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Plymouth unveils Discovery Academy

May 4, 2011

PLYMOUTH — Parents heard from Plymouth School Corporation Superintendent Dan Tyree — as well as Washington Elementary School Principal Michele Riise and her staff — about the corporation’s latest effort to bring Plymouth students the best education possible.
Those in attendance at the Plymouth High School cafeteria Monday night were introduced to the Washington Discovery Academy that will begin instruction in the coming school year. The idea extends the school’s approach of “project based learning” that will be introduced in the high school’s “School of Inquiry” in 2012. Extending the methods to Washington will allow students to experience project based learning from kindergarten to graduation.
“We’ve decided that we need to do more than teach our kids to answer short questions on the ISTEP test,” said Tyree introducing the group to the idea of the Discovery Academy. “We have to prepare them for jobs that likely do not even exist right now. It’s the (PCSC) board’s vision that someday all our schools will have project based learning.”
Tyree did say that the school will not abandon traditional classrooms.
“We aren’t going to stop doing what we do very well and that is teach our students traditionally,” he said. “We hear a lot these days that parents should have more choice in their children’s education and I believe in that fully. We’re providing a choice.”
Riise told the parents of her staff’s desire to become involved as the first elementary school in Plymouth to incorporate the method of learning. In the model students use technology such as Smart Boards, iPods and iPads to create hands-on projects that demonstrate core subject knowledge.
“We pledged to do this but we will not be allowed to let our test scores slip,” said Riise. “We will be doing everything that we can to be sure that our students are getting the same core education that they always have.”
Riise said that assessment will likely be an ongoing process that will occur at the same time that students are working on projects. She also said that the school board will work in conjunction with the Washington staff to determine who would be accepted to the Discovery Academy.
She said that it will not be a “gifted and talented” school but reflect the demographics of the entire corporation. To start, 25 percent of the seats in the school will be available to current Washington Elementary students, the other 75 percent will be chosen from those who apply from around the corporation and elsewhere.
Another informational session will be held Thursday in the Washington Elementary cafeteria beginning at 6 p.m.
Residents can learn more about the model for project based learning that the school will be incorporating at the Buck Institute for Education at www.bie.org/ or at Edutopia at www.edutopia.org/project-based-learning.

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