Here at The Learning Center! Charter School we often refer to ourselves as a Community of Learners. If you listen to enough of our conversations you will begin to recognize that many of the adults that make up our school population are prime examples of being “learners for life.” One of the examples that comes to mind first is our Ms. Nancy: classroom assistant, Community Involvement Coordinator, sometime fundraiser, in general, the person who keeps us all informed about any and all seasonal celebrations and historical events. I often describe her as the equivalent of a full wing of the library when it comes to knowledge that she has gained through travel. Impressed as I am with her travels, more importantly Ms. Nancy has recognized the importance of instilling in her granddaughter an awareness of the world and the endless ideas that can be learned by crossing geographical boundaries. In short, Ms. Nancy’s example was my inspiration to provide travel experiences to our students. Several events of the past few weeks have heightened my awareness of the “Ms. Nancy personalities “of our campus that provide an endless sense of possibility and richness of experience:
Monster Mash is an annual event here on our campus that takes place the two Saturdays prior to Halloween. It seems to have a life of its own, growing, becoming, and most importantly bringing together a creative community that begins planning for the next year sometimes as soon as the morning after . The majority of the key people behind this event are already starting many of their sentences with “Next year, we could….” I love that I have a second grade student that never fails to ask me in November if I have a plan for the next Mash and to let me know that he has a few ideas if I need some. What an inspiration it was today to receive an email from one of the high school volunteers that helped with the acting in the Maze. She was so enthusiastic as to suggest that we do a Christmas event of some sort and that she would be more than willing to help out. It is my hope that Monster Mash continues to bring out creative learning in this community for years to come.
As part of their Venture Out Program, a cross-curricular study that extends the classroom into a variety of mountain locations, our 8th graders, some staff and several interested adults from the community headed out this past Friday for our annual trek to Hazel Creek, the site of one of many displaced communities that exists as a result of TVA dams being built. Although an early snow stopped us just outside of Topton, our “learning spirit” just could not be stopped. In the course of trying to make the decision as to whether we could possibly go on to Robbinsville and cross Fontana Lake on a pontoon, we had the privilege of talking to the aunt of one of our students whose mother was a Hazel Creek resident. A parent, Nanette Davidson, shared stories that her husband knew of the history of the TVA dams. We headed back to Murphy with plans to go to Hazel Creek in the spring. As Tipper Pressley pointed out, “That will give us a chance to see all the spring flowers that the Hazel Creek folk planted so long ago, especially the hardy daffodils.” Ms. Christy, writing and literature, was busy planning interviews with Hazel Creek folk and how community people could be used to enrich student learning in folklore and journalism skills. I also found myself thinking of other ways we could bring the “Hazel Creek history” to life for our students. What a productive learning experience and we never even made it past the turn to Robbinsville!
As a Community of Learners we create many rich opportunities for learning. Saturday morning brought another such opportunity in the form of an “adults only” workday on Project Creek Bank, an effort to rid the creek that flows by our school of invasive plants while leaving the natives to thrive and protect the creek bank. Tony Ward, with Hiwassee Rivershed Coalition, brought several helpers and joined with Learning Center staff and parents to make this a productive learning work experience. We spent a great deal of conversation time as we worked learning from Tony about the many plants that grow in this area. However, our conversation also turned to other topics including the postponed trip to Hazel Creek the day before since a couple of the workers had also gone on that trip. As it turned out, one of the Creek Bank parent volunteers is a Proctor descendant, with stories to tell of family members that once lived in the neighboring, displaced community next to Hazel Creek.
In conclusion, learning is contagious. It thrives on our campus. The examples are endless, from Odyssey of Mind volunteers and participants, to four more string scholarships made available recently, and so many more. I cannot imagine a day without learning. If you are not involved in a Community of Learners, I suggest you give it a try.