Discovery Design Lab Offers Opportunity for Hands-On Learning

Discovery Design Lab Offers Opportunity for Hands-On Learning
Posted on 11/09/2016
CREC Discovery Design Lab

Deciding what materials to use when building a boat is not an easy task. Thankfully, CREC Discovery Academy second-grader Evan Vernali had the opportunity to determine whether fabric, tin foil, and other items would float before designing his blueprint.

Vernali, of Colchester, is learning about the engineering design process in his school’s Design Lab. Similar to art and gym, all 483 CREC Discovery Academy students take Design Lab, a weekly class that is being offered for the first time this year.

“We’re now planning,” said Marjorie Bruch to Vernali and his classmates during a recent class. “We’re getting ready to build.”

Designing boats is an activity that aligns with a unit the second-grade class is working on in science. They are learning about states of matter, and Bruch said she always keeps in mind what students are studying in their core academic subjects as she plans her lessons.

Design Lab exposes students to engineering principles, robotics, and coding at an early age, and it keeps with the school’s science, technology, engineering, and mathematics theme. While second graders are focused on constructing boats, students in other grades were working on different projects. For example, first-grade students are building bridges and fourth-grade students are building water filtration systems.

“It’s really great to get them in young,” Bruch said.

Vernali says he likes Design Lab and enjoys building things, especially boats. Laila Pejmanovic, a second-grade student from Hartford, agrees. As she worked on the blueprint for her boat with a few classmates, Pejmanovic touted her boat-making experience. She said she’s designed boats before.

“Some people might say, ‘why use a paper plate?’” Pejmanovic said. “We have a plan.”

CREC Discovery Academy Principal Kurt Stanco said he is excited about his school’s new Design Lab.

“The Design Lab provides us with the opportunity to make our STEM theme come alive for all students in exciting ways each and every week,” he said. “They engage in fun, hands-on experiences that provide them with many necessary foundational skills.”

The CREC Discovery Academy is one of 17 award-winning CREC interdistrict magnet schools. To attend the school, students must apply through the Greater Hartford Regional School Choice Office lottery. Lottery applications will be accepted through February 28, 2017.

For more information about CREC schools and the lottery process, visit

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