Unique professional development structure creates opportunity to serve Biome students.


nancy-love-2Most schools provide professional development for  teachers in short bursts – a day here, an afternoon there. Not so at The Biome, a newly minted charter school in St. Louis’ Central West End neighborhood. The school takes an innovative approach to professional development, scheduling intensive week-long sessions four times during the school year.  With teachers away for an entire week, what does a school do with sixty-plus five and six-year-olds? The answer is provide meaningful and memorable enrichment through Springboard programs!

The challenge was steep – provide 61 K-1 students with engaging, arts-integrated enrichment programming, boosting skills with engaging and creative curricula, for six hours per school day for five days. The Biome turned to Bill Mendelsohn, Director of Charter Schools and Partnerships for the University of Missouri-St. Louis, who oversees UMSL’s sponsorship of six charter schools in the city of St. Louis. Mendelsohn guided Principal Debi Weaver and President Bill Kent to Springboard, thus launching several summer weeks of investigation, discussion and collaboration with Springboard’s Senior Program Director Anthony D’Agostino. The discussions proved fruitful.

In 2015, Springboard received a generous grant from Young Audiences, Inc., funded by JCPenney Cares, to forward “Arts 4 Learning” (A4L), a literacy-based arts-integrated curriculum. Mr. D’Agostino leveraged that funding, striking an agreement with Weaver and Kent to place four trained A4L teaching artists in the school for the duration of the four professional development periods. With the agreement in place, Springboard recruited and trained several of its teaching partner/artists of varied expertise in the A4L program curriculum. Armed with their own teaching experience and the A4L curricula, Springboard’s teaching partner/artists – Edie Avioli, Jenna Bauer, Nancy Love and Audra Morrow – hit the ground running. The first test came in October, during the first professional development session of the school year. All agreed the week sailed smoothly, providing insight and a handful of opportunities for improvement in the coming sessions.

With programs and teaching partners dialed in, Springboard delivered the second week-long programming session in December, delighting students and staff alike. Students rotated through four content areas during the week, each focusing on a different genre – visual art, music, dance and theater. On the final day, students presented their work to other students, staff and returning classroom teachers.  Everyone had a blast! Remarked school President Bill Kent, “I’ve never been more impressed with an outside organization.”

Two more professional development sessions are scheduled for the coming spring. What began as a complex need ends as a win-win for Springboard and The Biome!

To bring Springboard programs to your school, call (314)768-9670.

For more about Arts4Learning curriculum, visit  http://www.youngaudiences.org/YAAL/sponsors/arts-learning-a4l-curriculum.

To learn about The Biome, visit https://thebiomeschool.org/.