Fifth graders have been learning about the different states of matter — solid, liquid and gas. Ms. Jay read the book “Bartholomew and the Oobleck” by Dr. Seuss pausing at the creation of oobleck. She then told them that they were going to create their own oobleck from cornstarch and water. The students had a blast and learned that oobleck is a “non-Newtonian” substance similar to magma.
Recently, eighth grade students have explored ecosystems near and far. They have focused their studies on Yellowstone and Great Smoky Mountain National Parks. In addition to the science of ecosystems where they learned of species extinction and reintroduction, they have also been taking a look at the politics and leadership roles within our National Park system. Seen here, students held a mock public debate between “US wildlife officials” and concerned citizens.
Fifth grade students were recently given the challenge of building a tower to display a 3D printed plastic skull in their classroom. It had to be 24 inches tall and hold the skull for 30 seconds without collapsing. Students were given 10 straws and 50 index cards to do the project. By designing, testing, and redesigning, students built impressive display structures and thoroughly enjoyed the project.
Second graders at The Learning Center Charter School engineer, build, test, design and troubleshoot every day. Why? Because STEM education extends to every student at the school no matter the age.
Second grade teacher, Stephanie Hopper, engages her 7 and 8 year old students with STEM projects regularly. This fall she will have her students build pumpkin wagons, design scarecrows with specific construction standards that the students must meet, and engineer “turkey hideouts” to avoid the Thanksgiving table. The activities are seasonal but also fit squarely into the school’s STEM approach to education.
STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and math. Our school takes it a step further by including entrepreneurship, arts and agriculture – E-STEAM.
Mary Jo Dyre, Executive Director, says, “Cultivating an E-STEAM culture is the guiding philosophy for our school and within that we offer an amazing array of learning opportunities for our students – each and every student from kindergarten through eighth grade.”
The STEM activities that Hopper integrates into her everyday lessons are a prime example of that approach. “My students plan, design, engineer, test, and reconstruct each and every day. It’s just what we do.” Hopper adds that no student is too young to be introduced and challenged by this approach. “I’m always encouraging them to expand and improve upon a design. I ask how they can make it better, wider, taller, or hold more weight. The students always rise to the challenge too,” said Hopper.
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 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.”
This week Fourth Graders have been exploring nutrition and what exactly makes up food. Here they are seen using an iodine solution to test for the presence of starch in foods. Starch is a type of carbohydrate. Carbohydrates are the main source of energy for the body.
They then went to the garden to collect natural materials like wood, petals, rocks and dirt to test for starch as well.
Third graders had no idea that they could learn history, science and etiquette from one project all about the Boston Tea Party. But, that is exactly what they did at The Learning Center Charter School in May 2018.
Emily Willey, science teacher, and Kathleen Shook, classroom teacher, collaborated to create an ongoing project based learning (PBL) project where students learned about the history and importance of tea. Students began the project by planting a perennial tea garden consisting of lemon grass, bee balm, various mints, and roses. Students researched the science of each plant as well as traditional medicinal properties of the resulting steeped tea.
Students learned that during the Colonial time period, Americans began growing herbs and drinking herbal teas as a patriot act in order to assist in the boycott British teas. Many of these herbs were native plants that had been used by Native Americans for both health purposes as refreshment.
To conclude their studies, the class held its own formal tea party based on what they had learned about Colonial times, traditions and history. Community volunteer, Sharon Nifong, taught the class about the customs and etiquette of “afternoon tea.” Students dressed in 1700’s era clothing and used fine china to taste teas made from their own herb garden. They even baked tasty treats using recipes from the 18th century.
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.”