Monthly Archives: May 2018

Learning Beyond Our School Walls

At The Biome, we are striving to expand our learning ecosystem beyond our classrooms and into the community. We believe learning takes place everywhere. In St. Louis, we are fortunate to have incredible community assets such as a world-class zoo. Partnering with the Saint Louis Zoo, we’ve created an immersive, experiential learning experience for our second grade learners.

A core aspect of The Biome School curriculum is the incorporation of Big Question units. These units encourage learners to ask and answer real world questions. Projects are then designed based on the project based learning model or PBL. In PBL, students work on a project over an extended period of time (from a week up to a semester) that engages them in solving a real-world problem or answering a complex question. They demonstrate their knowledge and skills by developing a public product or presentation for a real audience. Research has shown that students learning through PBL retain content longer and have a deeper understanding of what they are learning (BIE, 2013).

“When we think about experiential learning at The Biome School, it isn’t about doing projects there at the school. We want our kids out in the community; it needs to be real world. We want them to experience the city of St. Louis – but, also, develop relationships with other adults in the community,” explains Bill Kent, President & CEO of The Biome.

This year, for the second grade zoo school experience, learners took on the challenge of researching the activity levels of different animals at the Zoo. To prepare for the onsite research experience, learners began brainstorming questions, creating preliminary maps, and gaining exposure to animals as St. Louis Zookeepers brought in a variety of animals such as snakes, turtles, and birds into the classroom.

From February 26 through March 5, our learners packed up their backpacks, grabbed their iPads, and we’re ready to hit the zoo. Using the iPad tool, Observe to Learn, learners took to observing animals, collecting data, and creating ethograms. Further, throughout the week, learners had the opportunity to make the Zoo their own. Daily, they interacted with the Zoo staff, created maps, measured distances, fed animals, practiced wayfinding, and worked together to solve problems.

Learning did not end once our learners were back in their classrooms at The Biome. Learners discovered the hard work of documenting their scientific work. Together, they created animal poems, developed a large-scale visual map, and reported their work through the scientific method documenting their question, hypotheses, procedures, and results.

So what did our learners think of their experience at the Zoo? They felt like true researchers! Tayonna, 2nd grade learner expressed, “I loved investigating the animals. It was exciting to go every single day and learn in new places.”

The Biome Grows Readers

There remains a dire need to help students improve literacy skills and guide them on a pathway to success. We know that children who do not read proficiently by the end of third grade are four times more likely to leave school without a diploma than proficient readers.

It is crucial that children master grade-level reading by 3rd grade because that is when instruction moves from a focus on learning to read to reading to learn. Basic reading skills become vital for continued learning in other subjects, like math and science. Without these foundational skills, students are unable to keep up with their peers and continue to fall farther and farther behind. (Annie E. Casey Foundation, 2010, 2017) Worse yet, the ability to overcome literacy challenges only increases overtime – 85% of all juveniles who come in contact with the juvenile court system are functionally illiterate.

At The Biome, we recognize early intervention is critical in supporting students. We refuse to let students fall behind. To combat these statistics, we believe in providing all students with reading intervention and many other specialized services – all at no cost to our families. 

Synia, a highly motivated, creative, and fun-loving second grader is an incredible example of the impact of this type of support. Synia loves reading fairytale stories, practicing multiplication, and creating new games on the playground with her friends. When she entered 2nd grade, she was identified as below grade level in reading. Rather than avoiding this challenge, Synia eagerly looked forward to building her skills during reading intervention with Ms. Cortner, our reading specialist. Weekly they would work together on both reading and writing. Ms. Cortner expressed, “Synia really identifies as a reader and a writer and this is huge!She will say, ‘as I reader I know I can use a strategy like chunking to help me.’ Each time she finished a book you could see her confidence grow.”

Today, Synia can proudly show each and every reading strategy she uses to conquer one book after another. This past April, Synia graduated from individualized reading intervention, moved up nine levels in reading, and is now on level for second grade. 

In order to continue to provide this extraordinary level of support for our students, we must meet our fiscal year fundraising goal. Thanks to generous funding support from our corporate partners at Emerson, Maritz, and Ameren Corporation, we are closer than ever to meeting our goal for our support services needs. Next year, we will hit our next major milestone – opening fourth grade. Your support will allow us to continue to expand and grow The Biome School Community.

Your contribution will help our current students lay the groundwork for their future success and strengthen our community. Tax-deductible donations can be made online at or by calling (314) 696-2561.

Dedication of our Outdoor Learning Center

We are proud to be highlighted on STL Today featuring the planting and dedication of our Outdoor Learning Center. Thank you to all those who were involved in this incredible project including the Veiled Prophet Foundation, the Royal Vagabond FoundationEdward Jones, PK Construction, U.S. BankForum Studio, Inc.Butler’s Pantry, Civil Design, Inc., Lipic’s Engagement, and Brentwood Material. Thank you for helping us to create a space where our learners will grow, learn, and become #BuildersoftheFuture!

Download a copy of the STL Feature here.