Education Feature: Discovery International School

Devoted to Young Children & Their Experiences

Finbar Burke

On behalf of our community, I wish to welcome you to Discovery: A school especially designed for children and committed to the growth and well-being of every community member. I encourage you to explore our Facebook and Instagram pages along with videos on our web site in order to gain appreciation of our unique emergent program.

We invite you to visit our facilities and meet our students, staff, and families, and see how our school has blossomed over the past 8 years into a thriving international community of dedicated parents, care providers, siblings, staff, and most importantly: happy and engaged children! I look forward to greeting your child and family!

What is your school philosophy?

Discovery is a space devoted to young children and the treasure of experiences and knowledge they bring to our school. We advocate for children as contributing citizens, assisting them in ways to find outlets to communicate ideas and take action. Our teachers partner with children to co-create and develop our school curriculum rooted in the children’s interests and inquiries.

Children are encouraged to learn through trial and error and to consider and empathize with the knowledge and needs of others. We are an emergent, play-focused school: Our learning spaces belong to the children, with teachers in the role of mentors to encourage each child’s developing understanding of self and community.

What do you mean when you say that teachers and children co-create the curriculum?

As an emergent program we do not yet have a curriculum in place prior to the start of each school year, with the exception of literacy and maths. Our curriculum develops each year with each particular group of children and the unique set of knowledge and passions they bring to our classrooms. Curricular projects emerge from what children, teachers, parents, and other school staff observe as a topic or theme resonating with a particular group of children.

An example of this is a recent learning project with this year’s four and five year olds that grew out of a hiking experience. The hike was disrupted when the children came upon a large pond which forced them to turn back, an unforeseen and disappointing occurrence for both the children and their teachers. However, a few children noted that the hike might be able to continue if they had a boat to carry them to the opposite shore. Back in the classroom and over the course of months, that experience evolved into an engineering project involving physics, mathematics, and art: children and teachers researched, tested, and designed boats made of recycled materials. A group of children also authored a story about a cat and dog who built a boat to cross a pond. The children are now preparing to test their final boat design at the pond, with dolls as passengers.

Our curriculum is co-created by children and teachers in this fashion. The nature of a learning project depends entirely on each particular group of children’s interests and experiences. Learning projects encourage children to explore multi-disciplinary content and to develop personal and social skills through play – a child’s natural way to learn.

You mentioned an exception in the curriculum for literacy and maths. Please explain.

Emergent projects are just one of our daily pursuits. We have dedicated sessions every day for literacy, individualized to each child’s developmental need with regard to comprehension, accuracy, fluency, vocabulary and grammar. There are also times for hands-on learning of early mathematical concepts, physical education, voice and music, and visual arts. We have optional courses and opportunities such as Japanese, swimming, pianica, and a homestay program in Australia.

What are the outcomes you hope for your students through your school philosophy and curriculum?

We strive for each graduating six-year-old to develop a comprehensive set of personal and social skills from a young age in order to be positioned for social and academic success as they continue to grow and face new experiences. For example: A proactive understanding of self and community; a desire to communicate effectively in a variety of ways; an ability to advocate for self and others and to empathize with differences; a willful resilience; an ability to ask and revise questions, to test hypotheses and learn from errors, and to know how and where to seek or find solutions.

What are the qualifications of your school and staff?

We are certified as a day care facility by Aichi Prefecture. Beyond classroom hours, we provide extended care for families who need such services between 8:00 am and 6:00 pm. Child care is also offered during school holiday periods.

Each classroom has two teachers. One is a native English-speaking early childhood educator. The other is an English-speaking Japanese child care provider (hoikushi). Most of our additional support staff are parents of young children. We are all committed to ongoing professional development in early childhood care and education.

What kinds of families send their children to your school, and what is the main reason they give?

In the eight years since we opened, families have enrolled from Australia, Brazil, Belgium, China, England, France, Japan, India, Ireland, Korea, South Africa, Sweden, Taiwan, Turkey, Ukraine, Vietnam, and the United States. Most expat families express appreciation for our play-focused program and our open door policy. We are also conveniently located for families who live on the east side, with easy access from Meito Ward, Nisshin, Seto, Owariasahi, and Toyota. Our Japanese families often express gratitude for our focus on the individual child, along with English development.

Where do students typically continue their education upon graduating from your kindergarten?

Most expat children and some Japan dual-nationals matriculate to elementary programs at regional K-12 international schools, for which we are able to provide counseling services and recommendations. Most Japan nationals and some dual-nationals enroll in public or private Japanese elementary schools. We offer afternoon continuing English courses for English-fluent children who attend Japanese elementary schools.

What is the inquiry and enrollment process?

Families who are interested in learning about our school can reach us through our online contact form or by telephone. From there, we arrange for an initial school visit to allow families the ability to view our facilities and have questions answered. When a family decides to enroll, we schedule an interview with parents/guardians about their child in order to prepare for the child’s arrival. Enrollment may begin year round, space permitting, for children from 1.5 through 6 years old.

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