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

Coleman is Learning Center’s Aquaponics Man


Local aquaponics enthusiast, Bill Coleman shares his passion for the agricultural technique with middle school students at The Learning Center! Charter School. He talks excitedly about the potential aquaponics has to produce sustainable food anywhere – even on rooftops.

He explains that aquaponics is the marriage between aquaculture (raising fish) and hydroponics (growing plants without soil). It is an integrated system for farming fish and plants together in a mutually beneficial cycle. The fish, kept in tanks, produce waste that supplies nutrients for plants grown hydroponically, which in turn purify the water that is returned to the fish. The two systems benefit from each other. A third actor is the bacteria that converts the ammonia from the fish waste – first into nitrites, then into nitrates – that feed the plants. “Did you know,” Coleman excitedly asks, “that aquaponics requires only one-tenth the water of soil-based gardening?”

Coleman, a parent of former students at the school, got interested in aquaponics around four years ago – “quite by accident,” he adds – and experimented and perfected his own system. He decided to offer his volunteer efforts long-term to an “Aquaponics Elective” course at The Learning Center. He teaches a two-hour course every Friday for 6th 7th and 8th graders.

Coleman began by building the components, fashioning the tanks and perfecting the sump that is at the center of success of aquaponics design. Over time, the design went from 4 sq.ft. of growing area to about 120 sq. ft. “There were challenges that took months to iron out, including issues with water leakage,” said Coleman. “The whole process was two steps forward and one step back. The students, however, never faltered and we learned a great deal along the way.”

In this student run aquaponics system, one of many goals is to provide fresh, organic food that will be used in the school kitchen. “We have grown lettuce, broccoli, kale, peppers, arugula and more,” said Coleman. Students are learning the science of agriculture, botany, engineering skills and building techniques.

“We are excited about the community involvement in this important project,” said Coleman.” Materials were donated from local stores such as Lowe’s, TEAM Industries, Wilson’s, Hughes Electric, and from individuals just wanting to help the with the project.

If you would like to get involved in the aquaponics project at The Learning Center, or just discuss aquaponics and compare notes, contact Bill Coleman through the school at 828-835-7240.

Spring Musical — The Adventures of Fearsome Pirate Frank


The annual spring drama production showed May 5-7, 2017 to sold out crowds in the school’s Black Box Theater.  The story of the the stage actors playing pirates being kidnapped by Fearsome Pirate Frank and her crew was a rousing comedy filled with talented actors perfectly cast for their parts. These students spent months learning lines, songs and dances and their hard work paid off in the incredible final production!

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A special thanks is owed to the stage hands, make-up crew, sound and lighting team. Also, the hard work of Director, Ryan Bender, Musical Director, Judy Coleman, and Assistant Director, Cheryl Catuto, is both recognized and greatly appreciated.


Finally, this production would not be possible without the support of the Jackie Ward Foundation which seeks to enrich and enhance an otherwise general education by introducing students to the life-changing power of the Arts, while promoting business, entrepreneurship, science, technology, engineering  and math education.

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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.

Upper Grade Elective Offerings

Check out the awesome sampling of electives offered to fifth through eighth grade students this semester!

The Spring Musical: The Fearsome Pirate Frank: Auditions have taken place for what is always a spring drama success. The Cast has been announced.

Aquaponics: This elective continues to be a growing opportunity.  Only those with a desire to get their hands dirty need apply.

Pokémon Cards: Students can bring their cards on Fridays and do whatever they do with them. On nice days in the spring, they will be allowed to use their phones (if available) to go Pokémon hunting.  We will walk to the park and downtown.

Pinterest PE Projects: Most people get the power of Pinterest to inspire a project. This Pinterest inspired elective will begin with the accessories for flag football by creating belts with detachable flags. Other projects will include making hula hoops, practice jerseys, quivers for archery, a bow rack, playground repairs and upgrades, and a boot camp obstacle course. We will be working with anything from thread and needle to hammer and nails, maybe even a couple power tools.

Entrepreneurs in Training: Use your special interests to start your own business. As young entrepreneurs in training, you will learn how to be your own boss as you make many important business decisions. There are lots of different types of entrepreneurs; however, this semester we are going to learn about starting a jewelry design business: 1. Learn the basics about starting your own business and designing your own logo. 2. Use your artistic flare to design jewelry for men, women, children and pets. 3. Learn tips for pricing your handmade goods. Sell your creations at the 1st Murphy Art Walk of the 2017 Season in May!

Using Math to Create Beautiful Art: Create and see countless examples of gorgeous, simple, clever, and amazing art, all made from mathematical ideas. View fractions like Piet Mondrian. Experience tessellations and symmetry like M.C. Escher, fabricate with Fibonacci and see how irrational numbers can “in-spiral” you.

Pop Culture Creations: Have you ever wanted to create a piece of art from your favorite movie or show? In this elective, we will be working on projects that revolve around creating artistic pieces straight out of the movies. We will be knitting, painting, doing Pinterest projects, and student choice projects.

Book Club with Class work/Homework Support Perks: Are you one of those students that enjoys not only reading a great book but discussing the many interesting details of plot and characters with like-minded people? Does presenting a book review appeal to you? If you answered yes to one of the above questions, you are also often the sort of student who would like quiet time to work on a particular classroom or homework project. This elective is sure to appeal to the dedicated “book worm” who loves to learn!

Behind the Scenes/Make-up Elective:  Join Ms. Heidi for a behind the scenes elective where students will learn makeup, set building, prop design, and staging.  Students will split their time acting as stage hands/ crew for the drama elective and learning stage and beauty makeup. From dry brush to airbrush techniques, colors that compliment complexion, and highlighting hints, this elective is sure to be a blast!

1st Annual Arts Gala Review


On November 4, 2016, TLC celebrated our Inaugural Arts Gala event. The TLC! GrowZone Players put on a delightful production that the audience loved. Our cooking elective students treated guests to house-made hors d’oeuvres. Student and staff artworks were on display as well as an amazing selection of monsters from our Halloween Monster Makers Contest. It was a wonderful evening of the arts!

A special thank you to Drama Director, Ryan Bender, for organizing our inaugural Arts Gala.

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Gone Fishin’ Elective Proves Any “Fin” is Possible

unnamedWhen students at The Learning Center! Charter School cast their choices for this semester’s electives, some took the bait and signed up for the new fishing elective. The new elective, taught by instructor Heidi LaCentra, takes place on Fridays and consisted of 6 boys from sixth, seventh and eighth grades. The students walk to Konehete Park from the school and fish the Valley River that runs through the park. “The boys are learning everything from conservation to the proper gear to catch the native species,” said LaCentra. “I’m proud to say all 6 boys have caught at least one fish. This is an amazing opportunity for them to connect with nature, and learn the science of fishing.”


LaCentra, who recently relocated from South Florida, has been fishing since she was a little girl. “I raised my son to have a passion for angling,” LaCentra said. “When we moved here, I thought my teaching his favorite sport, fishing, would be a great way to help him transition and make new friends.” La Centra’s son, Jeremiah, is a sixth grader at The Learning Center and a participant in the elective.

Konehete Park is home to carp, golden redhorse, and bass. These have been the main focus this season. LaCentra’s catch and release program teaches fishing techniques and offers spinner reel, bait caster, and fly fishing opportunities. They experimented with live bait, lures, and other techniques. Students also learned how to properly remove a fish from the water, hold a fish to remove the hook, and how to gently release a fish back into the water. “This is a great way to learn many aspects of the world’s largest and most prolific sport,” said LaCentra.

LaCentra, who was a certified Emergency Medical Technician in Florida, has both salt water and fresh water fishing experience. “I have fished the Atlantic from Massachusetts down to the Bahamas, as well as the lakes and Everglades of Florida,” she stated.

The fishing elective, open to boys and girls in fifth through eighth grades, covers many topics including pollution, water table levels, conservation, and the natural environment. “From tying knots to learning what fishing line strength is the best for their specific rod, reel and bait,” said LaCentra, “I like to say, ‘Any fin is possible, if you don’t trout yourself.’”