Pathfinder Crew Paints Rocks as Part of Earth Day Activities

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The Pathfinder Crew painted rocks as part of the Murphy Rocks movement and then hid them with care along the River Walk.  This was in conjunction with learning about native trees and water quality as part of their Earth Day activities with the Hiawassee River Watershed Coalition.

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Learning in the Great Outdoors — 6th, 7th & 8th Grade Fall Camping Trip

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This September, Learning Center 6th – 8th grade students embarked on a two night, three day camping trip to explore Cherokee history and the great outdoors. While camping in the Smokemont area of The Great Smoky Mountains National Park, students explored the area in a variety of different ways. At the Learning Center, we believe in hands-on education, and there is no better way for our students to learn than to venture out and spark their curiosity.

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The wonderful folks at Smokemont Stables led Learning Center students and staff on a four-mile horseback ride through a wooded trail. Students learned about local flora and fauna from helpful and knowledgeable guides. Students were taught the basics of safely riding horseback while exploring the incredible biodiversity of our mountains.

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While at camp, students adventured around the Bradley Fork Creek, hiking, wading, looking for signs of insect and animal life, inspecting plants of all kinds, and learning to fly fish. In camp, students were taught leave-no-trace ethics and pitched in to set up camp and maintain a safe, clean, and happy community.

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The group ventured out of camp to explore Cherokee and the many educational opportunities it offers. They toured the Museum of the Cherokee Indian, taking in a fascinating history of the tribe from pre-history to the modern era. Students also perused the Qualla Arts & Crafts Center, seeing a variety of local crafts made by Cherokee artisans. The Cherokee visit culminated in a traditional Cherokee-style meal of bean bread and roasted chicken with the fixings, served at the museum.

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Our students were also able to take in the history of the pioneer settlers that lived in the area that became the National Park. The Ocunaluftee Visitors Center features a variety of structures that exemplify the types of humble homesteads that dotted these mountains. From the blacksmith shop, to the pig pens, to the dove-tailed log cabins, Leanring Center students got a slice of local history first-hand.
Learning Center students take a camping trip at least once a year. We know that the great outdoors is a great learning experience and we love to see our students get excited about exploring the world around them. Find out more at www.naturallygrownkids.org/what-makes-us-different.

Why We Travel, or “Venture Out”, With Our Students

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Travel is one of many things educators can do to help students grow into well-rounded adults with perspective that extends beyond their own neighborhood. This is why TLC has a robust “Venture Out” program that aims to weave literature, science, history, and art with travel and real life experiences. This cross-curricular travel-study program gives students a broader perspective through new experiences.

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The VENTURE OUT program promotes trips to places and people of interest across the Mountain Region of North Carolina. Typical outings may include, but are not limited to the following:

  • Cherokee County:  Historic downtown Murphy including the trail of historic cemeteries; John C. Campbell Folk School, Brasstown, including resident artist hands-on tour and the Rivercane Wall; a stop at the renowned “Clay’s Corner”; a step back in time at the old country store in the Peachtree community; Walker Inn, Andrews; study of historic area schools.
  • Clay County: Finding fairy crosses, visiting the Ogden School as part of a study of historic area schools in the midst of scenic Clay County.
  • Graham County:  Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest, stopping along the way to explore a small portion of the Trail of Tears, Cherohala Skyway, Fontana Dam
  • Jackson County: Forensic Studies Field Trip to Western Carolina University
  • Macon County: Gem and Mineral Museum of Franklin, Civilian Conservation Corps, Wayah Bald, Nantahala Lake as a source of hydroelectric power, Glen Choga Lodge.
  • Swain County: the abandoned sites of Hazel Creek and Proctor; Deep Creek area of Great Smoky Mountain National Park.

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Additionally, VENTURE OUT works in conjunction with the annual Upper Grades Class Trip opportunities that are offered to Learning Center students on a three-year cycle, covering the 6th, 7th, and 8th grade years of our students. The three year cycle always includes 1) New York City, with in-route stops including Natural Bridge, Hershey Factory, or Gettysburg. 2) North Carolina Coast, with in-route stops in the Piedmont area. 3) Director’s Choice: This choice has included Charleston, Savannah, and New Orleans.

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Our students start their North Carolina studies in fourth grade. We like to say that we start Venture Out Junior at this point, laying the foundation for combining education with travel, using the world and people around us as a rich, educational resource.  Again, a cross-curricular approach is taken to social studies and history, expanding into a STEM to STEAM approach, including rich field work including such sites as Cherokee County Historical Museum, Heritage Park Cherokee Exhibit in Hayesville and the Clay County Museum. Students even venture into northeast GA to better understand the regional ties to a border state such as ours. An annual visit to Georgia Mountain Research and Education Center to experience the “Trees Program” is always a part of 4th grade adventures.

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Seen here, students in 6th, 7th and 8th grade traveled to Atlanta in May for a rich city life experience that included CNN World News Headquarters, Center for Puppetry Arts, a fantastic tour of the labs, classrooms and inner workings of the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University, a performance of Cirque du Soleil’s Kurios: Cabinet of Curiosities, a tour the Michael C. Carlos Museum at Emory University – focusing on the science behind art and artifact restoration, and Buford Highway Farmer’s Market, an incredible international food market featuring foods that many of the group had never seen before.

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The 2015-2016 school year also offered 6th-8th graders an opportunity for a three day camping trip to Cades Cove in Great Smoky Mountain National Park. Students rode horses, built fire, swam, fished, hiked and worked with Park Rangers on a water quality study of a local creek.  Outdoor learning is an integral part of a TLC education and tying it in with a further venture outward into our region taught students much about nature, science, community and self.

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Traveling is 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. Travel teaches tolerance, self-sufficiency, and resourcefulness. Without travel, students only see the world on a screen or in a book but TLC ensures they get to experience it for themselves.

8th Grade Ventures Out to John C. Campbell Folk School

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Back in early December, the eighth grade class spent a day traveling around Cherokee and Clay Counties exploring destinations that helped students understand what life was like in our counties in the not-so-distant past.  Eighth grade social studies has a strong emphasis on changes and growth in North Carolina during the past 200 years.  What better way to study than to look at some examples in our community?

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This day of exploration included a tour of the John C. Campbell Folk School where students explored gardens, saw classes in session and experienced demos from resident artists.  They also discussed the value of handmade goods and learned how the Folk School was created to support Western North Carolina farmers and provide a space for community empowerment.

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To learn more about TLC’s Venture Out Program use the category selector in the right hand column of this blog and select “Venture Out Program.”

8th Grade Ventures Out to Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest

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Back in November, eighth grade students ventured out to the old-growth forest at Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest. They identified trees, took note of the various types of fungus growing in all types of places and observed the various ecosystems thriving in the forest. 20151112_101109 20151112_101112

Students also saw the effects of the invasive Wolly Adelgid on our native Hemlock trees. Students learned that this critter has devastated the Hemlock population in the southern Appalachians.

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Annual 7th & 8th Grade End of Year Camping Trip

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You already know that outdoor learning is an important part of education at TLC. In addition to the fall camping trip that 8th grade students take each year, the 7th and 8th grade students go camping at the end of the school year as well. They enjoy the outdoors, learn a little bit about nature, cook on a campfire and share experiences and stories with their classmates in a new setting. It is not surprising that this year’s 7th and 8th grade students had blast!

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8th Grade Ventures Out to Forensics Lab

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Eighth grade students at The Learning Center! Charter School recently traveled to Western Carolina University’s Forensic Lab as part their Venture Out Program. They met with undergraduate, graduate and doctorate students in the WCU forensics department to learn about how forensics is used in solving crimes, learning about history and anthropology. They toured the lab and saw fascinating DNA extraction equipment. These eighth graders explored the processes of taking a small piece of bone or tooth and determining the DNA sequence of the animal or person that it came from.  These students learned about the art of dusting for fingerprints, lifting the prints and analyzing them.  They even analyze mock crime scene.

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The Venture Out Program offered to all eighth graders at the charter school focuses on exposing students to a cross-curricular, in-the-field study of our state. Over the course of the school year the eighth grade class tours many areas of the mountain region of North Carolina and spends time learning about and touring the Piedmont and Coastal regions through the Upper-Grades Class Trip offerings.