1st Graders Begin Work on Fairy House in The Outdoor Learning Center

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!

Kindergarten Heads Out for “Forest Friday”

Students in Ms. Stephanie’s Kindergarten class love Forest Fridays. They head out to The Outdoor Learning Center (adjacent to our campus) and spend time in the great outdoors.

On this particular trip they were excited to find worms, dragonflies and fairy houses.

Our E-STEAM Approach Has Students Out in the Woods

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.”

1st Grade Gnomes

Before school let out for summer break, first graders learned about using natural resources to make toys. They upcycled cloth and yarn and combined it with sticks gathered in The Outdoor Learning Center (TOLC.) Students sawed and carved the sticks to make gnomes. They learned about diversity by being exposed to the different mythical creatures of the wood- fairies gnomes and trolls. The students had a wonderful time and were assisted by Ms. Katie and parent visitor Ms Tina

Why does our school put an emphasis on gardening?

Back in May, third graders got outside to continue working on their fairy houses, condominiums, resorts, and playgrounds. Students choose to work in groups or alone to refine their architecture. These are fluid and change over time as their ideas evolve. In the process students discover unique ecology in the woods like weird charcoal growths on dead sticks, salamanders buried under the dirt, tree nuts sprouting into seedlings, winged queen ants, etc.

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.

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.

The beautification of our campus is a happy result of hands on learning!

Middle School Students Plant Pollinator Garden on Campus

In early May, 6th, 7th, and 8th grade students spent two days planting pollinator gardens in their garden plots. A pollinator garden is a garden that is planted predominately with flowers that provide nectar or pollen for a wide range of pollinating insects.

The flowers include sunflowers, zinnia, dahlias, marigolds, bachelor buttons, cosmos, and four o’clocks. The students weeded, raked, planted, labeled, and watered their new plants.  They look forward to seeing the seeds sprout and grow all summer long.

Checking in on 1st Grade Fairy Houses

First graders have been working on their fairy houses in The Outdoor Learning Center busily since school started this year.  This ongoing project affords rich educational opportunities for these young students.

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.

This spring these students have been learning about Earth materials. They have used the opportunity to go to the woods check on and repair their fairy houses.  Students are finding granite to use as countertops and floors. They have also found interesting organisms like gobs of slime growing on sticks.

3rd Grade Science — Life Cycle of Plants

Recently, third grade students learned about the life cycles and needs of plants. While working in the garden, students excitedly learned about a larval insect they discovered while digging.

Gardening engages students by providing a living environment to observe, discover, experiment, nurture, and learn. Plus, it’s really fun!

 

4th Graders Hunt for Four Leaf Clovers

Recently, students in 4th grade hunted for four leaf clovers as they learned about variation and adaptations in science. The students love learning science in The Outdoor Learning Center (TOLC) where they explore natural processes in the woods and learn agriculture in the gardens.

All About Bugs in 2nd Grade

Second grade teacher at The Learning Center Charter School, Stephanie Hopper, wrapped up a cross curricular unit on insects with her class earlier this month. Found online, Eddie the Entomologist sent the class friendly letters each day that included clues. Using the clues, the students then guessed what creature was the bug of the day.

Hopper was able to bridge the study of insects across all subjects in her class. In science, students learned about insect life cycles. Numerous books and interactive online reading texts were used by students for research and reading comprehension.  Plus, the daily letters from Eddie allowed the class to review and reinforce what they had previously learned about the composition of friendly letters.

In math, students used measurement standards to compare different types of insects as well as jumping distances.  Additionally, students put their STEM skills to use when tasked with designing and building their own insects.

Plus, these industrious second grade students wrote acrostic poems using descriptive words to describe insects, wrote a sequence paper on the life cycle of an insect, made terrariums with appropriate habitats for insects to live and did a drawing activity where they were guided, step-by-step to draw, label and color a realistic bumble bee and butterfly.

At the end of the all encompassing insect unit, students earned an “Entomologist Expert” badge from Eddie.

Hopper said, “These students could hardly wait each day to read the letter from Eddie and use the clues to figure out the bug of the day. Using their excitement about bugs across all of our studies engaged them thoroughly in each subject.”