Chesterton Tribune



Discovery Charter School finalizing plans for outdoor classroom

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A new teacher is coming to the Discovery Charter School, known by many as Mother Nature.

At Discovery’s Board of Directors meeting Wednesday, member Janine Girzadas said digging could start this weekend by school associates for an area measuring roughly 30-foot wide by 20 feet in length located a few yards behind the Discovery Charter School sign where the driveway and a service road intersect.

The work could be finished as early as Oct. 1, Girzadas said. The classroom will be able to seat up to 30 or so students.

Girzadas said she is still mulling the type of seating best suited for the project such as picnic tables or wood benches which would give it a more classroom-style feel. There will be a piece of slate that will act as a chalk board and the flooring will be done using water permeable pavers.

Another feature includes plans for a walkway from the cafeteria that could be mulched.

“I think it’s going to be a worthwhile project,” said Girzadas.

The cost for the project is estimated at $10,000 which will be met through a $5,000 grant received and funds raised by the Parents Action Council, Girzadas said. As of now, Discovery has not awarded the project to anyone.

Discovery’s Director Ernesto Martinez said no trees will be removed for the work but there are some branches that will be cleared away.

A second outdoor classroom is also in the planning stages. The board in February approved a concept by Discovery eighth grader David Dumelle who will be creating the classroom himself for his Eagle Scout project.

Board president Laurie Metz said Dumelle’s classroom will be a lot more basic but will take some time to finish.

All grades will be able to use the outdoor classrooms, Metz said. She said that the board has learned about the many benefits of outdoor education and how it stimulates brain development. The school already does many outdoor activities from math to creative writing.

“Having this space will offer a base station to take us a step further,” Metz said. She added that research shows learning outdoors helps children achieve better test scores, have stronger critical thinking skills and better social interaction with other students and their teachers.


In other business, Patricia Yadgir introduced herself to board members and outlined a new initiative to enhance professional development at Discovery. Yadgir is vice president of school administration and community relations for American Quality Schools which manages Discovery and nine other schools in Chicago, Indiana and Missouri.

Yadgir will act as liaison between the school boards and AQS.

This year, AQS will be working to help train its educators among the ten schools through networking and sharing teaching methods that have proven effective, Yadgir said.

Yadgir said the effort is being guided by a set of goals called the “AQS 6” which is set up in six different categories: Rigor, Relevance, Engagement, Choice, Character and Competence.

Working with these goals in mind, AQS aims for teachers to get students more active in the learning process and acquire skills and promote character for academic success and professional readiness, Yadgir said.

AQS plans to meet with Discovery and its other schools on a monthly basis for professional development.

Metz said Discovery sets aside Wednesday afternoons for professional development and will see how it can incorporate the AQS 6 initiative this year. She is interested to see what benefits there are for Discovery since schools in the AQS system are all “very different” from each other in character.

Fall Festival

Meanwhile, Discovery’s Fall Festival will be on Sunday, Oct. 6, and will feature a staff dunk tank and other games.

Informal presentations will illustrate to parents the mission of Discovery Charter School. The school’s Development Committee will also be there to discuss its “developmental platform” with parents and how they can get involved.


In his report to the board, Martinez said the “solid” enrollment figure for this year is 493 students. He said that there are currently 186 names left on the wait list across all grades.

The school added more students this year which helps erase the modest deficit that was seen in the new budget during the board’s last meeting. Additional savings were made when the school lowered its maintenance costs, Metz said.

Martinez also announced that the Indiana Department of Education plans to release ISTEP+ testing scores on Monday, Sept. 9, but advised the board that it is only a target date.


Posted 8/29/2013