We are proud to share this post focusing on the Discovery School of San Antonio, an early childhood education program that invites children to play and fosters a love of learning. Look to the bottom of this page for links to more information about preschools, pre-K, and early childhood education.
For almost 50 years, the Discovery School of San Antonio has fostered a love of learning in children by letting them do what they do best: play.
“We learn as we play and play as we learn,” says Mary Stanchak, a former Discovery School parent who has served as the school’s director for 36 of its 48 years.
“We believe that children are learning all the time and that the way they process information is through playful experiences and interactions with materials, teachers, and peers. If you ask your children what they did at school today and they say, ‘I played,’ then we have done our job.”
Culture at the Discovery School
The Discovery School is unique in that, unlike most other early learning programs, it follows an academic calendar rather than a year-round program. Preschool parents choose from two-, three-, and five-day options that begin at 9 AM and end at noon, with extended day options available until 2 or 3 PM The kindergarten and first graders attend five days a week from 8:45 AM until 2 PM and 8:30 PM until 2:30 AM, respectively.
Another aspect of the school that sets it apart is the teachers’ longevity. The small staff of 26 has a combined 375 years of teaching at Discovery School between them—a true testament to the commitment and dedication to the school’s mission.
“Since our inception and for the past four decades, we have stayed true to our philosophy of joyful learning and discovery,” describes Stanchak. “Our teachers value that type of learning and are committed to our students, families, and staff.”
Curriculum at the Discovery School
Just because learning at the Discovery School centers around play doesn’t mean that it is a free-for-all. On the contrary, these children are meeting all the TEKS (Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills) objectives and then some. In addition, thanks to small class sizes and teacher/student ratio, educators can assess and meet students where they are developmentally and make any adjustments to the curriculum necessary to help a child succeed.
“Within any activity, a teacher can modify or challenge depending on what the child needs,” assures Stanchak, who adds that Discovery School students are not sitting at desks all day filling out worksheets. “We believe that students should be active learners, and we allow them to meet their goals and objectives through interactive play.”
Stanchak explains that the school follows a spiral curriculum, meaning that every year builds on the topics and skills learned in the previous year. They pull from various methodologies, combining Spalding Phonics with Lindamood Phoneme Sequencing (LiPS) and the Whole Language Approach to develop reading skills, for example. Science activities and labs are incorporated to teach STEM concepts, and motor skill activities are incorporated into every classroom.
“We have the luxury of not being bound by a particular curriculum,” says Stanchak. “We can pick and choose different approaches that may work in terms of the makeup of the classroom as well as what we believe in philosophically.”
Community at the Discovery School
Part of that freedom may be attributed to the school’s unique infrastructure. Discovery School is not privately owned, nor is it a function of a church or ministry. Instead, it was initially formed by a group of parents who wanted to create a school for their children. Today, it continues to be run by a volunteer parent board that serves primarily as the school’s fundraising arm and sets the school’s tuition and policies, including the disbursement of a dynamic scholarship program.
“We budget a substantial amount to cover tuition assistance,” says Stanchak, adding that it is partially need-based, with higher levels of assistance given to kinder and first-grade families. In turn, the scholarship families give back to the school through volunteer hours.
“We are not a franchise, and we are not governed by people who are not part of our school’s community,” defines Stanchak, who, as director, oversees daily operations. “That adds to the strong sense of community that we’ve cultivated here.”
Discovery school families are encouraged to participate in all aspects of the school, from fundraising to helping to orchestrate the many family-friendly events, which include traditions like the Fall Harvest Celebration, a spring campout, and grandparent/special friend day. And, because the school is multi-denominational, other festivities throughout the year may consist of the celebrations of different cultures represented in the makeup of the classroom.
“We invite the parents to share any holiday, holy day, custom, or tradition important to their family,” says Stanchak. “It exposes the children to a larger world view.”
Community is key at Discovery School, and from the parents to the teachers, and the students, it is easy to feel like part of one big, happy family.
To discover more about Discovery School or to schedule a private tour, visit mydiscoveryschool.com or call 210-344-3472.
Charter Moms Chats
Mary Stanchak is the Director of the Discovery School of San Antonio.
Read More About Early Childhood Education
- “Marvelously Made—The School for Young Children: Educating Children How they Were Designed to Learn,” San Antonio Charter Moms, April 25, 2023
- “Little DOers Preschool at The DoSeum Offers Early Childhood Education in San Antonio’s Premiere Children’s Museum,” San Antonio Charter Moms, April 6, 2023
- “The Acorn—A School for Young Children Provides Developmental, Child-led Education,” San Antonio Charter Moms, April 4, 2023
- “Guide to Enrolling Your Three- or Four-Year-Old in Pre-K 4 SA,” San Antonio Charter Moms, January 26, 2023
- “Together We Can Save Childhood,” Jennifer McCarville, San Antonio Charter Moms, January 25, 2023
- “Play-based Learning at JOY Holistic Education,” Adriana Becerra, San Antonio Charter Moms, April 19, 2022
- “Jennifer Semanko Shares Her Pre-K Teacher Tales from Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran School,” Jennifer Semanko, San Antonio Charter Moms, March 23, 2022
- “Pre-K Charter School Options and Resources in San Antonio,” San Antonio Charter Moms, January 8, 2021