Our School Awarded $1,000 Grant From NC Beautiful

The Learning Center Charter School was awarded a $1,000 grant from NC Beautiful on February 13, 2018.

NC Beautiful has been part of the state’s environmental preservation community for 40 years, supporting awareness, education and beautification efforts across the state. The organization concentrates on hands-on and merit-based programs designed to empower North Carolina citizens to preserve the natural beauty of the state.

Since 2003, the charter school has provided outdoor education for all of its students.  The grant money will be used to enhance four outdoor learning spaces: 1) the front terraced garden; 2) a side garden plot; 3) the aquaponics garden; and 4) a new compost area. In addition to gardening tools such as clippers, shovels and gloves, additional mulch and soil will be added to the listed planting areas.

School Director, Mary Jo Dyre, said, “In this age where “screen time” heavily outweighs “green time,” we carefully craft a school day that allows our students to be outside getting their hands in the dirt as often as possible.”

Outdoor Learning Coordinator at the charter school, Emily Willey, added, “I am so thankful for the NC Beautiful Grant to provide us the funds to continue to maintain the garden beds and the tools to facilitate our spectacular outdoor program. These green spaces provide a much needed opportunity for our students to interact in a real way with the ecosystem around them while also gaining important skills and insights across their academic curriculum.”

Steve Vacendak, Executive Director of NC Beautiful, seen at far left, presented a $1,000 check to a portion of The Learning Center Charter School’s student body on February 13, 2018.

Our Students Garden Year Round

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Students at The Learning Center Charter School maintain a vegetable garden on campus which has them working in the dirt all school year long.  Kindergarten through eighth grade students at the school do everything in the garden from weeding, planting, watering and harvesting fruits, vegetables, herbs and flowers.

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Gardening and agriculture have always been important at the school.  Director, Mary Jo Dyre, believes that gardening engages students by providing a living environment to observe, discover, experiment, nurture, and learn. “Gardens are living laboratories where our students learn everything from team work to food production and lessons can be taught across the curriculum,” says Dyre.

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In September, students planted turnip seeds as part of their winter garden. In December, students excitedly harvested the turnips and learned that the root and greens are edible. All of these young gardeners were given a hearty serving to take home, while others eagerly ate their turnip raw.

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Emily Willey, elementary science and outdoor learning coordinator at the charter school, makes gardening a regular part of the daily routine for students at the school. “Playing an active role in food production teaches young people everything from agriculture to nutrition. These kids love seeing the fruits of their labor and are willing to eat unfamiliar vegetables as a result.”

Checking in on First Grade Fairy Houses

First graders have been working on their fairy houses in The Outdoor Learning Center busily since school started this year. Kindergarten, First and Second grade students all have fairy houses. It’s becoming a fairy village!

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This ongoing project affords rich educational opportunities for these young students.

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Imaginative play, self-directed skill building, sharing spaces and cooperation, engineering and construction, are just some examples. Plus, Ms. Emily is always sure to include science as part of the exploration.

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These fairy house may seem like all play . . . but much is being learned in the process!

1st Grade Outside — Introduction to Fairy House Project

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First graders recently learned that they would be building fairy houses in The Outdoor Learning Center as part of their science studies.  After locating forest resources and ideal locations they created the beginnings of unique homes in the local trees.

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Students will be working on this project for several weeks as they troubleshoot building techniques, learn how to use basic tools for secure construction, explore design principles – including incorporation of the golden ratio in their design, and try out some sustainable building techniques such as building out of clay or cob.

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1st Grade Science — Tree Identification

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First graders have been learning about trees. Part of their studies has included leaf rubbings as a means to learn about tree identification.  The fact that these students got to be in The Outdoor Learning Center and our own forest setting made the lesson even more meaningful!

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Taking note of the unique colors each species turn in the fall was fun. Sassafras was a favorite because the tree has three different leaf types.

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2nd Grade Outside Checking on Their Work

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You might remember that these industrious students spent time in The Outdoor Learning Center last year building fairy houses. Science teacher, Ms. Emily, gets all of her students outside as much as possible because the forest is an extension of her classroom.

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As students built these fairy house last year, they learned about the native flora and fauna found on our campus. They also learned about construction, design and trial and error!

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They’ve recently been checking on their fairy houses and deciding on repair, reconstruction or expansion ideas.

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Why are 1st Graders in the Garden?

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Students at TLC aren’t strangers to getting their hands dirty.  Why?  Because gardening engages students by providing a living environment to observe, discover, experiment, nurture, and learn.

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Gardens are living laboratories where our students learn everything from team work to food production and lessons can be taught across the curriculum.  Gardening encourages students to become active participants in the learning process.

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These first graders took time to plant radishes.  However, they weren’t just planting radishes.  They were also learning about energy that plants need to grow. They also deepened their understanding of how plants get nutrients from the soil to grow, flower and produce food.

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While they were in the garden, they snipped dozens of marigold blossoms in order to make garlands to decorate their classroom in celebration of fall harvest season!