Elements of Education Partner Schools stand on four pillars: Community, Balance, Thinking, and Empathy. Community and Empathy are exhibited daily at SAMi and SOTA through an elective course called BRIDGE. BRIDGE is a semester long class where Sophomores, Juniors, and Seniors take on a role comparable to that of a teacher’s assistant. They take part in a class to do what their name suggests: Serve to bridge the gap between student and teacher. Heather Olmstead and Stacee Flynn currently teach the class, although BRIDGE has been offered at SAMi since its first year, when freshmen comprised the entire school. The success of this program warrants its amount of participants and longevity.
It is no easy task to turn your aspirations into reality. SOTAbots team 2557’s incessant devotion to engineering and club management has made them successful in this pursuit of their goals. The combined group of students from SOTA, SAMi, and iDEA defines dedication and self-sufficiency through the robots they build from scratch, and the mark that they make on the Tacoma community.
In 2007, robotics teacher Ken Luthy of SOTA started the club with about 10-15 students. Now, the numbers of members who meet in SOTA’s downtown Tacoma 1950 building have risen to about fifty, with every individual using their skill sets to best suit the company. Most arrive as freshmen or sophomores and leave only once they have graduated. Sara Siemens-Luthy (SAMi Outdoor Ed teacher and Luthy’s wife) has also joined the team as a coach. I was unable to speak with either coach, but several team members, and mentor Dafydd Rhys-Jones (known also as Bishop), were very willing to tell me about the goings-on in the club.
After the craziness of December finals, January at SAMi, SOTA, and now iDEA comes with a complete change of course for students and staff alike: Miniterm. This month-long extensive course takes place at any of the three Elements of Education campuses. Comparable to the week-long “Microterm” at the end of the school year in June, Miniterm offers both a break from the usual, and extensive concentration on a unique subject of the student’s choosing.
Traditionally, science-focused courses took place at SAMi, while art-focused courses took at SOTA. Now we have iDEA thrown into the mix. This new school serves to fill the gaps that its successor schools’ facilities could not. Its workshops provide an alternate location to the SOTABots team and several other shop-oriented classes. iDEA teachers have also teamed up with teachers from their sister schools to combine their expertise into a single course. (E.g. The Sports Science of Lacrosse and Golf, The LEGO Miniterm, and Who is Telling Your Story? among others.)
I’ve been to eight different schools since elementary school, in different states, but SOTA is the only school that I have attended that has no separation no matter gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, religion, and ability. Often in schools today, students with a disability, or any form of being different, are put in different classes. Even though they are working on their developmental skills, being put in these classes they are deprived of the ‘social experience’ a kid should have. Not only does this affect their social skills amongst peers, this can also affect their social life during adulthood.
We all know that Tacoma is a beautiful city. Its proximity to a large body of water, and flare for both the new and the old-fashioned make it a dynamic place to live. Here at the Science and Math Institute, 400-plus students are attending classes amidst the grandeur of arguably one of the most beautiful places in Tacoma – Point Defiance Park
For those who don’t know, SAMi is currently going through a transition of location and its portables are now hidden in the woods of Camp 6 at Point Defiance Park. To get there one must get on a big yellow school bus at the park entrance and bump along 5 Mile Drive to the hidden site. Here, in portable G, Dustin Blatnik’s Beginning Guitar class meets on a Thursday. It’s a small room, hot and crowded with students holding guitars, cases, papers, and chairs spread out over every square foot, and the cacophony can be heard from either end of the camp. There’s method to the madness, though; while Blatnik listens to students play individually, lessons of every kind are being learned simultaneously throughout the room. Some work solo, others in groups, all of them supporting each other. They share tuners, sheets of music, and advice. “Life’s too short to not have capo” one student is heard saying.