Students use Boston Tea Party to Learn History, Science and Etiquette

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.

 

Why Our Students “Venture Out”

Fourth through eighth grade students at The Learning Center Charter School travel each spring as part of the school’s robust “Venture Out” program.  Last school year, fourth and fifth graders traveled to Pigeon Forge while sixth through eighth graders spent three days in Atlanta.

These annual excursions are part of the school’s Venture Out cross-curricular travel-study program that weaves literature, science, social studies, history and art with travel and real life experiences. The Venture Out program includes travel across our mountain region throughout the school year and has included New York City, coastal North Carolina, Charleston, Savannah, and New Orleans in the past.

This year, fourth and fifth graders experienced attractions in Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg including Wonderworks, Titanic Museum, and Ripley’s Aquarium as well as Clingman’s Dome in Great Smoky Mountain National Park.

Sixth, seventh and eighth graders ventured to Atlanta where they explored the Georgia Aquarium, Buford Highway Farmers Market, Callenwolde Fine Arts Center, and the Fernbank Museum. They also enjoyed an Atlanta Hawks basketball game, the Martin Luther King Historic Site, and the Centers for Disease Control Museum.

School Director, Mary Jo Dyre, considers travel an investment in education. “It allows kids the opportunity to see first-hand the things they have learned and to put into practice the skills they have acquired. They gain a global perspective and a strong independence that no other teaching method can impart,” says Dyre.  “Without travel, students only see the world on a screen or in a book but our school ensures that they get to experience it for themselves.”

Expeditionary Learning Coordinator, Julie Johnson, says, “Venture Out trips expose our students to a wide range of experiences across a variety of subjects, and create lasting memories they will carry into their future studies.”

What is a Charter School?

What Are Public Charter Schools?

Charter Schools are nontraditional public schools. One of the key differences between charter schools and traditional schools, or district schools, is the way they are governed. District schools are governed by a school district board while Charter Schools are governed by a board specifically for that school. As a result, these schools have more flexibility in their curriculum. This explains why you hear of some Charter Schools with a focus on the arts, science, technology, a certain culture, or a certain educational methodology (i.e. Classical, Montessori, Flipped Classroom). However, because Charter Schools receive public funds, they are still required to meet state testing requirements.

How Are Public Charter Schools Funded?

Charter Schools receive a per pupil allotment from the state, and they receive local funding from each student’s base school district.

Charter schools are eligible to receive funding for children with disabilities and limited English proficiency based on the actual population of such students in their school. Charter schools receive federal funds according to the same formulas as school districts. Unlike district schools, they receive no funding for facilities, buses, or food.

Report Shows Favorable Results for NC’s Charter Schools

The annual report on public charter schools published by the NC Department of Public Instruction found that charter school students outperformed their district school peers in several areas.*

  • More than 70% of charter schools met or exceeded expected growth.
  • A higher percentage of charter schools earned a School Performance Grade of an A or B.
  • A higher percentage of charter school students scored a level three or above on the statewide assessments.

*NC Department of Public Instruction, Report to the General Assembly Charter Schools Annual Report, February 2018.

School Kitchen Works to Reduce Waste

(From left) Chad Johnson, Alaina Wright, Hilary Dixson, Robyn Dyer, and Lori Anderson, kitchen staff at The Learning Center Charter School, work diligently to reduce waste at the school. This fun crew also goes above and beyond to provide a fun dining experience as seen by the Luau they threw for lunch last May.

The Learning Center Charter School knows that good nutrition is the very foundation for building better students.  The school also knows that reducing waste is equally as important for the planet.

For all meals at the charter school, students eat healthy, freshly prepared foods served on real china and silverware. All meals are eaten family style and the school uses as much food from local sources as possible.

Over the years, the school has won numerous awards and recognition by the NC Department of Public Instruction for its dedication to maintaining the highest standards in child nutrition including Award of Excellence, Breakfast Champion Award, as well as the Silver Level Award from USDA HealthierUS School Challenge Program, and the Twentieth Annual “Best Practice Awards” in the categories of National School Lunch Program, School Breakfast Program and Food Distribution Program from the Southeast Regional Office of the USDA.

In addition to the emphasis of healthy eating, Hilary Dixson, Child Nutrition Director at the school, is equally dedicated to the reduction of waste in the school’s food program.  This focus includes reducing wasted food as well as wasted resources.

Kitchen staff has reworked recipes to reduce general food waste which include items on the daily salad bar. With the “offer vs. serve” approach, students get to choose items they prefer to eat rather than food being plated and wasted.  The school adheres to federal and state guidelines that require some food must be plated regardless of preference.

“We take waste reduction seriously around here,” said Dixson. “For example, our previous use of to-go paper cups has been eliminated to cut back on waste. Reusable water cups and real coffee mugs, in my opinion, change the mood on campus and make school a homier place to be.”

Annual Mum Sale now through Sept 12

The Learning Center charter school has long been known for selling beautiful mums each fall to the community.  It’s that time of year again!

Locally grown by Robert Gouglar of Sunshine Mountain Farms, the mums are larger and longer-lasting than what local chain stores are selling them for. They cost $12 each and come in a gallon sized terra cotta colored pot. Brilliant colors of red, white, orange yellow and pink/purple are available.

The annual mum sale is coordinated by the school’s parent group, Parents Involved. The group uses the proceeds from the sale to purchase school supplies for the school.

The mum sale runs through September 12th and buyers then pick up their mums on September 18th or 19th from 2:30-5:30 at The Outdoor Learning Center on the school’s campus at 945 Conaheetta St. in Murphy. Look for directional signs on mum pick up days.

To buy a mum, call the school at 835-7240 or purchase directly from a school student.

Innovation Tech Camp Brings High-Tech Education to Campus

During the week of June 11-14, we were thrilled to host another fabulous summer camp brought to us by Steve and Debby Kurti of Innovation Academy. Students from TLC and other area schools got to dig deep into the impressive array of 3D printers, robotics, and drone technology that the camp featured. We are also thankful to Bob Merrill of BC Machining LLC in Brasstown. He lent his time as featured speaker to talk to camp participants and share the innovations he has developed over 35 years in business. Thanks to all who bring such amazing content to our Community of Learners.

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.”

Pollinator Gardens on Our Campus

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.”

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.