Learning Nutrition


If you’ve strolled through the Dining Commons, you’ve noticed the bulletin board that features ever changing nutritional information for our students and staff. Recently, the board got a winter themed make over with help from students. Interestingly, one student wrote healthy facts on the snowflakes that she had learned from prior bulletin board information. Way to go nutrition staff and students!

Our Students Garden Year Round

gardeningatTLC Dec 2017

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.


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.


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.


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.”

As Seen in the Cherokee Scout: Tuition-free Public Charter School Offers Rich Program Across All Districts


Murphy – The Learning Center, a tuition-free public charter school, continues to break ground with high-quality offerings in 21st century education. On-going facility improvements – including a newly renovated dining commons – are designed for rich academic opportunities on this “future-ready” campus.

The Learning Center! offers an E-STEAM (Entrepreneurship, Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts/Agriculture, and Math) learning environment. 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 “Above and Beyond” programs include Compacted Math classes for gifted students, Flexible Grouping in Math, K-4 chorus and a highly developed drama program. The upper grade’s CREW Program, in its second year of operation, promotes character development, goal setting and responsible behaviors.

More extras including National Honor Society, Odyssey of the Mind teams, “Academics and the Arts” artists-in-residency program, “Mini and Middle REAL” young entrepreneur program and Writers Club provide students with the opportunities to become all they can be.

Designated as a “USDA Healthier U.S. School” (Silver Level), The Learning Center! 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 Learning Center! 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 “Engineering Camp” and Intervention programs are also offered.

For more information or to schedule a tour, call 828.835.7240. Visit www.naturallygrownkids.org, their blog (tlcgrowzone.org/blog) and FaceBook page (facebook.com/TLCGrowZonePage).

Let’s Turnip the Beet!


Earlier this Spring, these students harvested the beets that they planted as seed in the garden. Ms. Emily took them home and cooked them for the students to eat as well. Growing vegetables is an important way to get young kids interested in where their food comes and try new foods. Way to go students!

Learning Center Nutrition Professional Participates in K-12 Culinary Institute

Jamie Chapman, from The Learning Center! Charter School participated in a K-12 Culinary Institute regional workshop in Cherokee, NC in August. The goal is to enhance culinary skills and improve student health, well-being and academic success through nutritious, appealing meals at school.

School nutrition managers from across the state are participating in the North Carolina K-12 Culinary Institute. Jamie Chapman, from The Learning Center! Charter School participated in a K-12 Culinary Institute regional workshop August 2nd – 4th, 2016 at Cherokee Central Elementary School. The N.C. K-12 Culinary Institute, designed to enhance nutrition offerings, is funded by a U.S. Department of AgricultureProfessional Standards Training Grant received by the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction (NCDPI) School Nutrition Section.

“The K-12 Culinary Institute is a unique opportunity for school nutrition professionals to enhance culinary skills and glean tools and information critical to their important roles in providing quality, nutritious school meals,” said Susan Blomeley, director for The Learning Center School Nutrition Program.

The face-to-face and virtual institute was developed by the NCDPI, School Nutrition Section, and Chef Cyndie Story’s K-12 Culinary Team, in order to meet five core objectives:

–  Improve student health, well-being and academic success through nutritious, appealing meals at school,

–  Increase participation in high quality, enticing school nutrition programs,

–  Expand capacity of local school nutrition programs to purchase, prepare and serve fresh, locally grown produce,

–  Increase consumption of fruits, vegetables and whole grain-rich foods, and

–  Provide continuing education opportunities for school nutrition personnel.

North Carolina K-12 Culinary Institute graduates become chef ambassadors prepared to teach other school nutrition professionals at the local level.

The Learning Center has a long history of placing an emphasis on good nutrition as part of its overall mission – growing some of its own food for educational purposes that provide activities that support the E-STEAM curriculum (Entrepreneurship, Science, Technology, Engineering and Math).

Free Breakfast AND Lunch to ALL Students


Everyone knows the importance of a good breakfast. Bottom line, students who are “fueled up” with a nutritious meal are increasing the chances that their mental and physical stamina is up to par for a great day at school.

The Learning Center! Charter School joins more than 18,000 schools across the nation with assistance from a federal program called, Community Eligibility Provision (CEP). CEP allows schools in low-income areas to offer breakfast and lunch at no charge to all students while eliminating the traditional school meal application process.

Authorized as a part of Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010, CEP eliminates the burden of collecting household applications to determine eligibility for school meal programs and reduces the potential stigma associated with free meals. No household application means less paperwork for parents, and no worries about lunch accounts.

“For the school it means reduced paperwork and administrative costs,” said Susan Blomeley, Nutrition Director at The Learning Center. “There is no need to track unpaid meal charges and more nourished students are ready to learn and grow.”

The Learning Center’s Early Bird Breakfast Club was created in an effort to give every opportunity for all students to eat a healthy breakfast. Since early 2000, The Learning Center! Charter School has offered a Universal Breakfast where all students eat for free. The big news this year is that all students will now get a free lunch in addition to the free breakfast. The school will not take free and reduced applications this year, as all students will eat free.

Stone Ground Grits Part of Early Bird Breakfast Club

Nutrition Director, Susan Blomeley, is seen proudly displaying House-Autry Stone Ground Grits.

Did you know that TLC specifically sourced whole grain grits to serve at breakfast? House-Autry Stone Ground Grits are made the old fashioned way using granite stones. They grind the whole kernel of corn to retain the natural oils and produce a more flavorful product. TLC Nutrition Director, Susan Blomeley, likes these grits because, “These stone ground grits retain their natural germ and bran, which means they not only taste better, but also retain the antioxidants, B vitamins, and fiber usually lost in the refinement process.”

As an added bonus, House-Autry is a North Carolina based company!