Drake + McCombs + Studebaker = Griffin Academy

Drake students work with students from McCombs Middle School and Studebaker Elementary School as part of the Griffin Academy.

The Griffin Academy must have been meant to be.

It all started when Nationwide Insurance came to the Drake University School of Education wanting to bestow a grant to establish an extended learning opportunity in the community. Drake then came to Superintendent Tom Ahart wanting to know if there were particular elementary and middle schools he’d recommend for an after-school pilot program with emphases in the fine arts and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math).

Ahart suggested McCombs Middle School (home of the Eagles) and its next door neighbor, Studebaker Elementary (home of the Lions). And everybody knows that the king of all creatures is a griffin, right? Half-eagle; half-lion; perfect!

Nationwide’s generosity will be spread over five years, this being the first. Many of the academy’s charter members sheepishly admit now that they were skeptical at first, and essentially told by their parents that they would participate. But now they feel differently and must be spreading positive word-of-mouth because there’s a waiting list for the second semester at McCombs.

Drake grad student Brittany Jordan coordinates the academy activities which include field trips and invitations to guest speakers. By design, the program is a public/private partnership in ways beyond just the funding source.

“The kids like the griffin part because of Gryffindor in Harry Potter,” Jordan said. “Some of them made their own t-shirts when we went on our field trip to 8/7 Central, a screen-printing business in the East Village.”

The academy meets after school on Wednesdays when dismissal times are adjusted but Jordan and her colleagues from Drake are otherwise involved at the schools. She also comes to McCombs on Tuesdays and Thursdays for purposes of “Book Blast,” a research project aimed at identifying particular topics and genres of reading interest for middle school students.

Visitors to a recent session found the group at McCombs working on stuff that was more artsy than scientific. In lieu of Halloween-themed projects the emphasis was on artifacts designed with Dia de los Mertos (Day of the Dead) in mind. Dia de los Muertos is celebrated on November 1 and 2 and is a Latin American sort of Memorial Day; an honoring of the dead.

Given that griffins are known for guarding treasure and priceless possessions, who better to keep watch at the resting places of loved ones?

Yep, this griffin concept was inspired. Pieces just seem to keep falling into place.

Photos of the Griffin Academy at McCombs

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