Bonita Springs News


Date ArticleType
4/28/2014 Member News

Discovery Day Academy Announces Plans for New 21st Century Primary School

Discovery Day Academy Announces Plans for New 21st Century Primary School

BONITA SPRINGS, Fla. (April 22, 2014) – Elizabeth Garcia, founder and head of school for Discovery Day Academy, located in Bonita Springs, has announced plans for a new campus, expected to open August 2015. The 21st century primary school will be inclusive of children preschool through 5th grade, with future growth planned through 8th grade.

Architect Matt Joyner is designing the new school, which will be built with the goal of obtaining LEED certification. The new campus will feature a two-story, 22,000-square-foot, 21st century building with a mixture of contemporary and industrial design. The overall environment of the school will be designed to support innovative pedagogy, such as project and problem-based learning and the 4Cs—communication, collaboration, creativity and critical thinking. The interior of the school will be bright and colorful, with classrooms that serve as private learning studios, collaborative areas for project work and various learning vignettes; the space takes the needs of all learners into account.

The school is partnering with Steelcase, based in Grand Rapids, Michigan, to furnish its new campus with innovative and versatile furniture designs. One of the classrooms will open onto a project terrace through a garage door system, allowing the indoor and outdoor spaces to connect. The terrace will provide an area for large engineering blocks and other learning materials. Grade-group classrooms will have the ability to open onto each other and the hallways through garage door systems, allowing for collaborative work and flexible learning spaces. 

A media center, the heart of the campus, will offer a 21st century library and research area. A large digital media wall will allow students and visitors to conduct presentations, focusing on communication—a college and career readiness skill.  Media scape by Steelcase will facilitate small group collaborative research to support project-based learning. Children will have the ability to pair their iPads to a larger screen for group viewing. Additionally, an area will be provided for traditional read-aloud and creative storytelling.

The new school will include an edible schoolyard, vertical garden and a culinary kitchen; a retractable glass wall will allow visibility from the media center. An island for children to engage in the culinary arts, will encourage creativity—a 21st century skill. Professional Chef Tripp Perkins—trained at The Culinary Institute of America in New York—will prepare nutritious meals and engage with students to support the school’s soil-to-plate culinary philosophy. “Meals will also integrate cultural foods, as an expanded palate is important in our globalized society,” said Garcia. “In the future our children will engage in business with cultures from around the world; it is important to be comfortable with many customs.”

A home-school connection will also be provided through the culinary program. The school aims to provide work-life balance to parents by creating a program where families can pick up their children and a healthy meal, having regular access to a private chef.

On the second floor, a research commons and adjacent Makerspace, will encourage innovation.  It is an extended version of their current classroom Makerspaces in their existing campus.  Children will engage with a mixture of do-it-yourself materials and technology through free design and project related tasks. “Creativity is the most sought after skill in the future workforce,” said Garcia. “We are creating a foundation by allowing children to make freely, according to their interests, implementing student-centered learning opportunities. Teachers will also use the makers space to encourage the application of knowledge through model making.” Materials in the space include crafts, recyclable and wood working materials, sewing, computers, 3D printers, small motors, LED lights and more.

The playground will be representative of the globe, evoking a multicultural feel, immersing children in cultural experiences. Each continent’s native flora will provide opportunities for outdoor science experiences. African heritage will be represented through a music area. Australia will include an art area, representative of aboriginal culture. Asia will include a koi pond and rock garden. North America will include a dinosaur dig site and elevated sand play. Europe will feature an English garden maze leading to a giant outdoor chess game; a European square will allow opportunities for outdoor dramatic play through houses inspired by architecture from various countries. South America will have a covered basketball court and gross motor equipment. A splash park will allow children to cool off during afterschool programs and summer camps in Antarctica. The playground’s amenities will be built in phases. A gymnasium is planned during Phase II of construction, in addition to a middle school.

Garcia expects construction on the project to begin this summer, with a nine-month building period. She said, “Our school’s new campus will observe 21st century architecture as it relates to innovative learning strategies. We will provide a private school setting with limited enrollment inclusive of 292 students from preschool through 5th grade, similar to those found in urban settings, such as New York City. As a previous primary and middle school teacher, growth through 8th grade is a natural transition in my vision for the school. Through talented, highly qualified staff and low teacher-student ratios, we will focus on providing education for the individual child. We create a family-oriented atmosphere that places our school as the center of social life and activity.”

Discovery Day Academy engages its students in meaningful learning through The Discovery Method, a project-based learning model developed by Garcia. The Discovery Method focuses on deep learning, authentic experiences and 21st century outcomes. Discovery Day Academy was founded in 2006 as an independent school and has since grown to include three campuses. For more information, visit


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