by C.J. Delaney, staff writer

JANUARY 2022 — At the midpoint of the 2021-2022 school year, new Bio-Med Science Academy students have had time to reflect on their experiences stepping into the Bio-Med pool. Unlike students who have attended Bio-Med for years and have grown accustomed to the less conventional nature of the school, new students can face challenges when adjusting to the educational environment. Three new students gave their insights on what their experience this first semester was like in the unique environment that is Bio-Med.

“[I came to Bio-Med because] it’s different from other schools,” explained freshman Drake DeBolt. “Programming and engineering are required classes and they just had really good programs for them.”

While the decision to change schools can be a difficult one to make, some students decided that Bio-Med was worth the leap due to the distinctive experience being offered.

Freshman Grant Slivers was looking for a change of scenery. “After 14 years of being homeschooled, it was just boring, [and the] same old thing. I did want to try something new,” he said. “There are more projects and less tests and quizzes, and physical people, and stairs.”

Pictured above: Grant Slivers reads over blueprints for engineering career field project. Photo by C.J. Delaney, staff writer.

Slivers expressed a sense of confusion that still plagues even Bio-Med veterans at the start of every year. “When I got here, it was not what I was expecting. I got lost multiple times. The class schedules were not what I was expecting. I was confused for the first couple of weeks,” he said.

The transition to a new school in 2021 offered its own unique challenges with the presence of the COVID-19 pandemic. Coming to school in a new environment after a full year of heavy COVID-19 precautions and online learning was quite the experience for incoming students.

“It was kinda hard trying to get into a new school, especially when it was packed and when COVID and stuff is going around,” seventh-grader Zachary Kurka recounts. “It’s hard to go to a different school easily without any trouble.”

DeBolt expressed how the pandemic actually made the transition to Bio-Med easier for him, stating, “It helps with how much stuff we do that’s already on the computer, so I felt like the pandemic braced me for this, learning how to work my computer more.”

As the pandemic continues to affect the current school year, many schools around the country have chosen different approaches to various safety measures. While some schools have implemented virtual options, Bio-Med opted for an in-person only model where masks and sanitization procedures were mandated.

 “I think [Bio-Med is] handling [COVID-19] insanely well,” says DeBolt. “I know schools that aren’t mandating masks, and there are so many people getting sick.”

Coming off winter break, Slivers shared his concern about these safety procedures after noticing a large number of students were absent due to the virus. “I wish they took more precautions when it comes to COVID. It might be a good idea to take a week off before everyone comes back so everyone can figure out who has it and who doesn’t. As far as masks, they’ve been very, very good with masks. They’re doing a good job just making sure everything is clean and wiped down,” he said.

Despite the virus, Bio-Med has continued to operate in its usual way, with project and problem-based learning taking center stage in the classroom. This approach to education is a significant departure from the standard curriculum seen around the country. This change was a welcome one for these three students.

“At my other school, they didn’t do many projects. So I like how they give you hands-on things,” said Kurka. “I think it’s nice because, when you work on a project, there’s many different things to do and you have a choice for what you want to do.”

This style of learning runs a bit counter to traditional methods, and DeBolt views it as an improvement overall: “We shouldn’t be tested on how well we remember stuff. I feel like we should be tested on how much we can use it for practical use. One of my favorite projects that I’ve done has been one of my programming projects — the museum project. I got to work with a lot of my friends on it. I was actually learning something in programming.”

Working with fellow students has been something that Slivers has enjoyed as well. “I like when people collaborate to do projects. It’s nice making something of your own to be graded on,” he said.

When looking back at their previous education, not only was the learning style different, but also the culture and community.

“[Bio-Med is] a lot more than what I expected,” said Kurka. “The way they treat people and help you out or help you with doing different projects, [and] just being a better school than anything I could imagine. I like how a lot of people here really welcome you.”

DeBolt shared a similar sentiment, saying, “[Bio-Med] is actually more than what I expected. I really like it here. Like I said, all the project learning is way better for me and since a lot of my friends came here earlier on, like sixth grade, I’m making friends with a lot of their friends. [It’s] just a new experience.”

Slivers says that even with the jarring beginnings, he’s still found his place with the after school groups, stating, “I like how there are extracurricular activities like clubs. I’m in Games Club and Esports Club. I find that very fun.”

Another aspect of Bio-Med that differs from other schools is accelerated term. The three weeks of elective classes sandwiched between Thanksgiving and Christmas break is one of the defining parts of each school year, as it gives students opportunities to learn and experience courses not offered in a traditional curriculum. More information on accelerated term can be found here.

“The difference in electives [during accelerated term] is crazy [compared to my old school],” said DeBolt. “I really like doing things with cameras, taking pictures, [and] videos — all that stuff. Learning how to professionally edit and record pictures and videos was crazy, especially for someone who wants a career with taking pictures and recordings.”

“When I was filming my mockumentary, I would walk around every day and there would be drones set up with LED strips they have to follow and seeing people running around hanging pictures. It was something out of a High School TV show,” he recalled.

The schedule for accelerated term also differed from the rest of the school year.

Kurka recalls, “It was kinda weird switching to a weird schedule. It was nice how we completely went off-topic.”

This “off-topic” approach gave the opportunity for these students to enjoy themselves and decompress after a busy first half of this new school experience.  

“It was very relaxing —A relaxing break in between breaks,” said Slivers. “The atmosphere is lighter because you don’t have multiple big projects to work on or tests, and it’s just stuff for fun.”

The second half of the year is ahead of these students, and with it, each has their own hopes and fears for what is to come.

“I am a little bit nervous about the final projects because I’ve heard that the second part of the year goes faster. I’ve had moments where I’m panicking and freaking out,” said Slivers.

Other students, like Kurka, havefound the social aspect of Bio-Med to be one of their favorite parts of the school. Kuruka is also looking forward to making new friends as the year progresses.

Debolt, on the other hand, was looking forward to new content in his classes.

“I’m really looking forward to the stuff Mr. Ullinger has planned. It seems pretty interesting,” said DeBolt, referring to his current history class. “We’re doing a deep dive from what we did at the start of the year. At the start of the year, we were looking at pretty deep Civil War stuff, and in the second half, we were really going to get into it.”

The new students also gave their thoughts on what the overall experience has been like at Bio-Med.

DeBolt felt that Bio-Med was giving him the push he needed in his education, stating, “I’m someone who likes a challenge, but not so difficult that it feels like you’re drowning. How it is here, it feels like it’s still difficult, and I’m learning something, but not so difficult to the point where I’m lost.”

Kurka reflected on his time at Bio-Med so far, noting the helpfulness of the community: “Switching from different schools is kind of a pain in the butt, but I like the way they introduced me and welcomed me in. Basically, since I have ADHD, they allowed me to cooperate and do things that I [am] able to do. If I can’t do something, they’ll take care of it. And a lot of the kids here compared to my other school actually listen. It’s actually pretty happy and nice out here.”

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