Coordinator of inclusive education Suzy Potts proposes the Discovery School pilot project to Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools’ board of trustees on Tuesday. (Photo by Sean McIntosh/Advocate staff)

Discovery School pilot project proposed to Red Deer Catholic

A proposed pilot project for Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools aims to give pre-kindergarten students a more natural learning experience.

Suzy Potts, co-ordinator of inclusive education, presented the Discovery School pilot project to Red Deer Catholic Schools’ board of trustees at Tuesday’s meeting.

The pilot project would run for eight weeks in 2018. It would bring students from every Red Deer Catholic pre-kindergarten classroom in Red Deer to Riverbend Golf and Recreation Area for a week of Discovery School classes.

Over the past three years, inclusive education has begun leading teachers and children in the “direction of a natural and holistic learning experience that incorporates natural and calming tools, environments and experiences,” said Potts.

Discovery School would continue that direction by giving students the chance to learn in the natural environment at Riverbend, which has a banquet facility with many windows, a large forest area, an outdoor trail and, soon, a natural playground.

Early Learning Inclusion would pay $4,000 to book the space for eight weeks, which has already been worked into the budget — so there would be no additional costs for the parents, said Potts.

“Riverbend is extremely excited to have us on board,” she said.

One of the holdbacks Potts has heard so far is that some parents want their children to be learning throughout their time in pre-kindergarten. Their ABCs aren’t the only thing they’ll need to learn in the early stages of school, Potts said.

“Play is important to these little people so they learn how to socialize, problem solve and critically think so they can get along with each other,” she said.

Before children would attend Discovery School, there would be a parent information session held the day before it begins.

Dave Khatib, associate superintendent of inclusive learning, said there are hopes to expand Discovery School to kindergartens next year and to other parts of the division in the future.

“We want to make sure it’s not just in the urban area, we want to make sure we’re moving into our rural communities, but we get this together right off the bat … we’re extremely excited about this possibility,” he said.

There was plenty of positive reaction from the board following the presentation.

“There are lots of supporters here, so hopefully we’ll see them back in the spring for a bit of an update,” said Guy Pelletier, board chairperson.

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