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Discovery Centers Provide Academics, Enrichment for Students

December 23, 2020

Family night

Discovery Centers throughout the district are still going strong virtually this school year, helping students with their academics as well as providing engaging enrichment activities for families.  

Funded through 21st Century Learning Grants, Discovery Centers are located at Parma Senior High School, Valley Forge High School, Ridge-Brook Elementary School and Thoreau Park Elementary School and provide after school programming for students. 

At the elementary level, students are working on skill sets in math and reading, while at the high school level, credit recovery and tutoring are available. Both levels have family and enrichment programs to expose students to a variety of arts and crafts, sports, entertainment, cooking and other skills. 

Since the program is completely virtual so far this year, part of the enrichment programming has been virtual cooking classes in partnership with Cuyahoga Community College. 

“What we do is we partner with Tri-C and we have a chef from the culinary program teach a virtual cooking class each month,” shared Sandra DiFranco, 21st Century Learning Program Manager for the district. “We decided to create family cooking nights, that way it is more focused on families cooking together. They absolutely love it, and it has been a huge success.”

Cavatelli pasta with red sauce, macaroni and cheese, chicken fingers, dipping sauce, garlic bread, cinnamon rolls and fudge are some of the homemade dishes students are learning to make this semester. 

Staff from the Discovery Centers drop off ingredients, food and recipes for the students and their families to participate in the cooking classes. The grant does not pay for food, so the Discovery Centers have partnered with outside organizations to help make this possible. 

“Virtual learning and virtual programs can be very challenging, but Tri-C makes it very educational,” she explained. “We work on math with measuring, we talk about nutrition and we talk about the different ingredients.”

Cooking has always been a big hit with students, and the Discovery Centers have partnered with not only Tri-C but also Young Chef’s Academy and PCSD’s Nutrition Services for these opportunities in the past. 

Ohio Guidestone has also provided support and programming for students. For example, elementary students on a Friday this December got a special pizza delivery and played virtual holiday bingo. They purchased turkeys for every family in the Discovery Centers this holiday, as well. 

“They are really keyed into the emotional and social well-being of the students, which is really important,” DiFranco added. “Recovery Resources also has counselors who run some of the programs, so they help our students through this time, too.”

The program has been focusing on the mental health needs this year as well academics, and students are enjoying the time with each other talking about their day and what has been difficult for them, she expressed. Discovery Center coordinators and partners also get the kids up and moving.  

“It is a very big collaboration,” DiFranco shared. “We work with principals, teachers, home liaisons, outside partners and organizations. We are always looking for community support. When we go back to hybrid, we are hoping our Parma Schools Family can step up and share a talent or skill with our students.”

Please contact Sandra DiFranco if you would like to volunteer and share your passion with our Discovery Center students at