About GEMS

Our Mission

As a member of The Graham Family of Schools and partner with EL Education, Graham Elementary & Middle School’s (GEMS) mission is to provide a rigorous and engaging education while developing a strong sense of character and community among a diverse group of learners.


The Graham Elementary & Middle School (GEMS) is a K-8 school serving students from central Ohio. GEMS was initiated and planned by the team that started The Graham School (TGS) and The Charles School at Ohio Dominican University (TCS) which form a group of schools known as The Graham Family of Schools (TGFS).  GEMS is grounded in the principles of experiential, real-world learning, self-direction, and connection to community developed and proven effective at TGS. It is supported and enriched by technology in all aspects of teaching and learning, as implemented at TGS and TCS. GEMS is also committed to its partnership with EL Education and its three dimensions of student achievement: Mastery of knowledge and skills, character, and high-quality student work. We address the important learning arc that provides the transition from elementary school to success in middle school, and on to success in high school, not only academically but in terms of character development and understanding of the communities in which students live.

Key features of the curriculum are that educational expeditions integrate content across the curriculum, address real-world issues, engage students with professionals in the field, and develop high-quality work through the process.GEMS is committed to the ongoing social and emotional growth of all of our students. Research shows that there is a significant connection between academic learning and Social Emotional Learning (SEL). Studies over the past 30 years also connect trauma, including the stressful environment of continuous, pervasive poverty, as a significant factor in many children's school struggles. Therefore, our entire staff is being trained in trauma sensitivity. Our SEL focus incorporates work in the development of daily, small group community advising, the use of Restorative Practices, and the use of mindfulness to equip our students with strategies, skills, experiences and mindsets to enable success both in the classroom and in their lives beyond school.

Habits of Learning


Habit Target: I can take charge of my learning, words and actions


Habit Target: I can do my best without giving up, even when something is challenging


Habit Target: I can complete as many drafts as it takes in order to meet the criteria of craftsmanship and high quality work on time.


Habit Target: I can be respectful to others and myself


Habit Target: I can work together with others to help meet a common goal through my words and actions.

Program Goals

  • Offer engaging academic expeditions including fieldwork and service-learning in which students are challenged to take on new roles and complete significant tasks with real impact in the community, emphasizing learning-by-doing with reflection in order for students to become leaders of their own learning.
  • Provide a unique and nurturing environment for students and staff to thrive in their educational and interpersonal development.
  • Construct small, interdisciplinary learning environments in which GEMS students apply academics to solve problems encountered in their real world experiences, expeditions, and traditional classes.  Through purposeful activity, students make the connection between the abstract and the concrete that is essential to true education.
  • Provide guidance and support to students as they transition from childhood to adolescence and in preparation for their transition into high school and beyond, establishing a clear path for success between middle school and high school.

Exit Goals

  • Learn how to transfer knowledge, make connections and therefore improve knowledge retention.
  • Learn how to analyze, explain and apply knowledge.
  • Learn how to make decisions and to work cooperatively with others.
  • Grow in individuality and diversity.
  • Become involved with the community as the learning environment.
  • Learn to increasingly take control of their own learning.
  • Demonstrate to others how the arts, humanities, math, social sciences and physical sciences are interdependent and enriching.
  • Demonstrate how technology supports learning and living.
  • Demonstrates how Habits of Learning contribute to academic success


In 2000, The Graham School (TGS) opened in Clintonville as one of the first public community schools in Ohio. In 2007, leadership from TGS opened The Charles School at Ohio Dominican University, an early college high school. The Graham Family of Schools (TGFS) then opened Graham Expeditionary Middle School in 2010 with 72 students in grades 6-8 in partnership with EL Education. In 2012, TGFS opened Graham Primary School with students in grades K-2 and added a new grade level each year thereafter. In fall, 2017, primary and middle schools merged to form a K-8 school Graham Elementary & Middle School, (GEMS) both continuing their partnership with EL Education.

The Graham School and Graham Elementary and Middle School are named in honor of Russel E. Graham

Russell E. Graham was educated in a one-room country schoolhouse near Zanesville, Ohio. Because he needed to work on the family farm, Russell could attend school only part-time during the spring and fall. In eighth grade, he failed the Boxwell exam [a qualifying test for high school similar to today’s proficiency tests], and therefore he could not attend high school. Nevertheless, Russell read and studied independently and as an adult became the state property appraiser for a federal agency. He then opened a real estate office at the corner of Torrence Road and Indianola Avenue. Later, Russell moved the business to the building he built in Beechwold on North High Street, where The Graham School originally opened in 2000.

Russell was a successful broker and a respected community member. He was also a lifelong learner long before we invented that term. With an open mind and a generous and adventurous spirit, Russell encountered the world, learned from it, and gave back to it.

Some of his accomplishments:

  • Traveling for 3 months around the globe at age 74
  •  Taking his teenaged grandsons to Africa at age 91
  • Learning to use a computer and computerizing his business at age 91
  • Learning to read music and play the organ at age 95
  • Having failed his driving test at age 95, practicing in his driveway for a year and passing the test at age 96.

When he was 94, Russell Graham memorized this poem:

The Man in the Glass 

When you get what you want in your struggle for self

And the world makes you king for a day,

Just go to a mirror and look at yourself,

And see what that man has to say.

For it isn't your father or mother or wife

Who judgment upon you must pass;

The fellow whose verdict counts most in your life

Is the one staring back in the glass.


Some people may think you a straight-shootin' chum

And call you a wonderful guy,

But the man in the glass says you're only a bum

If you can't look him in the eye.


He's the fellow to please, never mind all the rest,

For he's with you clear up to the end,

And you've passed your most dangerous, difficult test

If the man in the glass is your friend.


You may find the rest of the world down the pathway of years

And get pats on the back as you pass,

But your final reward will be heartaches and tears

If you cheated the man in the glass.

Contact Us
If you would like to contact a staff member directly, please visit our Staff Directory Use the form below to send us a message, or contact us in one of the other following ways:

Phone: (614) 253-4000
Fax: (614) 643-5146
Email:[email protected]

Graham Elementary and Middle School
140 E. 16th Ave.
Columbus, OH 43201

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