Good Character Today: Good Citizens Tomorrow

Ms. Cheryl recognizes an honest student.

How often did you hear, “Honesty is the best policy” when you were growing up? Students at The Learning Center! Charter School are learning about honesty and other traits that define good character. The idea is to teach good character today to build good citizens of tomorrow– and live it at the same time. The school-wide Character Education program, directed by teacher Cheryl Catuto, focuses on one character trait each month. Catuto, who is also Research and Curriculum Coordinator for the school, created grade specific lessons and activities for all the teachers to use in the classrooms. “At the end of the month,” said Catuto, “we give out a special VIP award for the particular trait.” Each month, a different character topic is emphasized: responsibility, respect, citizenship, honesty, cooperation, caring, fairness, forgiveness and integrity. It is reinforced by each teacher throughout the month, as well as in electives, lunch and PE. “That is the beauty of the whole school focusing on the same trait,” said Catuto, “all the staff can encourage good character.”

Teachers help the students understand the character trait and then revisit them throughout the month. The teachers also refer back to the traits that have been previously covered. They may remind them to be responsible to turn in their work or respect each other. For example, the unit on “honesty” mentioned telling the truth even when it’s difficult. “One student found a credit card on campus that belonged to a visitor of the school, said Catuto, “he turned it in to the office.”  That student was awarded VIP Citizenship for Honesty.

In the upper grades, Character Education is introduced in homeroom or in “Middle REAL,” a middle school entrepreneurship program where teachers take a more in depth look. In Middle REAL, students focused on Citizenship and how students are part of our community, making our home, school and neighborhood a better place.

Fourth grade recently learned first hand about cooperation and their work is displayed on the bulletin board in their class.

Each month, a student is elected “VIP” for Citizenship, which is announced at lunch by director of the school, Mary Jo Dyre.  She emphasizes during her announcements how these students show great character. “We are a Community of Learners,” said Dyre. “Part of being a good citizen within that community are the social and character lessons that are emphasized as much as academics.”

The VIP awards are then sent home for the parents to see. The award winners are also in the office on the bulletin board.

Lego Mindstorms

At least once a school year Ms. Christy offers the Lego Mindstorms elective for students in fifth through eighth grades.  This year was no exception.  I was lucky enough to be around much of the construction of these Lego machines and saw them in action.  Grasping things with pincher claws, moving both forward and backward and even launching balls into the air, the things these students made with Legos was impressive.

More about National School Choice Week

This week, local charter school, The Learning Center! will play a role as local advocate in a nationwide awareness campaign by “National School Choice Week” (NSCW) supporters. The campaign takes place from January 23 – 29, 2011.

According to the NSCW website, The Learning Center! Charter School is listed among dozens of high profile organizers, charter schools and supporters that promote choice in education to provide options, flexibility to motivate students as well as allow parents to choose the school that is best for their child. Some of these supporters listed along with the school are: The Center for Education Reform, The American Federation for Children, Alliance for School Choice, The Heritage Foundation, Education Reform Now, and National Alliance for Public Charter Schools to name just a few.

“We believe our students deserve the best education in the world.” said Dana Bolyard, Social Media Director & Charter Advocate for The Learning Center. “That’s why we are adding our support to the first-ever, nationwide call for effective education options for every child – National School Choice Week.”

During the week, thousands of school choice advocates, teachers, students, organizations and leaders will gather all across the country to build public support for school choice so that more children can benefit from the promise of educational equality. “We have sent out informational letters to our parents and asked them to join the campaign on the NSCW website, as well as follow our school’s blog for highlights and information during the week.” said Bolyard.

Political analyst and former Clinton advisor, Dick Morris is also a big supporter of school choice. “I think the education system in the next 24 months will change completely in the United States in the direction of school choice.” Morris believes; “one size does not fit all and (I) believe families deserve choices.” A TV ad recently launched by NSCW raises awareness about our failing public education system and encourages people across the country to get involved and make their voices be heard.

In the past two years, charter schools have come into the spotlight in the school choice issue. In 2009, President Obama issued a proclamation recognizing public charter schools for their “…dedication and commitment to achievement in education. They are models of excellence and are promoting the interests of our children, our economy and our nation as a whole.” The proclamation calls on states and communities to support public charter schools and the students they serve. More buzz was created regarding school choice after the 2010 release of “Waiting for Superman,” a documentary film by “An Inconvenient Truth” director, Davis Guggenheim. The film analyzes the failures of public education by following several students through the educational system.

The Learning Center! was one of the first of 34 charter schools to open its doors in 1997 when charter legislation was passed in North Carolina. Director Mary Jo Dyre has always felt strongly that healthy, vibrant communities must offer school choice to its public. Over the past few years as The Learning Center! has seen an increase in enrollment of more than 25 percent, Dyre continues to be grateful that The Learning Center! is part of a community that places a high value on choice in education.

School Milk Campaign Victory

Food & Water Watch’s School Milk Campaign is working to give all schools the option to choose milk that is free of rBGH.  rBGH stands for recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone and is a synthetic form of growth hormone injected into cows to increase growth rates and milk production.

Food & Water Watch’s School Milk Campaign is working to give all schools the option to choose milk that is free of rBGH.  Please visit HERE to help spread the word and let people know they can ask their schools for organic milk or rBGH-Free milk.

It should be noted that Ms. Debby is continuously looking for ways to provide organic milk for students, staff and parents of TLC.  Currently, TLC gets it’s milk from Mayfield and although not certified organic, Mayfield milk is rBGH-Free.

2nd grade has Polar Express Day

Right before Christmas break, Ms. Ashley’s second grade class celebrated Polar Express Day.  Their whole day revolved around the book  Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg.  In the morning they read and discussed the events in the book.  In the afternoon the second graders boarded the “Polar Express” getting their tickets punched and receiving their special necklace with a bell and their name. The students watched the movie and were paying attention to how the movie and book were similar and how they were different.   Looks to me like they had a wonderful day!!

National School Choice Week

We believe all of America’s children deserve the best education in the world. That’s why we are adding our support to the first-ever, nationwide call for effective education options for every child – National School Choice Week taking place from January 23 – 29, 2011.

During the week, thousands of school choice advocates, teachers, students, organizations and leaders will gather all across the country to build public support for school choice so that more children in our nation can benefit from the promise of educational equality.

Please help us shine a spotlight on effective education options for every child by adding your voice to National School Choice week.  Visit  Become a member.  Show your support!

Social Media and Kids

Do your young kids see you on Facebook and want to join too?  Mine do but Facebook isn’t a place for young children.  In fact, the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) prevents websites from collecting personal information about children who are under the age of 13 without their parents’ permission.  Lots of kids get around this by simply adjusting their birth date when they register.

Clearly kids want to use social media.

TLC! fifth through eighth grade language arts teacher, Ms. Christy, pointed me in the direction of five safe social networks for children and I think they are worth checking out.  It’s nice to know that now I can point my children in the direction of age appropriate social media networks.  (Remember, you can always click on highlighted text to take you directly there.  For example, you can click on COOPA above or any of the numbered sites below.)

1)  Togetherville

2)  What’s What

3)  ScuttlePad

4)  GiantHello

5)  Skid-e Kids

To read an article dedicated to these sites visit 5 Fun and Safe Social Networks for Kids and, of course, check out the sites yourself!

Thanks Ms. Christy!

Fun things to do online over break!

Getting kids to eat healthy just got easier with ZisBoomBah a fun kids meal planning website.

At, kids can create their own healthy menu by dragging and dropping foods from each of the recommended food groups onto their virtual plate and then send it with healthy recipes to their parents.

In the Pick Chow section, kids create their own virtual meal, get scored on its healthiness and then can email it to their parents  . . .  but how about you email it to Ms. Debby?!!  Maybe we could even run a contest and serve the winning menu for lunch one day!  Leave a comment here letting us know you’ve sent your recipe to Ms. Debby so that we can all start looking for it at lunch at TLC!