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.”

2nd Grade Earth Day Project from Spring 2018

Back in April, students in second grade completed an Earth Day unit. Through literature , technology, writing, and science, the students learned about the importance of caring for planet earth by recycling, reducing and reusing.

To complete the unit, the children completed a lap-book project in which they were able to showcase all they learned through a fun, interactive activity.

2017-2018 Odyssey of the Mind Teams Advanced to State Competition

The Learning Center Charter School fielded three Odyssey of the Mind teams for the 2017-2018 school year and all three teams advanced past the regional competition and advanced to state level competition.

Odyssey of the Mind (OM) is an international educational program that provides creative problem solving opportunities for students from kindergarten through college. Team members use creative problem solving skills in a range of scenarios from building mechanical devices to presenting dramatic interpretations of literary classics.

Thousands of OM teams across the U.S. and from approximately 25 other countries participate in the program. Students in the program work together as a team preparing for months before the competition. Team members learn valuable skills such as creative and critical thinking, global awareness, cooperative planning, and complex technical and artistic problem solving.

The charter school took two middle school and one elementary team to the Western Regional Tournament on March 3, 2018. One middle school team earned 1st place in their category and both the elementary and other middle school team nabbed 2nd place wins. As such, all three teams advanced to state competition.

The State Finals Tournament was held at Wingate University in Wingate, NC on March 24, 2018.  The middle school teams placed 4th and 8th and the elementary school team placed 9th.

Judy Coleman, OM Director at the school, said, “I am incredibly proud of all of our teams. They all performed exceptionally well!”

 

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

Muddy Sneakers Expeditions Part II

You might remember that back in March, Fifth Grade students went on their first Muddy Sneakers Expedition.  In May, they  had a fantastic time at their final excursion. They went to Fires Creek and studied Aquatic Ecosystems.

They had a blast as it was the perfect time of year to study ecosystems. They  saw every stage of a salamanders life cycle, a couple types of snakes, and found out how to check water pollution by investigating bug life in the water and so much more.

According to teacher, Ms. Jay, “Students absolutely loved this experience!”

5th Grade Science — Ecosystems

Earlier this spring, fifth grade students learned about biomes and had to recreate a biome of their choice.

They did these at home while the class worked on a PBL project (Project Based Learning) on Ecosystems in the classroom. Some students chose biomes based on what they worked on in class, while others created something completely different.

They had to include five animals, from carnivore to decomposers, three plants, and were encouraged to be as creative as possible.

5th Grade Learning About Real World Jobs

Back in May, a student’s dad visited the fifth grade class to talk about his jobs.  He’s both a mechanical engineer and a pilot in the Air Force Reserves. This was in line with a science unit the class did earlier in the year about force and motion.

He works for Snap-on Tools as well as serving in the AF Reserves flying the C-130.  He brought components he helps design for Snap-on and talked about how he became both a pilot and a mechanical engineer.

The kids were really impressed and asked great questions.

Living History Museum 2018

Back in May, upper grade students “opened” a Living History Museum to the younger grades. These older students each selected a historic figure and not only presented information about that person, but dressed like them as well. They essentially became that historical figure.

For this project, these upper grade students had to synthesize the information they learned to create an exhibit representative of their subject. In order to select pivotal events or recreate significant circumstances in an individual’s life, students had to research the person but also critically evaluate the people, places, and events surrounding them in order to develop a powerful exhibit. Deciding on a format, selecting key material for younger students to understand, and putting it all in context required active learning and encouraged creative interpretation. As they worked, students needed to understand the subject and the world in which he or she lived.  Additionally, this Living History Museum introduced younger students to subjects relevant to their history studies beyond their reading ability.

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!

 

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.”