by Alyssa Cocchiola, associate editor

OCTOBER 2021 — Bio-Med Science Academy soon plans to introduce STEM and problem-based learning concepts to elementary school students. This school year, Bio-Med admitted 25 kindergarten students and 50 first-grade students. Grades two through 12 have a maximum capacity of 100 students.

Pictured from left to right are students Elizabeth Wellman, Brody Hendrix, and Eli Holsopple exemplifying two of Bio-Med’s core pillars. They worked together and problem-solved to create a tower made of different colored blocks in the kindergarten classroom at the Shalersville campus. The Shalersville campus houses kindergarten through fourth-grade students.

Chief Administrative Officer, Mrs. Stephanie Lammlein, talked about the school’s decision to expand. “As the high school got underway and we started doing more research on other schools that are unique like [Bio-Med] around the country, we started to notice the importance of grabbing kids earlier than ninth grade,” she said.

In 2017, Bio-Med started its expansion by opening up to middle school students.

“Those middle schoolers went through sixth, seventh, and eighth [grade], and then they came to ninth [grade, where] they were in a different place than if a ninth-grader started fresh from their comprehensive district,” Lammlein noted. “They still struggled too, but they understood more about … how we go about learning and our methodologies. And so we started to notice a difference. I would anticipate that [difference] to only get bigger and stronger, which I’m really excited to see.”

The elementary school instituted the same vision and mission as the other Bio-Med campuses, which includes STEM learning and the school’s pillars: sense of community, problem solving, collaboration, innovation, personal agency, and engaged learning.

“As of right now in kindergarten, problem-based learning is learning guided by a wonder or question,” Ms. Brianna Belknap, the Bio-Med kindergarten teacher, explained. “For example, we recently have studied [a unit called] ‘How do we know if something is alive?’ We did a lot of observations outside and were able to identify what makes something living or not. We also were able to integrate this topic with our other content areas.”

Though students have been introduced to hands-on-learning activities, they still have yet to complete a large project.

“We have focused a lot on building our sense of community, strengthening our social emotional skills, and understanding how we should be at school. These foundational skills are our priority right now, but we hopefully will be moving into projects soon!” Belknap wrote.

Other elementary school grades have started to assign projects to students. Ms. Laura Sass, the STEM quality and curriculum administrator, regularly visits all three of the different buildings to work with students and teachers.

“I’m actually working with the second-grade teachers right now. They’re working into a unit looking at solar power, so [they are] trying to bring in some solar cookers and getting students to build the solar cookers. So that’s been fun, and [we’re] bringing outside groups to help with that. [In] the sixth grade, they’re looking at Ancient Greece and the Olympics, and they’re putting on a full grade level Olympics next week…. So a lot of really cool stuff,” she said.

Sass was also impressed by the professionalism students had in different classes.

“I watched a fifth-grade class discussion yesterday [and] even just how the communication was in that room…. I felt [it] was really strong for a fifth grade [classroom],” Sass explained. “And if they can do that at [a] fifth grade [level], imagine the other topics and discussions they could have in 10th, 11th, and 12th grade.”

For students at the Rootstown campus (grades seven through 12), the only way to learn a foreign language is through College Credit Plus (CCP) programs. However, at the Shalersville and Ravenna campuses (grades K through six), Latin is integrated in students’ core classes and taught by Mr. Aaron Graora. The school decided to implement Latin classes for the younger grades to teach students the root meaning of words, in order to strengthen their vocabulary.

On the administrative side of things, the expansion to elementary school grades had been a challenging process.

“The elementary [school] opened last year, and we all know how last year was…. So we started a brand new school in a pandemic, which I would not recommend. But, it was already too late. We were advertising [and] we enrolled kids. Then March happened, and it was like ‘okay,’ so then we made the decision to do everything we said we were going to do and just try to do the best we can,” said Lammlein.

Following the shut down in March 2020, Bio-Med still enrolled students from second through ninth grade for the 2020-2021 school year. While operating digitally at first, the incoming elementary school students were still able to experience the new building for part of the year. For some, the classroom seemed like a foreign environment.

“We have to really help the kids learn to be in school again because some of our learners have not been in school yet, because they chose virtual learning last year, and that might have been their first [year in school]…. So we have second-graders who may have never really been in school. We’re kind of taking this time to really help them understand our routines, our procedures, our expectations, [and] just to know them. I think the staff are doing an awesome job doing that.”

Despite the challenges, the school has continued to operate and introduce unique ways of learning to all its students. The administration hopes that the introduction of Bio-Med concepts to younger students will better prepare and guide them towards their futures.

The Hive attempted to reach out to several instructors at the Shalersville campus to be interviewed for this article. One staff member responded.

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