by Elise Miller, staff writer
OCTOBER 2021 – As the holidays approach, so does a unique Bio-Med Science Academy tradition, fondly recognized by teachers and students as accelerated term. Unlike conventional schools, with electives offered throughout the year, Bio-Med offers all of its elective courses from Nov. 30 through Dec. 17. During this time, students and teachers receive a break from the regular curriculum and get a chance to explore their passions together.
Courses that have been offered in the past range from Maps and Naps, The History of Pop Culture, Coloring Books, Survival by Science, “Star Wars,” and many others, leaving students with a satisfying creation at the end or a new skill that they otherwise would not have learned.
Students decide which courses they want to take by voting for a pool of courses to be offered. Students then choose their classes from this pool of selected courses; seniors get first pick on voting October 21st, and then the juniors, sophomores, and freshmen get to pick on the 22nd, in that order.
Maps and Naps, run by freshmen history teacher Mr. William Ullinger, is an accelerated term course that will be offered this year. Through this course, Ullinger said, “We challenged several high-end studies and went through those then tested the hypothesis.” His hypothesis was based on studies that stated that rest and mindfulness improved test scores.
“Technically, maps and naps is called geography and mindfulness studies,” said Ullinger. Students study maps and geography, and at the end of the course students are given the final test twice. Ullinger said that after taking the test, “We do a half an hour of mindfulness and we take the test over again.”
Along with studies, Ullinger also challenged students, proving what he could do for accelerated term. Ullinger recalled a conversation with students, where he said, “They go, ‘well could you figure out a way we could have a nap in class?’ and I go, ‘I’m sure I could.’”
This conversation ended up commencing the idea of Maps and Naps to become a course offered in years past during accelerated term.
Another class offered during accelerated term doubles as a fundraiser for Relay for Life, which is an organization that raises money for The American Cancer Society. This class is taught by Applied Algebra II teacher, Mrs. Christina Aronhalt. The class is known as Coloring Books, or by the more technical term, “geometric constructions using a compass, straightedge and tessellations.”
“I like intricate designs and I like coloring and it’s a relaxing way to release tension,” said Aronhalt. Coloring Books doubled as a fundraiser, and combined her “passions for math but also raising money for good causes.”
Like Coloring Books, Science Olympiad is also an accelerated term course that is an extension of a club. The club itself is for students interested in science who come together to eventually compete in STEM competitions with other schools pertaining to the field of science.
Accelerated term allows members valuable time to prepare for competition. “We get a lot done during accelerated term to prepare for our events,” said senior physics teacher Ms. Janna Mino, who is also head of Science Olympiad.
Sometimes accelerated term classes do not get voted for, like dance anatomy. “I have planned a lot of other classes. I wanted to do a dance anatomy class where we dance and learn about the muscular systems,” said Mino.
There are many aspects of accelerated term beyond just a change in classes. Oftentimes community is one aspect referenced when teachers talk about accelerated term.
“We need to build bridges between grades,” said Mr. Brian McDonald, freshman English teacher. “Anything we can do to build community is good.” Accelerated term can help to bridge grade levels by mixing them for different classes, but it can also be a bit of a challenge
“To be a junior teacher and to suddenly have ninth graders can kind of take you aback,” said junior English teacher Ms. Jenna Bates, “you have to kind of adjust the way you have been approaching things.”
The skill level of the class has to be attainable for the different grade levels, which is another way mixing the different grade levels can be difficult. Aronhalt said that “In choosing a class, I try to choose something that’s for all grade levels.” This can be tricky since everyone is at a different level academically.
Students can learn more about their community by learning about their teacher’s passions. “They really learn more about who is teaching them,” said Ullinger. This can help students communicate easier with their teachers in the future if they can bond over shared passions.
“It’s cool getting to know students during accelerated term and having them in following years in class,” said Mino. This adds to that community-building aspect.
A lot of the time, this break in the year can act as a refresher. “I’m so close to the stuff that we’re going through in [regular] class that by the time it’s accelerated term, I’m easily burnt out on it,” said Ullinger.
Teachers also spoke of something of an atmospheric shift during accelerated term.
“There’s something different about the atmosphere where there’s less pressure academically,” said Mino. “That atmosphere is more valuable than having the elective courses throughout the year.”
Although the atmosphere is unique and special, there’s a downside to not having elective courses throughout the year. “There’s a lot that gets untaught,” said Bates. “[Accelerated term is typically only two and a half weeks and so you can’t get very in-depth with that.”
“I think it would be really cool and get more depth if we could teach extracurriculars for a full year or even half a year,” said Aronhalt.
The atmospheric aspect ends up sacrificing the depth that a regular school system would offer in its elective courses.
“In a really good system, you offer little bits of something to students to see if they’re interested and if they’re really into it they can explore it,” said McDonald.
This idea explores a compromise of having that window into topics like accelerated term but also allowing students to explore these topics in depth like a regular elective course.
“I got a great suggestion from a kid this year,” said McDonald, when talking about future ideas for accelerated term. “The student said [that] the students should recommend classes to the teachers.” He believed that this would help the learning come from “the bottom up.”
Mino proposed another idea. “I think it’d be cool to have some seniors leading the class,” she said. This way there would be more student involvement.
“We kind of zig when regular schools zag,” said Ullinger. Bio-Med’s accelerated term course is just another characteristic of that.