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Coming to a park (possibly) near you: High school

Post by Kim Bradford on Aug. 28, 2009 at 4:01 pm with 2 Comments »
August 28, 2009 4:01 pm

I tagged along yesterday for the Tacoma School Board’s tour of the new Science And Math Institute (SAMI) at Point Defiance Park and was impressed.

It’s not fancy – just a series of recycled portables set up in a gravel lot near the park’s go-carts and batting cages. The desks are salvaged, the cabinetry built by district staffers. The computers at least look new.

Come September, the place will be packed with 140 kids who make up SAMI’s inaugural class. The school kicks off the year next week with a two-night stay at Black Lake Camp in Thurston County.

The district’s latest experiment has a lot to offer a student: the chance to attend class in the great outdoors, the opportunity to hone in-demand math and science skills and the advantage of entering high school at a place where no one is the “new kid.”

One other benefit: SAMI’s longer day (class runs from 8:45 a.m. to 4 p.m. most days) allows for extended and more frequent vacations. There’s a one-week break in October, a full week in November, three weeks at Christmas, one week in February and a two-week spring break. The schedule almost resembles a year-round school’s.

Jack Wilson, Metro Parks executive director, said to me as we were leaving, “Who wouldn’t want to go to high school at the Point?” It was hard to argue with him, especially on such a sunny August afternoon.

But the district does face a hurdle: Point Defiance is not a central location by any stretch. Ensuring demographic and geographic diversity (which district officials say the first class has) will depend on good recruitment and good transportation.

Recently, SAMI teachers met their students in their neighborhoods and rode public transit with them to the park. One trip took two hours (albeit in part because of a mix-up). Carpools could help, but in neighborhoods where all the parents work, they might not be an option.

Taking notice
Leave a comment Comments → 2
  1. crusader says:

    This sounds like a great program to provide education on curriculum that can help students succeed in the real world. Hopefully it doesn’t get bogged down due to “diversity” issues.

  2. My son just returned from the Black Lake Bible Camp along with the rest of the 450+ SOTA kids. He spent 3 days in a “wagon” that had an interior roof (they are made of canvass) covered in orange and black mold. Since he returned home, he has had a fever, cough, sneezing all typical symptoms of an upper respiratory infection. He will miss his first day of class on Monday and possibly Tuesday.
    This was his third and last camp at Black Lake Bible Camp. He has been miserable all three times that he went. I’m sorry to see them start this “tradition” with SAMI. It should be scrapped. I nearly kept him home anyway because $140 is a lot of money to spend for us to send him out, have him miss celebrating his birthday, loose sleep and feel miserable for the next week. They accomplish nothing educationally while there. What’s the point??
    SAMI students and parents should seriously just stay home. The boys, at least. It seems that all the good accomodations are given to the girls.
    SOTA/SAMI should scrap this whole nonsensical field trip as it is a waste of time and money.

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