Our History

History, Mission and Vision of the Grand Rapids Child Discovery Center

We are a public school academy, chartered under Grand Rapids Public School District, serving students in grades Kindergarten through Fifth. The mission of the GRCDC is to continuously expand the potential of children, the experiences of educators and the involvement of parents within a diverse community of Grand Rapids, Michigan. The vision is to base all decisions on the principles of Reggio-Emilia incorporating current research on learning as well as developmentally appropriate practice.


A group of parents and educators, who had been working with and experiencing the Reggio Approach in the Aquinas College Child Development Center, decided to explore the possibility of opening a grade school so their children could continue to work and learn within the framework they had become accustomed. The Child Discovery Center enrolled 85 children in grades Kindergarten through 2 in its first year of operation in 2000. It added grades steadily until 2003, when it reached its full complement of grades Kindergarten through 5. Enrollment for the 2010-2011 school year is currently 225 students.

The elementary school which began as a result of this emphasis on engaging and rich experiences for the youngest members of society as they transition to the elementary years supports the goals of the local educational community and its efforts to promote and motivate learning and inquiry in all students. At the state and federal level, the school adheres to and addresses the standards and benchmarks set forth by the larger governmental entities and insures the success of all its students, whether targeted as Title I, 31-A, IDEA, or Title III, through the use of established best practices, family involvement and individual teacher innovation. All needs, whether they are socio-economic, due to learning differences, language-learning needs, or other factors that impact the school experience are attended to and addressed with equal care and concern. In addition, the school has a tradition of civic engagement and community outreach through participation in local events, such as the Grand Rapids Symphony, Art Prize, being a center for community activities, and a commitment to meeting the needs of every child and family who desires to attend.

The Child Development and Discovery Center is delightfully unusual in that its population reflects the ethnic mix of greater Grand Rapids. Approximately 47% of the students are Caucasian; the rest are a mixture of Asian American, African American, and Native American and Hispanic students. The students also come from diverse socio-economic backgrounds. Close to seventy percent of the students qualify for free and reduced lunches. The schools of Reggio-Emilia were created to provide quality school experiences for the youngest members of society from all segments of society. The schools in Reggio-Emilia are municipally run and open to all children. The GRCDC has recognized from the beginning that much of our strength and success is derived from the diversity within our population, and that diversity can come in many forms, one of which is economic.

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