By Jacob Mathias
The Point of Discovery School, a new charter school in the Stevens Point Area School District, held a meet and greet on Wednesday afternoon to introduce new students and parents to the school and expeditionary learning model.
The classrooms are still empty at the former elementary school but the hallways are full of furniture and supplies ready to be installed once the school is finished getting a fresh coat of paint.
“In the decade that it’s been closed it has not deteriorated because the district has kept it up with the idea that it would always be used again by students,” said Jen Zach, PODS governing board president. “Although there has been a tremendous amount of work going on, it’s a lot of painting…more cosmetic type work. All the major functions of the building were in really great shape.”
Parents and students met Dan Lathrop, the lead PODS teacher who gave tours of the school and explained the expeditionary learning model.
Lathrop previously worked eight years for Arbor Vitae Woodruff School, an expeditionary learning school in northern Wisconsin.
The Point of Discovery School is a public charter school within the existing district using the principles of Expeditionary Learning. It operates without scheduled class periods and focuses on project-based learning. The model, according to charter school officials, challenges students to think critically and take active roles in their classrooms and communities- which they say results in higher achievement and greater engagement in school.
“It’s a much more authentic form of learning where what they’re learning has a real relevance to them,” said Lathrop. “A lot of times kids get unattached from school when they don’t feel a relevance and here everything that they do is very relevant to themselves. It’s authentic and it matters to an audience beyond themselves.”
Barb Engle, whose son is a new student at PODS this year, said she chose to enroll him in PODS as a way to better complement his learning style.
“His school year wasn’t the best,” said Engle. “His learning ability wasn’t complementary to the traditional classroom. It was a lot of figuring out where to make it best for him to learn and like school. I think it’s going to be a positive thing and make things better.”
Engle has another son who she said thrives in the regular school system.
The maximum attendance of PODS was increased from 50 to 55 students in May to accommodate all applicants but five spots have opened since then as enrollment dropped back down.
“Some students decided either to stay within their home school where they’re currently located and we had a couple of students whose families are moving out of the area entirely,” said Zach.
Another meet and greet will be held Thursday, Jun. 17, from 3-5 PM.