Fort Mill Times

Panhandle's gifted students offered choices

At Discovery School, a public charter school in Lancaster County, every child is considered gifted and talented. Applications for the school, open to all Lancaster County students, are now being accepted.

Discovery School, run by the Lancaster County School District, isn't an ordinary public school. The kindergarten through fifth grade school focuses on offering students a unique learning environment and uses a rigorous curriculum that exceeds state standards, according to leadership team member Tom McDuffie.

Each unit of study at Discovery School is taught according to the Theory of Multiple Intelligences, he explained. The method is there are at least eight ways to learn and to teach.

"It's kind of fun. You teach things in different ways because you know the students, your audience learns in so many ways," McDuffie said. "It makes things interesting for the students and teachers."

Discovery School also focuses strongly on teaching students about the arts and allowing them to explore their creativity. In addition to traditional programs such as music and drama, the school offers Visual Arts, Creative Movement, and Bodily Kinesthetics.

Foreign languages are also an important part of the curriculum, McDuffie said. Spanish is taught at all grade levels, and for four weeks each year, a Japanese intern visits the school to teach students about Japanese language and culture.

Even the discipline at Discovery School sets it apart from traditional schools. The school uses positive discipline techniques, McDuffie said, which include teaching students problem-solving skills and the importance of being responsible for their own actions.

Indian Land resident Dr. Dean Adelman's two children both attended Discovery School. He appreciated that the students at Discovery School received a "Gifted and Talented" experience everyday.

"It was great, they were very innovative," Adelman, a physician at Fort Mill Family Practice, said. "Whether you are gifted and talented or not, you're exposed to what gifted and talented programs give, so you get that exposure regardless."

One of the biggest benefits to attending and graduating from Discovery School, McDuffie said, is that students learn strong communication skills. From kindergarten until their final year, the students are responsible for giving at least two in-class presentations to their classmates each year. Those presentations are videotaped and really show how students improve their public speaking, McDuffie added.

"It's a great keepsake but it also shows their progress over the years," McDuffie said. "You'll find that most of our students aren't shy about talking to just about anyone."

Only 18 students are admitted per grade level at Discovery School, which is open to all Lancaster County students. Applications are available online at and must be returned to the school by Monday, March 31. If more students apply than the school can accept, a lottery system will be used.