacy for every learner. Each grade level, from Kindergarten to third grade, made remarkable improvements in reading. For example, 92% Kindergarteners showed improvement in reading levels, increasing an average of 1.7 levels since the beginning of the school year. Further, 82% first graders having shown improvement in reading levels, 97% second graders, and 100% third graders.

These accomplishments are extremely exciting for all of us here at The Biome to see, but of course, none of this would be made possible without our families who are dedicated to their children’s education. Not only do these scores indicate an impressive improvement in reading capabilities amongst our learners, but they also show the profound impact that a safe and creative learning environment can have on a child’s aptitude for reading.

Together, we can make an impact in early literacy. Today, you can make a difference by sharing the first ever Literacy Flash Mob video with your network and raise awareness on the importance of literacy in our region. See and share the video: here: