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.
Fridays at Sami, Sota and Idea are host to two one-of-a-kind classes: Mentor group, and Adventures and Applications. A&A works to broaden the individual student’s perspective by offering a deeper look into a topic of their choice.
After lunch ends at 1:20, we make our ways to our chosen A&A classes where we will stay until school lets out at 3:20. (However, seniors , juniors in their second semester, have Junior/Senior Breakouts in place of an A&A.) While it is much like mini and microterm, this Friday-only class takes place almost exclusively at the student’s home school. Popular SAMi A&A’s include Makerspace, creative shop class lead by Johnny Devine, Superbridges, a mentorship program for high school students to get to know elementary school students, and any one of the political science or psychology courses taught by Matthew Sherls. A number of other classes are one shots with students who fit into a certain niche in mind. These include topics such as video game design, mathematical art, and exploration of the outdoors. Even if none of the descriptions on the course catalogue appeal to a student, there is always the chance to expand your horizons.
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.)