Dordt College News

Discovery Days turns 20 this year

June 23, 2014

I can recall two events that solidified my decision to come to Dordt College. The first was hearing the Dordt College Concert Choir and knowing instantly that I needed to be part of it. The second was Dordt Discovery Days.

That was 20 years ago, and I was part of the very first class of DDD students.

Back then Discovery Days cost $150 for a resident, a big amount by a middle schooler’s estimation. I was sure my parents would need extra convincing to let me go. So I wrote a letter explaining to Mom and Dad that it was my dream to be a writer, that this camp—specifically this creative writing class—would be crucial in my development and would make all the difference in my future career. I also promised to do extra chores to help pay for the camp.

I’m pretty sure I didn’t actually do the extra chores, but I do know that Discovery Days started me on a path to where I am now: writing—at Dordt College.

It’s not surprising that other DDD students also choose to go to college at Dordt. But I was surprised to learn that 69 percent of DDD students decide Dordt is the right place.

“Seeing Discovery Day students enrolled as college students here is the most rewarding part of the experience,” said Dianne De Wit, DDD camp director.

Year after year, she’s witnessed continuous growth and improvement in the program.

“Every change that is made to the program is meant to make the camp as true to the Dordt College experience as possible, so students get a real taste of what Dordt College is like,” says De Wit.

Dordt College Sophomore Marta Vander Top says, “Mission accomplished.”

A Discovery Days student in 2008 and 2009, Vander Top says, “I remember how fun it was being all grown up and living on campus.”

Discovery Days was the beginning of Vander Top’s journey toward becoming a Dordt student. She and her roommate, Carly Tazelaar, met as seventh graders in a digital media class led by Professor Mark Volkers.

“We told each other back then that we would both come to Dordt as college students, we would live together, and we’d be best friends.” She laughs, because that’s exactly what’s happened.

Marta plans to serve as a Discovery Days counselor, teacher, and worship leader this summer.

The camp requires the work of people like Dianne and Marta, as well as “the entire campus community. Maintenance crew, dining staff, computer services, housekeeping, instructors, student services, Dordt student counselors, worship leaders, and anyone who welcomes or helps direct students to the right buildings. Everyone plays a role,” she says.

The instructors play one of the largest roles during the week. “They consistently find ways to get junior high kids excited about learning and engaged in the subject,” says De Wit. “They have been creative and knowledgeable, and they challenge themselves, year after year, to come up with fresh ideas.”

What began with 84 students who could choose from eight class offerings, this year draws approximately 230 students choosing from 40 classes.

“We continue to develop classes in new areas that students are interested in,” said De Wit. Twenty years ago, the original class lineup included math, writing, computer programming, theatre, baseball, softball, soccer, art, and science.

Today, DDD offers Beginner Web Design, Taekwondo, Theatre Troupe, Build Your Own App, Ooey Gooey Science, Character Kaleidoscope, Let’s Make a Movie, Master Angler, and Veterinary Science.

Drawing students from as near as Sioux County and as far as Canada, Japan, and the Netherlands, Discovery Days has helped thousands of junior high school students, like Marta and me, strengthen our skills, explore our interests, and develop our passions. We hope it will continue to do the same for middle schoolers for the next 20 years.

Sarah Vander Plaats (’05)

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