Local AMVETS Group Donates, Invites Participation in Student Contests

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Mary Jo Dyre, director of The Learning Center! Charter School accepts a supply of copy paper from Commander Larry Reid with the Murphy, NC AMVETS, Post 2015, who spearheaded the donation effort.

The Learning Center! Charter School, like many schools in the area, face yearly challenges to keep basic supplies on hand. Take copy paper for instance. It’s a necessity even in our digital world. Earlier in the school year, Commander Larry Reid with the Murphy, NC AMVETS, (American Veterans) Post 2015, spearheaded a copy paper donation to the school. “Copy paper is one of those items that we have an ongoing need for on our school campus,” said school director, Mary Jo Dyre. “Of course, what captured my attention is that a group that has given so much wants to give back even more to their communities.”

Commander Reid invited the school to participate in the National Americanism Contests that are co-sponsored by the membership of AMVETS and AMVETS Ladies Auxiliary. The AMVETS website states, “The youth of America will be the torchbearers for the next generation and we can make a significant contribution in helping them to understand our rich heritage by taking part in our Program of Essays, Poster and Flag Coloring contests, with appropriate themes, in our nation’s schools.” The Learning Center is encouraging student participation in all three areas of the National Americanism Contest.

As one of America’s leading veterans service organizations with over 250,000 members, AMVETS has a proud history of assisting veterans and sponsoring numerous programs that serve our country and its citizens. Membership in AMVETS is open to anyone who is currently serving, or who has honorably served, in the U.S. Armed Forces from World War II to the present, to include the National Guard and Reserves.

AMVETS Post 2015 meets every fourth Monday at Penland Senior Center, 69 Alpine St., across from Murphy Public Library. For details, call Larry Reid at 835-7405.

Charter School Joins Advocates Across the Country for National School Choice Week


Local Charter school, The Learning Center!, joined 2.9 million charter school students nationwide last week in support of National School Choice Week.

Held every January, National School Choice Week focuses on increasing public awareness and empowering parents with the freedom to choose the best educational environments for their children. These options include traditional public schools, public charter schools, magnet schools, online learning, private schools, and homeschooling.

The Learning Center! celebrated National School Choice Week on January 22-28, with an on-campus campaign of awareness that included increased social media presence, placing posters around the school, and distributing bright yellow School Choice Week scarves and stickers. “This campaign has sparked many questions about National School Choice week,” said school director, Mary Jo Dyre. “School choice is the movement that offers charter schools as a viable option in education. We are a North Carolina Public School Choice opportunity for education and parents who are seeking a choice for their students’ academic needs have said YES to choosing our school.”

The Learning Center! is among many school choice advocates paying close attention to the annual event. “With more than 21,392 events across the nation in 2017, National School Choice Week is now the world’s largest annual education-related celebration,” said Dana Bolyard, Social Media Director and Charter School Advocate for The Learning Center. “And with School Choice, more parents have the opportunity to choose motivating, challenging, and effective educational environments for their children than ever before.” The school was awarded a School Choice Leadership award last week in recognition of its dedication to providing all children with access to effective education options and it’s participation in the 2017 National School Choice Week.

Started in 2011, National School Choice Week is a nonpartisan, nonpolitical public awareness effort. Advocates for school choice believe that education is not “one size fits all” because not all children learn the same and therefore every child, and their parents, should have the opportunity to choose the best education to suit their needs.

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.

From Pokemon to Pottery, Learning Center Offers Unique Variety of Electives

unnamedThe Learning Center! Charter School continues to break ground with innovations that present parents and their students with high-quality offerings in 21st century education.

The tuition-free charter school offers unique electives to enrich the curriculum with an E-STEAM learning environment. (E-STEAM is an acronym for Entrepreneurship, Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts/Agriculture, and Math.)  The Learning Center’s offerings for electives are vast for an area the size of Murphy, NC. Some examples include two “purposeful project making” courses in P.E. taught by Shelly Crawford, that offers a boot camp course and a course in which students create flags and jerseys for flag football.

Another example of the school’s electives, “Pop culture creations” encourages students to use Pinterest-inspired ideas to create crafts, activities and art that are inspired by their favorite pop culture themes such as Harry Potter, Mindcraft, Pokémon, Dr. Who and more.

Students interested in math would enjoy the Art/Math elective that uses the principals of math to create art. Science teacher, Jess Karageanes claims art skills are not necessary to create art the mathematical way. Another elective called, “Behind the Scenes Make-up” is taught by Ms. Heidi LaCentra who has over 15 years of experience working in theater in Florida.

The school also has a local jewelry maker and staff member, Cindy Brockway, who leads a group in a jewelry making elective. She will assist in setting up a business so the students can sell their creations at the May Art Walk in downtown Murphy.

Pokémon has been a hit this year with students as well as adults and students will have the opportunity to use Pokémon cards and explore the art behind the characters during this elective. They may even get to take a trip and search for digital Pokémon in downtown Murphy.

Other electives include a book club to spend time studying the written arts, a drama and theater arts elective, and for those who like to get their hands dirty, an aquaponics elective that involves growing plant life without soil. Students have many other choices including pottery, art & design, web design, knitting and crochet, hiking, forest management, puppetry, primative skills, coding, chess, cooking, and many more.

Ahoy Matey! GrowZone Players Ready for Pirate Themed Spring Musical


The Learning Center! Charter School’s drama group, “The GrowZone Players” is “battening down the hatches” in preparation for this year’s upcoming spring musical, The Adventures of the Fearsome Pirate Frank.” Auditions were held Dec. 7th and 8th and set-building will begin soon.

The musical centers around a teenage actor who is the star of a popular pirate play – The Fearsome Pirate Frank – who can’t for the life of him remember his lines! When the actor playing Frank, and his supporting cast get kidnapped by real pirates during one of their productions, it’s good-bye stardom, hello servitude on a real pirate ship!

Rehearsals will begin soon and culminate in the performances on May 4th, 5th and 6th. Drama director Ryan Bender, along with stage manager, Cheryl Catuto and music director, Judy Coleman are incredibly excited and enthusiastic about the students and the performances. “We are planning some pretty spectacular things for the set design this year,” said Bender.

The musical will be performed in the gymnatorium on The Learning Center! campus. Proceeds from the musical support the Learning Center’s drama program and the GrowZone Players. Tickets will be available to the public soon.

Sow True Seed offers Seed Giveaway for School Gardens

The Learning Center nutrition director, Susan Blomeley (left) with Vanessa Horton, Programs Director at Sow True Seed. Blomeley was able to select 50 seed packets free of charge for The Learning Center’s garden project.

The Learning Center! Charter School has a long history of dedication to good nutrition and garden-based learning. The school’s garden program, which includes a terraced garden and greenhouse, got a boost from an Asheville-based seed company. On November 29th, Sow True Seed opened its doors to schools with garden projects to shop for 50 seed packets at no charge. According to Sow True Seed’s website, their intention is to support growers of the future. “The growers of the future are our future. By seeding young minds with excitement and enthusiasm for a greener world, we can grow a better world.”

The Learning Center nutrition director, Susan Blomeley traveled to Asheville, equipped with a wish list for spring and fall greens, a variety of squashes, pumpkins, and gourds, as well as summer flowers to support pollinators. Science teacher, Emily Willey who coordinates the school’s Outdoor Learning program, works closely with students throughout the year planning and cultivating the gardens and greenhouse.

Founded in 2008 by lifelong gardener and food activist Carol Koury, Sow True Seed provides open-pollinated, heirloom and organic vegetable, herb, and flower seeds to enthusiastic home gardeners and small market farmers.

Sow True Seed is working with Growing Minds Farm to School program to encourage more school gardens to flourish. Growing Minds is a program of Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project (ASAP). The School Seed Giveaway is a fantastic event for teachers and school garden coordinators to not only get resources for their school gardens, but also to connect with a wonderful community partner and school garden supporter, Sow True Seed,” says Jessica Sparks-Mussulin, Growing Minds Program Coordinator.

To Learn more, visit www.sowtrueseed.com.

Annual Home Town Christmas Parade


The Learning Center! Charter School has a long history of supporting arts in the community with art-inspired floats it enters in the Home Town Christmas Parade each year.

Director of the school, Mary Jo Dyre explained, “The Learning Center! Charter School is committed to the arts and to our Community of Learners. Our annual entry in the Murphy Home Town Christmas Parade places emphasis on these two commitments.”

The Learning Center has won many awards over the years for their floats, including “Best in Show” in 2011. Said Dyre, “Our priority to support the arts, also includes performing arts, in both Cherokee and Clay Counties. We are so grateful to our community volunteers, students and parents.”


Learning Center Nutrition Professional Participates in K-12 Culinary Institute

Jamie Chapman, from The Learning Center! Charter School participated in a K-12 Culinary Institute regional workshop in Cherokee, NC in August. The goal is to enhance culinary skills and improve student health, well-being and academic success through nutritious, appealing meals at school.

School nutrition managers from across the state are participating in the North Carolina K-12 Culinary Institute. Jamie Chapman, from The Learning Center! Charter School participated in a K-12 Culinary Institute regional workshop August 2nd – 4th, 2016 at Cherokee Central Elementary School. The N.C. K-12 Culinary Institute, designed to enhance nutrition offerings, is funded by a U.S. Department of AgricultureProfessional Standards Training Grant received by the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction (NCDPI) School Nutrition Section.

“The K-12 Culinary Institute is a unique opportunity for school nutrition professionals to enhance culinary skills and glean tools and information critical to their important roles in providing quality, nutritious school meals,” said Susan Blomeley, director for The Learning Center School Nutrition Program.

The face-to-face and virtual institute was developed by the NCDPI, School Nutrition Section, and Chef Cyndie Story’s K-12 Culinary Team, in order to meet five core objectives:

–  Improve student health, well-being and academic success through nutritious, appealing meals at school,

–  Increase participation in high quality, enticing school nutrition programs,

–  Expand capacity of local school nutrition programs to purchase, prepare and serve fresh, locally grown produce,

–  Increase consumption of fruits, vegetables and whole grain-rich foods, and

–  Provide continuing education opportunities for school nutrition personnel.

North Carolina K-12 Culinary Institute graduates become chef ambassadors prepared to teach other school nutrition professionals at the local level.

The Learning Center has a long history of placing an emphasis on good nutrition as part of its overall mission – growing some of its own food for educational purposes that provide activities that support the E-STEAM curriculum (Entrepreneurship, Science, Technology, Engineering and Math).

Alphabet Exchange Brings World Closer


Learning Center! Charter School kindergartners are learning about the alphabet via a global collaboration with students from around the world. The Alphabet Exchange program has hundreds of participating classrooms in the United States, Canada and other parts of the globe. Each participating class is assigned a group of 26 different classrooms around the country –one for each letter of the alphabet. The Learning Center kindergarten class was assigned the letter “E”. The school’s assigned group of collaborating classrooms included ones from California, Iowa, Ohio, Georgia and one from Canada, to name a few.

Each classroom is tasked to decorate 26 copies of their assigned letter.  The Learning Center kindergartners and teacher, Monica Gatti chose to make their letter, “E” look like an Elephant. The inspiration came from a book they read called, Elmer the Elephant, by David McKee, about a colorful patchwork elephant who is different from all the rest of the elephants.

“In addition to decorating the letter “E”, we wrote a letter describing our class, our town and community,” said Gatti. “We sent out all of our decorated “E” letters and written letters to the other classrooms nationwide and now we are receiving theirs.”

The goal for this Alphabet Exchange is for each participating class to have a full set of decorated letters from A to Z and for students to hear from their peers in other parts of the country and the world.

“We are really enjoying receiving the mail,” said Gatti. “We are mapping where each letter is coming from and learning about each location. This is an exciting way for students to learn the alphabet and connect with other students in a global way.”

The interdisciplinary project ties together kindergarten social studies, language, reading, and writing standards.img_20160908_135701963

Arts Gala at School Raises Money for Risers


If you enjoy supporting the arts in our community, you’ll want to save the date for an Arts Gala presented by The Learning Center! Charter School.

On November 4, the school will open to the public for their first Arts Gala with the goal of raising money to purchase risers and staging for the school’s auditorium. The auditorium space, built last year, is part of a multi-purpose space used for drama productions and other school functions.

The Arts Gala will begin at 6:00pm with hors d’oeuvres, a walk through of the school’s gallery featuring student, teacher and staff art as well as works from elective courses.

In addition, The GrowZone Players, the school’s drama group, will put on a “One Act” play called, called “The Outlaws of Candy Kitchen, or, Bonney the Kid Rides Again” and is a western-themed melodrama about the “Real Bonney the kid – which happens to be a girl in this story.

“Pre-sale tickets will be available soon for $15,” said school drama director, Ryan Bender, “and all proceeds will help us reach our goal of $25,000 for stage risers used for all productions and school functions.”

Facilities Improvements Continue at Charter School


2As the dust settled just in time for the start of the new school year, The Learning Center! Charter School completed another building improvement project. The  newly renovated Dining Commons got a facelift inside and out that students, faculty and parents will enjoy for years to come. The school added a new first aid station to the list of upgrades for the improvement project. Last year, the school completed the construction of a “Gymnatorium” that includes two P.E. workout areas and a stage for drama events. 20160808_075401The school contracted with Denny Laney for the exterior renovation and worked with several others to complete interior work on the Dining Commons. The renovation project began almost as soon as the school year ended in May. The final touches were complete just days before the start of the new school year. Laney Construction Company replaced the roof and Tom Miller did the drywall work. The school’s maintenance team, Bill Brechbill and John Lloyd also helped with the renovations.