First graders have been learning all about plants and what they need to survive. They have experimented with germinating radish seeds which created much excitement! They even transplanted their radish sprouts into the garden for a future fall harvest.
On August 24, 2018, the entire middle school student body of The Learning Center Charter School traveled to Pacesetters Adventures for a day of experiential learning, team building and confidence boosting.
The Learning Center’s middle school students are divided into six multi-grade CREW groups. Each CREW meets several times a week throughout the school year and are designed to build relationships and a sense of community. CREW allows students to have a safe place with peers to share both triumphs and defeats. CREW encourages peer facilitation wherein students take active leadership roles and teachers serve as moderators rather than leaders of the groups.
Pacesetters Adventures is a 44 acre campus located along the Valley River in Andrews, NC. The facility has a 60 foot climbing tower as part of its Adventure Course as well as a giant swing, a 200 yard driving range, putting green, multipurpose building, as well as fishing, camping and assorted gear for use on any sort of adventure.
While student CREWS were at Pacesetters Adventures, they worked on games that required teamwork and good communication to complete. Simple items like 2×4 lumber, ropes and tarps made for excellent challenge builders and provided the students hours of fun.
Charter school teacher, Jess Stephens said, “Our CREW concept is based on the idea that we are all in the same boat. We work together like a crew of a ship.” She added, “The staff at Pacesetters Adventures not only provided a great adventure for our middle school students, but also the basis to work like the crews we set out to be.”
Ms. Emily, Elementary Science and Outdoor Learning Coordinator, and Ms. Katie, First Grade Teacher, collaborate to bring education alive by tying in nature to lessons as well as providing students an education in the greatest classroom of all- the great outdoors.
Recently, the teachers had the first grade students flexing their engineering muscles by beginning construction for miniature fairy houses.
While in the woods of The Outdoor Learning Center so many exciting discoveries happen. Students find interesting animals like slugs, caterpillars. They find peculiar mushrooms and toadstools. They inspect the variety of textures of bark, sticks, leaves and roots. They compare and contrast and become enchanted with their experiences developing the story of their fairies needs and housing.
Press “play” below to watch how excited one student is about his work!
Ms. Emily and Ms. Katie were so impressed at how quickly this class adapted to independently working in the woods!
Third grade students enjoyed their first day back at school by exploring the sensory tea garden planted by the previous third grade class. They chewed on peppermint leaves and fennel twigs, and sniffed lemongrass and pineapple sage.
They also explored all the growth that has taken place in the vegetable garden they helped plant and maintain last spring. They found all kinds of peppers, herbs such as basil and chives, Roma tomatoes, chard, broomcorn, sunflowers, and African seed beads.
Murphy – The Learning Center Charter School, a tuition-free public charter school, continues to break ground with high-quality offerings in 21st century education. On-going facility improvements are designed for rich academic opportunities on this “future-ready” campus.
The Learning Center Charter School offers an E-STEAM (Entrepreneurship, Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts/Agriculture, and Math) learning environment. Students are exposed across the curriculum to 3-D Printers, robotics and coding. The school’s education philosophy includes the belief that all young learners have the right to experience a broad, rich, and rigorous range of academics during the formative K-8 years. Additionally, the school offers an award-winning nutrition program, daily P.E., unique electives and extra-curricular opportunities. The school’s emphasis on healthy living, community involvement and high academic standards is designed to produce future-ready citizens. This tuition-free public charter school (K-8th) has NO district restrictions and accepts students across all counties.
The Learning Center’s Montessori Blend Kindergarten program has proven to be a strong approach to instruction for even the youngest learners. “We’ve had consistent success with the feeder Montessori Program that is located on our school campus,” said school director, Mary Jo Dyre.
The school’s programs include Compacted Math classes for accelerated math students, daily PE for all grades, a highly developed drama program, and frequent garden-based learning opportunities across campus and in the school’s Outdoor Learning Center. The upper grade’s CREW Program, in its third year of operation, promotes character development, goal setting and responsible behaviors.
More extras including National Junior Honor Society, Odyssey of the Mind teams, ARTrageous and artists-in-residency program, “Mini and Middle REAL” young entrepreneur program and AIG After School Program provide students with the opportunities to become all they can be.
Designated as a “USDA Healthier U.S. School” (Silver Level), The Learning Center Charter School places a strong emphasis on its nutrition and exercise programs. The school also has a free breakfast and lunch program available for ALL students.
The charter school serves approximately 200+ students and is open to both in and out-of-county students. There is no tuition for grades K through 8th. The school also features a Montessori private preschool, serving ages 3-5 years. After school programs are available for all ages. Summer Enrichment Programs such as Innovation Tech Camp and intervention programs are also offered.
Third graders at The Learning Center Charter School traveled to the Georgia Mountain Research and Education Center in Blairsville, GA on May 11, 2018.
The Georgia Mountain Research and Education Center (GMREC) includes 415 acres of orchards, test plots, pasture lands, specimen and preservation gardens, historic sites and forests. The center is used by University of Georgia faculty to conduct ongoing research and education projects.
Students from the charter school visited numerous education stations and learned about the Appalachian Trail while at GMREC. They learned how to prepare for everything from day to extended hikes on this famous trail. They also learned how to identify animals by tracks and scat as well as how to “leave no trace” when camping and out in nature.
Kathleen Shook, third grade teacher at the school, said, “At our school, we take every opportunity to get out into our community and experience hands-on learning. My students loved being at GMREC and the trip helped them to become better stewards of the natural world.”
Fourth through eighth grade students at The Learning Center Charter School travel each spring as part of the school’s robust “Venture Out” program. Last school year, fourth and fifth graders traveled to Pigeon Forge while sixth through eighth graders spent three days in Atlanta.
These annual excursions are part of the school’s Venture Out cross-curricular travel-study program that weaves literature, science, social studies, history and art with travel and real life experiences. The Venture Out program includes travel across our mountain region throughout the school year and has included New York City, coastal North Carolina, Charleston, Savannah, and New Orleans in the past.
This year, fourth and fifth graders experienced attractions in Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg including Wonderworks, Titanic Museum, and Ripley’s Aquarium as well as Clingman’s Dome in Great Smoky Mountain National Park.
Sixth, seventh and eighth graders ventured to Atlanta where they explored the Georgia Aquarium, Buford Highway Farmers Market, Callenwolde Fine Arts Center, and the Fernbank Museum. They also enjoyed an Atlanta Hawks basketball game, the Martin Luther King Historic Site, and the Centers for Disease Control Museum.
School Director, Mary Jo Dyre, considers travel an investment in education. “It allows kids the opportunity to see first-hand the things they have learned and to put into practice the skills they have acquired. They gain a global perspective and a strong independence that no other teaching method can impart,” says Dyre. “Without travel, students only see the world on a screen or in a book but our school ensures that they get to experience it for themselves.”
Expeditionary Learning Coordinator, Julie Johnson, says, “Venture Out trips expose our students to a wide range of experiences across a variety of subjects, and create lasting memories they will carry into their future studies.”
Emily Willey teaches science to first through fourth graders and takes a unique approach to daily science class.
Students in these grades have an on-going project of designing, constructing, maintaining and improving upon fairy houses in the school’s Outdoor Learning Center. This is because Willey views the forest as an extension of her classroom.
Before beginning fairy houses, Willey takes her students outdoors to introduce a variety of science topics throughout the school year. At least every other week, students are outside learning and interacting with untamed nature. They see birds they don’t get to see in their backyards and find bugs, larvae, caterpillars, lichens, fungi, turtles and more.
For many years, the charter school has worked diligently to make their curriculum and campus an E-STEAM environment. E-STEAM stands for entrepreneurship, science, technology, engineering, agriculture & arts, and math. Willey introduces fairy and hobbit houses to her students with this precise focus in mind.
Students design these miniature forest homes. They find ideal building locations and search for natural building materials. They troubleshoot building techniques, learn how to use basic tools for secure construction, explore design principles, and experiment with sustainable building techniques such as building out of clay or cob.
Willey notes that these fairy house projects help students build on their engineering skills and says the project gives students a safe environment to create with no rules.
“It is helpful for students who are intimidated in a classroom setting to be outdoors and have unstructured play and creative freedom while interacting with nature,” says Willey. “There is no wrong way to build these miniature homes and to watch students who may be timid in class slowly come into their own as they get to build outside has been nothing but inspiring.”
Both kindergarten and middle school students at The Learning Center Charter School spent several days in early May planting pollinator gardens on campus. A pollinator garden is planted predominately with flowers that provide nectar or pollen for a wide range of pollinating insects.
Pollinators like hummingbirds, butterflies, moths, bees, flies and beetles are essential to creating and maintaining the habitats and ecosystems that many animals rely on for food and shelter. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, pollination helps at least 30% of the world’s crops and 90% of wild plants to thrive. Without pollinators, many plants and food crops would die off.
Students at the charter school have designated numerous plots on the campus as pollinator gardens. They have planted sunflowers, zinnias, dahlias, marigolds, bachelor buttons, cosmos and four o’clock flowers in these gardens. They have done everything from weed, rake, plant, label and water these gardens and look forward to seeing gorgeous flowers bloom all summer long.
Gardening has always been important at the school as Director, Mary Jo Dyre, believes that gardening engages students by providing a living environment to observe, discover, experiment, nurture, and learn. Dyre has built a culture at the school on the premise that gardens are living laboratories that encourage students to become active participants in the learning process.
School Outdoor Learning Coordinator, Emily Willey, said, “In this instance, students have learned the science behind pollination for insects, birds and plants as well as the importance of it for food production. The blooms beautifying the campus are an added bonus.”