Compost is decayed organic matter. The organic matter can be anything from leaves, cut grass, egg shells to banana peels. When lots of organic matter is mixed together in a pile and left to decompose, you are left with a nutrient rich fertilizer that helps gardens grow.
Did you know that food waste makes up 30-40% of the waste stream?! We are composting at The Learning Center to help save valuable landfill space and reduce the pollution associated with hauling heavy food waste.
Each year students are taught to add their discarded foods to the compost bucket located near the trash can instead of throwing it away. Each day, all the food from that bucket is added to the school compost pile located near the basketball goals in the front parking lot. That compost pile is maintained by Ms. Emily and the resulting compost is used in the gardens around campus and the greenhouse year round.
Students at The Learning Center Charter School regularly play in the dirt. Whether working on the school’s vegetable garden, building miniature homes in the school’s Outdoor Learning Center, taking soil samples for science class or turning the school compost pile, being in the dirt is a regular part of any school day.
Kindergarten through eighth grade students at the school do everything in the garden from weeding, planting, watering and harvesting fruits, vegetables, herbs and flowers.
Director in Training, Ryan Bender, believes that gardening engages students by providing a living environment to observe, discover, experiment, nurture, and learn. “Gardens are living laboratories where our students learn everything from team work to food production and lessons can be taught across the curriculum,” says Bender.
Emily Willey, elementary science and outdoor learning coordinator at the charter school, makes gardening a regular part of the daily routine for students at the school.
“Playing an active role in food production teaches young people everything from agriculture to nutrition. These kids love seeing the fruits of their labor and are willing to eat unfamiliar vegetables as a result.”
Willey also has her first through fourth grade students continuously engineering, building, trouble shooting and redesigning miniature houses out in the woods for imaginary fairies and trolls.
“It is helpful for students who are intimidated in a classroom setting to be outdoors and have unstructured play and creative freedom while interacting with nature,” says Willey. “There is no wrong way to build these miniature homes and to watch students who may be timid in class slowly come into their own as they get to build outside has been nothing but inspiring.”
Each Spring, TLC holds it’s annual plant sale. All plants are supplied by local grower Sunshine Mountain Farms. Perennials, annuals, hanging baskets and shrubs are all sold with proceeds used to benefit class trips funds and playground improvements. Thanks for making this year’s sale a success!
In early May, 6th, 7th, and 8th grade students spent two days planting pollinator gardens in their garden plots. A pollinator garden is a garden that is planted predominately with flowers that provide nectar or pollen for a wide range of pollinatinginsects.
The flowers include sunflowers, zinnia, dahlias, marigolds, bachelor buttons, cosmos, and four o’clocks. The students weeded, raked, planted, labeled, and watered their new plants. They look forward to seeing the seeds sprout and grow all summer long.
First graders have been working on their fairy houses in The Outdoor Learning Center busily since school started this year. This ongoing project affords rich educational opportunities for these young students.
Imaginative play, self-directed skill building, sharing spaces and cooperation, engineering and construction, are just some examples. Plus, Ms. Emily is always sure to include science as part of the exploration.
This spring these students have been learning about Earth materials. They have used the opportunity to go to the woods check on and repair their fairy houses. Students are finding granite to use as countertops and floors. They have also found interesting organisms like gobs of slime growing on sticks.
The Learning Center Charter School was awarded a $1,000 grant from NC Beautiful on February 13, 2018.
NC Beautiful has been part of the state’s environmental preservation community for 40 years, supporting awareness, education and beautification efforts across the state. The organization concentrates on hands-on and merit-based programs designed to empower North Carolina citizens to preserve the natural beauty of the state.
Since 2003, the charter school has provided outdoor education for all of its students. The grant money will be used to enhance four outdoor learning spaces: 1) the front terraced garden; 2) a side garden plot; 3) the aquaponics garden; and 4) a new compost area. In addition to gardening tools such as clippers, shovels and gloves, additional mulch and soil will be added to the listed planting areas.
School Director, Mary Jo Dyre, said, “In this age where “screen time” heavily outweighs “green time,” we carefully craft a school day that allows our students to be outside getting their hands in the dirt as often as possible.”
Outdoor Learning Coordinator at the charter school, Emily Willey, added, “I am so thankful for the NC Beautiful Grant to provide us the funds to continue to maintain the garden beds and the tools to facilitate our spectacular outdoor program. These green spaces provide a much needed opportunity for our students to interact in a real way with the ecosystem around them while also gaining important skills and insights across their academic curriculum.”