Eighth grade students at The Learning Center! Charter School recently traveled to Western Carolina University’s Forensic Lab as part their Venture Out Program. They met with undergraduate, graduate and doctorate students in the WCU forensics department to learn about how forensics is used in solving crimes, learning about history and anthropology. They toured the lab and saw fascinating DNA extraction equipment. These eighth graders explored the processes of taking a small piece of bone or tooth and determining the DNA sequence of the animal or person that it came from.
Ms. Emily, 8th grade science teacher at The Learning Center! Charter School said, “These students learned about the art of dusting for fingerprints, lifting the prints and analyzing them. We even got to set up a mock crime scene that required us to analyze mystery fingerprints.”
The Venture Out Program offered to all eighth graders at the charter school focuses on exposing students to a cross-curricular, in-the-field study of our state. Over the course of the school year the eighth grade class tours many areas of the mountain region of North Carolina and spends time learning about and touring the Piedmont and Coastal regions through the Upper-Grades Class Trip offerings.
Ronald McDonald recently visited The Learning Center and performed “A Friendship Adventure with Ronald McDonald.” The program was about friendship, cooperation, anti-bullying and active play. Kindergarten through fourth grade attended and a good message was learned by all. Thanks Ronald!
These students were given about three weeks to work on a Leprechaun Trap at home. They had to design and build an actual model of their trap. They also had to create a poster to explain how their trap works and why they decided to make it the way they did.
The students had to answer questions asked and explain their trap to the many visitors that came to take a look.
Even Ms. Mary Jo and Ms. Karen came in to see the 2nd graders awesome work!
At the end of the day the students presented their traps and posters to the class. The project stretched the creativity, problem solving and public speaking skills of the super talented 2nd graders!
Recently all 6th – 8th graders completed their yearly science projects and had them on display in the Dining Commons. Many will now move on to the science fair competition at Tri-County Community College in April.
Not only did the students who performed the science experiments learn something new, so did all the younger grades that toured the fair and got to ask questions of the young scientist.
The Learning Center! students are often asked to “think outside the box” when taking many of their classes and “Lego Mindstorms” is no exception. In its third year as an elective course at the school, Lego Mindstorms encourages creativity such as “thinking like an engineer” while working with Legos. The class objective is to create a robotic vehicle and will introduce the programming of that robot’s movements on the computer using special software and hardware. The final project will be to create a robotic vehicle that moves around the classroom based on the program the student have developed.
Ms. Christy, teacher for this elective says “Teamwork is a must!” The students worked in groups to build a robotic vehicle and programmed it on the computer using Lego Mindstorms software. “I enjoyed watching the trial and error period,” said Ms. Christy. “Especially when they tested to see how far the vehicle would run and where they needed to “tweak” their measurements.” Ms. Christy was very excited when one of the groups had programmed their vehicle to make turns and stay on the sidewalk all the way to another classroom building. The students met from 1:45 – 2:55 every Friday to work on their projects.
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.
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.
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.
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!!