Heading into his third year as principal of Chase STEM Academy, Jack Hunter has decided he needs to think big – really big.

That means coming up with something bigger than the school’s thriving Lego League team structure, its All Girls Engineering Design Team and its innovative African-American Men’s Book Club.

So he has decided to turn to an industry that Toledo knows well – the medical field – to expand his students’ horizons even farther.

Mr. Hunter has added a second M to STEM, with plans to integrate the study of medicine at every level of the K through 8th grade school at 600 Bassett St.

“My goal is to be innovative. To step out of the box and be creative and take the school to the next level,” said Mr. Hunter, 38. “STEM is being used so freely anymore that I wanted to differentiate us from the rest.”

And to him, that means integrating medicine into the school’s STEM curriculum, getting students as young as kindergarten to start thinking about a future in the medical field. He has dreams of instituting virtual dissections, of finding funding for a drone laboratory, of introducing medical terminology through literature, of getting national attention for the school’s zebra fish experiments.

Mr. Hunter says Chase STEMM Academy’s revamped curriculum will hit every content standard in the Common Core, but the emphasis will be on a ‘self-organized learning environment’ so students can investigate on their own.

“Why does inquiry stop after kindergarten?,” Mr. Hunter asks.

“We’re going to start in kindergarten, asking them, ‘what happens if you combine a red and a yellow fish? What color fish do you get? They’ll begin to see DNA,” Mr. Hunter says. “And we’ll do that each year so by the time they’re going to high school, they’ll be ready to go and look at a career that touches everything.”

With 100 percent of Chase’s students on free or reduced lunch, Mr. Hunter and his staff know they’re taking out a big project.

“I really want our kids to have high expectations. It’s very easy to become complacent and fall into that trap of not believing in yourself,” he said.

He had the teachers come in on a recent day and together they crafted new mission and vision statements for the school:

Chase STEMM Academy's mission is to provide innovative experiences in Science, Technology, Engineering, Math and Medicine to cultivate critical thinkers and problem solvers to be life-long learners in the 21st century.

Chase STEMM Academy's vision is to provide a rigorous learning environment that focuses on STEMM concepts while maximizing individual student potential.

The staff has also developed a rubric of five habits a Chase STEMM Academy student should model – separate from the report card – that will help them track how a student is developing as a person.

“We want students to have accountability on everything,” Mr. Hunter says.

He says he knows that introducing a medical curriculum doesn’t mean all of his students will be doctors someday. He plans to work with the CareerTech department of TPS to make sure the students know about the technology trades they can get training for in high school.

The ultimate goal of the medical curriculum is to have students develop “the ability of thinking about things from a different perspective,” he says. “I want them to have the best opportunities they can have.”

Mr. Hunter, who owned his own business before deciding he wanted to return to his first love – teaching in an urban school district – says his career in business has made him a risk taker.

“I’m not afraid to take a risk,” he says, something he wants to instill in his students.

“City kids give up so easily. They need resiliency, they need to learn, ‘how do I persevere?”

Posted on July 2, 2015