By News-press.com, Christina Cepero, firstname.lastname@example.org
Be the first to hike snow-capped Marsh Mountain, climb the Bee Tree, cross the Chocolate River and traverse the Rose Bush Grove to win the game.
Kindergartners at Discovery Day Academy in Estero designed and created the board game, using a carton, cotton balls, pipe cleaners, cloth and paper. The exercise promoted creativity, engineering, design-think philosophy, mathematics and literacy skills.
Discovery Day will expand to offer first through fifth grades, building a primary school designed for its project-based curriculum. Construction on the two-story, 22,000-square-foot energy-efficient building is slated to start this August with an anticipated opening August 2015.
This week, the school was selected for a site visit for the Partnership for 21st Century Skills’ P21 Exemplar Program. Evaluators from Washington, D.C., will visit within the next two weeks. If awarded the designation in July, Discovery Day will become the first exemplar school in Florida.
The school aims to develop 21st century skills that prepare children for a rapidly evolving world, specifically the four Cs: critical thinking, collaboration, communication and creativity.
“We learn how to ask questions, form hypotheses, test our findings, report our data and, most importantly, test our research,” Head of School Elizabeth Garcia said.
She wrote the school’s discovery method learning model. “There was nothing in the project-based learning realm that was appropriate for the lower grades — preschool through early primary,” she said.
“Students in the United States have to compete for jobs with other international students. It’s not just national competition. They often say if there’s a shortage of jobs, students will be required to create their own jobs.
“We want to develop these learning dispositions and these traits within their personality from a very young age.”
The model incorporates science, technology, engineering, arts and math (STEAM). “In real life we have to solve problems where we have to kind of pull information from all areas of our knowledge base,” Garcia said. “In the real world we don’t think about subjects in isolation.”
The school has a Makerspace studio, which will be extended in the new campus featuring do-it-yourself materials and technology such as 3D printers where students can innovate, from woodworking to robotics.
“They can actually develop and design a toy, from the brainstorming to the fabrication of the toy, also tying in the marketing aspect — who is your target market?” said Garcia, who has an MBA from the University of Miami. “They are going to remember those skills because it is something that is inspired by their ideas.”
Garcia, 32, opened the first Discovery Day in 2006 in her impoverished hometown of Clewiston.
In 2011, she opened the south Lee County site. The existing building will offer programs for infants through first grade in 2014-2015 and house infants, toddlers and part-time 3-year-olds starting in 2015-2016.
A nature trail will connect it to the new building. Its ground floor will be for full-time 3-year-olds through first grade; the top floor will be for second through fifth grades.
The new building will have the capacity for 292 students. Classes will have 18 students with two teachers.
The classrooms will have garage-door systems that will allow rooms to expand so classes can collaborate on projects. One will open out onto a terrace with large engineering blocks.
The walls will have glass that shows plumbing and electrical wiring.
As part of the enrollment fee, all students in first through fifth grades will receive iPads they can pair to a large screen in the media center for group viewing. The library will feature a digital media wall as well as books in a two-story atrium with a retractable glass wall to avoid the glare of artificial lighting and let in natural light.
“We enjoy bringing the outdoors in,” architect Matt Joyner said. “Bridge interior and exterior.”
The physical education studio will also connect to the outdoors with a roll-up wall. Outside, a global playground will feature the seven continents.
The school’s outdoor edible garden and indoor vertical gardens and kitchen culinary lab with Chef Tripp Perkins serve the school’s soil-to-plate philosophy. Parents will even be able to order healthy meals to take home.
The school is partnering with Michigan-based Steelcase for furniture designed for children and interactive whiteboards.
A second phase will include a middle school and gymnasium.