High Tech Electives

Every semester, we present a different choice of electives to our 5th-8th grade students. Offerings can vary wildly, but our focus in electives is always to give students a place to apply the skills they are learning during the academic day in a fun way. 

Offerings have included Aquaponics, Pottery, Art & Design, Web Design, Drama & Theater Arts, Knitting and Crochet, Hiking, Forest Management, Puppetry, Primative Skills, Coding, Chess, Cooking, Robotics, Choral Singing and many more.

This semester we offer Coding as an elective. Beginners started with Scratch and more advanced coders began using Microbit/JavaScript. Students started with learning the language then creating cat art. Afterwards they moved on to creating a dinosaur dance party. The advanced students worked on programming a robot to walk around in a certain pattern.  

Students Use Technology Daily

Students at The Learning Center Charter School are no stranger to the use of state-of-the-art technology as part of their every day learning experiences.   The school has 3D printers in several classrooms, Smart Boards in every classroom, computers and laser printers available to every student, and more.

The school has cultivated an E-STEAM environment where students learn using a variety of methods, tools, and techniques.   E-STEAM stands for entrepreneurship, science, technology, engineering, arts & agriculture, and math.

Head of school, Ryan Bender, said, “We use technology as part of our inquiry-based learning approach and have found that students gain a deeper understanding of a subject by means of experimentation with it.”

Bender pointed to a science class as an example of technology enhancing student learning.  “By giving our students access to technology and tools, we allow our students to “do” science instead of just “learn” science.”

For example, third grade students studied conduction, friction and heat transfer on January 20, 2020.  They conducted an experiment using infrared thermometers.  Students experimented on how the properties of different objects affect friction when rubbing with a cloth. Temperature was taken with the infrared thermometers and measured at different times through the course of the experiment.  Conduction, convection and radiation were all concepts that student learned as a result.

Bender added, “Using technology not only helps young students learn the skills required to operate the newest devices and latest software, but also allows them to research and solve problems in a collaborative and cooperative manner with their peers.”

Dome Theater Recap

The Dome Theater visited our campus on March 6, 2018. The Dome Theater is much more than a traveling planetarium. Developed by Rice University, the Houston Museum of Natural Science, and supported by NASA, the Dome Theater is 16ft x 16ft wide and reaches 10ft tall.

Traveling all over the nation, this interactive giant features highly innovative, educational and entertaining programs.

All students viewed hour long educational Dome Theater programming during the school day.

Students and staff enjoyed having the Dome Theater on campus!

Thank you to PI (Parents Involved) for making this event possible.


3rd Annual SCHOOL MAKER FAIRE Revisited

The Learning Center Charter School celebrated making of all kinds at our 3rd annual School Maker Faire on Thursday, March 15 from 3:30 – 7:30. Imagine a science fair, craft show, tech conference, and county fair, all rolled into one and you can picture a School Maker Faire.

Makers – from Learning Center students to community members – had booths featuring their own unique Maker project. There were hands-on activities, demonstrations, delicious homemade food and live music.

A special thank you to our wonderful community of Makers that made this event possible. The School Maker Faire proved to be an inspiring and educational evening for everyone who attended.

Hour of Code at The Learning Center


Students at The Learning Center Charter School participated in the Hour of Code in early December.  The Hour of Code is an international effort to encourage students to learn about computer programming.  It is a global movement reaching millions of students in 180+ countries and supported by numerous sponsors including Microsoft, Apple, Amazon and others.



 The Hour of Code started as a one-hour introduction to computer science and was designed to demystify “code” and show that anybody can learn the basics of computer programming.  It has since become a worldwide effort to celebrate computer science and takes place each year during Computer Science Education Week.

At The Learning Center, upper grade math students worked on a number of different activities from writing programs to guide virtual online robots to writing “code” for their blindfolded classmates. Students in younger grades worked with Ozobots – a tiny, toy robot that teaches programming. Students learned to identify and produce step-by-step directions that their Ozobot could follow.  Students in third grade learned the meaning of coding with a paper based mapping activity. They then used Tynker, an educational programming platform aimed at teaching kids how to make games and programs, to do a variety of coding games.

Kathleen Shook, third grade teacher at the charter school, said, “Every student should have the opportunity to learn computer science. It teaches problem solving skills, logic and creativity. By starting early, both boys and girls will have a foundation for success in any 21st century career path.”

2nd Grade STEM Bins


Second graders were recently introduced to STEM Bins, a hands-on form of engineering for elementary students. STEM Bins contain a large variety of materials.  When a student opens the bin and sees the contents he or she is encouraged to think imaginatively.  Students have the chance to design and build real world things such as working tools, bridges, mazes or traps.  However, they can also design something the world has never seen before.  STEM Bins promote creativity and engineering by using 2D and 3D shapes, lines, and angles.

As the second graders were introduced to STEM Bins, they worked together collaboratively as they thought about what to build as well as when they improved upon designs together as their structures took shape.


Second graders will continue to use STEM Bins throughout the school year.

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SolarFest Celebrated Total Eclipse of the Sun on August 21, 2017


As educators, we know that learning by doing is the best teacher. The total solar eclipse that happened on August 21, 2017 gave us the incredible, rare opportunity to bring our Community of Learners together to witness the awesome effects of planetary motion! How could we pass that up?

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SolarFest brought us together to witness the total solar eclipse and to learn new things in the process. Our educational booths taught us about the science behind an eclipse, pinhole cameras, and 3D printing. It even allowed the perfect selfie opportunity! Food, crafts and water games added to the festivities. It was an awesome day!

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Retro Gaming Elective Needs Repurposed Computers


If you were a kid growing up in the 1980s, you might remember playing video games like Asteroids, Pac-Man, Pong and Space Invaders. Kids today at The Learning Center! Charter School will have the chance to venture back to the 80s with a new retro gaming elective.

This new elective will require students to do more than play retro video game classics — they will be building the actual gaming consoles. The elective is led by IT director, Franklin Shook who joins The Learning Center from Western Carolina University. Under Shook’s direction, students will rebuild old, donated computers to house a console for retro games.

Over the course of this elective, eight students will learn the basics of computer hardware, setup and troubleshooting, installing open source software, and repurposing otherwise obsolete technology.

Shook, who provides technology training for teachers, was asked to teach a computer building class for students. Said Shook about the elective, “I thought the gaming aspect would be an interesting addition for students to take home with them.” Shook is currently finishing his Masters degree in Library Science through East Carolina University.

If you would like to donate an old computer for this elective, contact Franklin Shook at The Learning Center at 828.835.7240 or email at tech@naturallygrownkids.org

As Seen in the Cherokee Scout: Tuition-free Public Charter School Offers Rich Program Across All Districts


Murphy – The Learning Center, a tuition-free public charter school, continues to break ground with high-quality offerings in 21st century education. On-going facility improvements – including a newly renovated dining commons – are designed for rich academic opportunities on this “future-ready” campus.

The Learning Center! offers an E-STEAM (Entrepreneurship, Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts/Agriculture, and Math) learning environment. The school’s education philosophy includes the belief that all young learners have the right to experience a broad, rich, and rigorous range of academics during the formative K-8 years. Additionally, the school offers an award-winning nutrition program, daily P.E., unique electives and extra-curricular opportunities. The school’s emphasis on healthy living, community involvement and high academic standards is designed to produce future-ready citizens. This tuition-free public charter school (K-8th) has NO district restrictions and accepts students across all counties.

The Learning Center’s Montessori Blend Kindergarten program has proven to be a strong approach to instruction for even the youngest learners. “We’ve had consistent success with the feeder Montessori Program that is located on our school campus,” said school director, Mary Jo Dyre.

The school’s “Above and Beyond” programs include Compacted Math classes for gifted students, Flexible Grouping in Math, K-4 chorus and a highly developed drama program. The upper grade’s CREW Program, in its second year of operation, promotes character development, goal setting and responsible behaviors.

More extras including National Honor Society, Odyssey of the Mind teams, “Academics and the Arts” artists-in-residency program, “Mini and Middle REAL” young entrepreneur program and Writers Club provide students with the opportunities to become all they can be.

Designated as a “USDA Healthier U.S. School” (Silver Level), The Learning Center! places a strong emphasis on its nutrition and exercise programs. The school also has a free breakfast and lunch program available for ALL students.

The Learning Center! serves approximately 200+ students and is open to both in and out-of-county students. There is no tuition for grades K through 8th. The school also features a Montessori private preschool, serving ages 3-5 years. After School programs are available for all ages. Summer Enrichment Programs such as “Engineering Camp” and Intervention programs are also offered.

For more information or to schedule a tour, call 828.835.7240. Visit www.naturallygrownkids.org, their blog (tlcgrowzone.org/blog) and FaceBook page (facebook.com/TLCGrowZonePage).

SolarFest August 20-21, 2017 at The Learning Center! Charter School

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Why Celebrate the Eclipse?

As educators, we know that learning by doing is the best teacher. This incredible, rare event gives us the opportunity to bring our Community of Learners together to witness the awesome effects of planetary motion! How could we pass that up?

We hope SolarFest gives our students and community a memorable, educational, and safe viewing experience!

Our educational booths

3D Printed Pinhole Projectors

Cross-Cultural Constellation Projectors

Solar Selfie Photobomb Booth

  • See a 3D printer make pinhole projectors – we got the design from NASA!

  • see other examples of pinhole cameras, and learn how they use light to capture an image

  • See examples constellations and learn how other cultures name them

  • create your own constellation projector to take home with you!

  • Act out the eclipse with your friends for the best eclipse selfie in town!

  • Sweet costumes will help you make this selfie pop!