First graders have been learning all about plants and what they need to survive. They have experimented with germinating radish seeds which created much excitement! They even transplanted their radish sprouts into the garden for a future fall harvest.
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 grade students enjoyed their first day back at school by exploring the sensory tea garden planted by the previous third grade class. They chewed on peppermint leaves and fennel twigs, and sniffed lemongrass and pineapple sage.
They also explored all the growth that has taken place in the vegetable garden they helped plant and maintain last spring. They found all kinds of peppers, herbs such as basil and chives, Roma tomatoes, chard, broomcorn, sunflowers, and African seed beads.
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.
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.”
Both kindergarten and middle school students at The Learning Center Charter School spent several days in early May planting pollinator gardens on campus. A pollinator garden is planted predominately with flowers that provide nectar or pollen for a wide range of pollinating insects.
Pollinators like hummingbirds, butterflies, moths, bees, flies and beetles are essential to creating and maintaining the habitats and ecosystems that many animals rely on for food and shelter. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, pollination helps at least 30% of the world’s crops and 90% of wild plants to thrive. Without pollinators, many plants and food crops would die off.
Students at the charter school have designated numerous plots on the campus as pollinator gardens. They have planted sunflowers, zinnias, dahlias, marigolds, bachelor buttons, cosmos and four o’clock flowers in these gardens. They have done everything from weed, rake, plant, label and water these gardens and look forward to seeing gorgeous flowers bloom all summer long.
Gardening has always been important at the school as Director, Mary Jo Dyre, believes that gardening engages students by providing a living environment to observe, discover, experiment, nurture, and learn. Dyre has built a culture at the school on the premise that gardens are living laboratories that encourage students to become active participants in the learning process.
School Outdoor Learning Coordinator, Emily Willey, said, “In this instance, students have learned the science behind pollination for insects, birds and plants as well as the importance of it for food production. The blooms beautifying the campus are an added bonus.”
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
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!