Science and Math Institute (Tacoma)

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Science and Math institute
5502 Five Mile Drive

TypeHigh School
PrincipalJon Ketler, Kristen Tinder
FacultyApprox. 16 (as of May, 2012)[1]
Enrollment486 (2015-16)[2]
Information(253) 571-2300

Tacoma Science and Math Institute (also known as SAMi), is a public high school in the Tacoma Public Schools district. It is located in Metro Parks Tacoma in Tacoma, Washington. The school offers an integrated inquiry-based curriculum for students in grades 9-12 that combines the arts, science, math, and environmental and marine studies. It operates in partnership with local organizations, including the Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium as well as local universities.[3] SAMi also operates in partnership with other local schools, including its sister schools Tacoma School of the Arts (SOTA) and Industrial Design Engineering and Art (iDEA).

History and facilities[edit]

SAMi was started in the Fall of 2009, when they opened their doors to the first freshman class (of 2013). The school expanded by adding one grade per year and as of 2012 offered all four high school grades (freshman, sophomore, junior and senior) in its program. In 2012-2013 the school began accepting Grade 8 students for the graduating class of 2017.[3]

The school began with nine portable classrooms located near the Pt. Defiance boat trailer parking lot, in front of the parks maintenance and greenhouse facility, to the south of the Ferry Dock,the Tacoma Yacht Club and Anthony's Diner. In the summer of 2015, the portable classrooms were moved to Pt. Defiance's Camp Six, the former site of a logging museum. The old location of SAMi has since been dug out during Tacoma's Destination Point Defiance renovation process.

Aside from the main school buildings, the rest of the campus consists of Point Defiance Park and much of the downtown Ruston area, according to the school's staff. Student roaming however (usually only allowed during the student's lunch break) is prohibited south of Pearl Street area. This is loosely enforced.

Since its inception the school has been seeking to expand the effective area of the campus into the park and use buildings and structures in the park as classrooms. In 2009-2010 the school was granted access to the parks greenhouses for a plant biology class, which continued until the demolishing of the greenhouses in 2016. In the 2010–2011 school year regular access was granted to the Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium, the Pagoda and the historical Lodge.[4] It also holds its Outdoor Education class in the areas around the Fort Nisqually Living History Museum.[5]

SAMi was restricted from using the pagoda after an arsonist set it on fire in April 15, 2011.[6] The building sustained significant damage and the arsonist is now in custody.[7] The restored and renovated pagoda is still used by SAMi for classes.

In the February 2013 bond election, voters approved funding for a new permanent facility for the school adjacent to the Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium. Construction was expected to be completed by 2015, but the building was not opened until October 2017.[8] This new building, the Environmental Learning Center (ELC), is designed to function as an extra 8 classrooms and a learning space for preschoolers. During the summer, the Point Defiance Zoo will use it as an outreach space.

Mission and goals[edit]

"The mission of the Science and Math Institute is to provide a creative path of learning that emphasizes individual expression and growth through science and mathematics as central elements in academic achievement and life-long endeavors."[3]

SAMi intends to keep expanding its campus, including allowing students access to nearby downtown Ruston.


Many different types of classes are offered at the Science and Math Institute. Aside from the required high school classes,[9] SAMI offers science and art oriented electives. Students also are enrolled in classes earlier than they would be at most other high schools in the district and other areas.

SAMi uses a system that assists students with selecting the best classes that will benefit their future whether it be a career or simply college endeavors, which the administration calls "pathways". Presently the two pathways are 'Natural Sciences' and 'Physical Sciences'

As of the 2011 - 2012 school year, SAMi currently offers around 34 classes to students:

Classes Offered[edit]


  • Algebra 1&2
  • Geometry
  • Algebra 3&4
  • Trigonometry
  • Pre-Calculus
  • Calculus AB
  • Calculus BC
  • Statistics


  • Biology & Health
  • Chemistry
  • Advanced Chemistry
  • Physics
  • Marine Sciences
  • Advanced Physics
  • Astronomy
  • Geology
  • Anatomy&Physiology
  • Robotics (during-school and after)
  • Outdoor Ed. 1 & 2 (Physical Ed.)
  • Zoo Biology & Conservation
  • Mammal Biology & Conservation
  • Forest Ecology
  • Neuroscience
  • Exploring Computer Science 1 & 2
  • Computer Science Principals
  • AP Computer Science A
  • Exploring Technology (MakerSpace)

Humanities & World Language[edit]

  • Humanities (History/Language Arts/English)
  • World Issues (11th & 12th)
  • Spanish 1-8


  • Art 1&2
  • Animal Life Drawing
  • Digital Photography
  • Beginning Guitar
  • Men's Choir
  • Women's Choir
  • Samissimo (Audition only choir)
  • Painting 1&2
  • Botanical/anatomical illustration

Student services[edit]

  • TIME/Study Skills
  • BRIDGE/Leadership
  • "J-Term"/MiniTerm/MicroTerm (Interdisciplinary Arts)
  • "LEAF"
  • Independent Study

Students also can enroll in two classes per day at SOTA and/or iDEA by splitting the academic day between SAMi, SOTA and iDEA.


Students from the high school venture out to local middle schools and present their school to all of the middle school students in a massive presentation. People are told details of the school and how they can be part of it. The student selection process is simple. An interested person submits their application with their best school work under the graduation requirement categories and then are interviewed by a SAMi student and a staff member. If a person completes the application and takes part in the interview, their name is put into lottery system which will produce the next school years names, depending on how many new students SAMi takes that year.


  1. ^ "OSPI Washington State Report Card". OPSI. Retrieved 24 October 2014.
  2. ^ "Science and Math Institute". National Center for Education Statistics. Retrieved December 10, 2018.
  3. ^ a b c "What is SAMI?" (PDF). SAMI. Retrieved 24 October 2014.
  4. ^ "Lodge at Point Defiance Park". Metro Parts Tacoma > Lodge at Point Defiance Park. Archived from the original on 3 April 2012. Retrieved 24 October 2014.
  5. ^ "Metro Parks Tacoma > Fort Nisqually Living History Museum". Metro Parks Tacoma. Archived from the original on 2 May 2012. Retrieved 24 October 2014.
  6. ^ "Police: Point Defiance Pagoda Fire May Be Connected To Break-In". 2011-04-16. Retrieved 2012-03-11.
  7. ^ "Teen arrested for Pt. Defiance Park fire - KCPQ". 2011-04-25. Retrieved 2012-03-11.
  8. ^ "Construction Planning" (PDF). Tacoma.k12. Retrieved 24 October 2014.
  9. ^ "Earn High School Credit". OSPI. Retrieved 24 October 2014.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 47°18′11″N 122°30′46″W / 47.30306°N 122.51278°W / 47.30306; -122.51278