Pre-kindergarten student Emery Cruz, of Maryview School, catches feathers at Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools’ new Discovery School on Wednesday. (Photo by Susan Zielinski/Advocate staff)

UPDATED: Red Deer Catholic students participate in Discovery School

Outdoor and indoor play included at nature-based program

Pre-kindergarten students using their natural curiosity at a new nature and inquiry-based pilot program called Discovery School with Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools.

Based at Riverbend Golf and Recreation Area, pre-kindergarten students from Maryview School were going outside on morning Wednesday to feed the birds. On Tuesday they gathered twigs.

“They tried to discover and find, during a scavenger hunt in the trees, how many sticks they find. We sorted them by lengths and we counted them. The kids didn’t even realize they were doing math,” said Suzy Potts, co-ordinator of early learning, about Tuesday’s twig count.

Inside they were catching feathers blown into the air, used beads to form different shapes on a light table, stacked wooden blocks, and more.

“The kids are excited to come here every day.”

All pre-kindergarten classes with the division in Red Deer will attend Discovery School for a week during the pilot that started in January and ends in April.

The jurisdiction said Discovery School provides an opportunity for children to engage in meaningful inquiry and play. Research shows that authentic learning experiences translate into deeper critical-thinking and problem-solving skills, a higher level of thinking, and increases their vocabulary.

Potts said the division has been moving towards a playful learning approach.

“Discovery School empowers children to discover, play, engage, and embrace their natural curiosities about the world that surrounds them.”

The program also provides professional development for teachers and educational assistants.

“This was our dream to make this professional development centre come to life with their kids. We get to work with them for that full week.”

She said so far feedback from parents and staff has been great. If it continues to be a success, the program will be launched next year for all kindergarten and pre-kindergarten students in Red Deer as well as rural schools in the division.

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