Each year, our fifth grade students spend the year doing field work with Muddy Sneakers. The Muddy Sneakers program exists to enrich the standard course of study through experiential education in an outdoor setting where students connect with the land, become more active, and gain self-confidence while improving science aptitude. Muddy Sneakers began as a pilot program in the spring of 2007 with Brevard and Pisgah Forest Elementary Schools in Transylvania County and has grown each year to now serve 36 schools across 12 counties and 13 school districts in the Carolinas.
In early February, students had a fun outdoor science excursion. Students trekked in the woods (The Outdoor Learning Center) to observe a flock of robins searching for food, then searched under the leaves to find a few myriapods (centipedes and millipedes), spiders, and other fun creepy crawlies.
Next, students learned about weather measurement tools, cloud types, evaporation, air density/pressure zones, and how all these factors play together to create the weather effects we are all already familiar with. Teacher, Mr. Fenris, was the “Sun, the Great Evaporator” evaporating our 5th grade water molecules in a Red-light, Greenlight style game.
Finally, they built and decimated a model city with EXTREME weather (handfuls of leaves).
First grade students spent time outdoors learning about ecosystems as part of their science studies. The Outdoor Learning Center on our campus is a living, breathing, science laboratory and our first grade students love being in it!
First grade students at The Learning Center Charter School used nature, reading lessons, and E-STEAM to make holiday ornaments as part of their studies leading up to Christmas break.
E-STEAM stands for entrepreneurship, science, technology, engineering, art and agriculture, and math.
The students read books as a class and independently on winter and winter animals for days leading up to the project. Students then collected berries, leaves, moss, and flowers from the school’s Outdoor Learning Center. While foraging for these supplies, students learned which plants and berries stay alive during winter and what characteristics they have that allow them to do so. They also learned which animals eat berries and use moss and leaves for nests.
First grade teacher Katie Grider said, “Each school day we spend as much time as possible outside and finding ways to teach lessons and engage students in hands-on learning outside the four walls of our classroom is key to a deeper understanding of the subject matter.”
Grider added that not only does being outdoors encourage physical activity, fitness, and health, but it also provides a living laboratory for students to explore, experiment, interact and collaborate.
After collecting the items from outdoors, students made ornaments by filling cups with the items and water and allowing them to freeze. The ornaments were then hung on a tree on campus.
Ask a first grade student at The Learning Center Charter School where their favorite classroom is and they will tell you outside. That is because students at the school spend time outdoors daily learning everything from math and science to social students and language arts.
Elementary science teacher Emily Willey takes her students outside at every possible opportunity. This fall she has had her first grade students outside participating in fall activities as students planted pansies to learn about cold weather crops. Students also donated old clothes and helped make a scarecrow for the garden by gathering leaves and stuffing the scarecrow.
“Being outside engages students by providing a living environment to observe, discover, experiment, nurture, and learn,” said Willey. She added that even though students loved playing in the leaves and getting their hands dirty in the garden, the time was also spent learning about weather, why some plants can withstand cold temperatures better than others, and autumn cultural activities.
“Our E-STEAM curriculum is taught using Project Based Learning activities that take place in a variety of spaces, both indoor and outdoor, on campus,” said Willey.
A local beekeeper made this video for our elementary grade students to learn about how honey is collected from a bee hive. Our community partners, like this awesome beekeeper, are a valuable tool in educating and engaging our students in countless ways. We couldn’t do all that we do with out them. Thank you!
First graders spent time in one of the many school gardens collected marigold seed. This gardening activity was part of science class where they were learning about what plants need to live and grow. They also were learning about the life cycle of a plant.
Students at The Learning Center Charter School are outside a portion of each school day. The school has an official screened room dubbed The Outdoor Learning Center as well as numerous gardens and trails.
Students regularly can be found doing art, reading, learning science, participating in PE, learning math, gardening, or having recess outdoors.
“Having our students outside is just what we’ve always done,” said Shelley Farmer, physical education staff and STEM coordinator at the school. STEM stands for science, technology, engineering, and math.
“Our campus sits right near the river and Cherokee elders have told us that it would have been prized Cherokee land,” said Farmer. “That in addition to the Cherokee people and culture so prevalent in our region, we make it a point to study the tribe, their language, culture, and traditions each school year.”
Farmer added that students are learning new Cherokee words each week. Students recently learned that osiyo means hello in Cherokee.
The school also includes traditional crafts in their studies. Students recently made Dream Catchers from natural materials found around the school’s Outdoor Learning Center.
“Being outside engages students by providing a living environment to observe, discover, experiment, nurture, and learn,” said Farmer. “Layering on the culture of the Cherokee Nation enriches those experiences.”