Class in the Great Outdoors

Students at The Learning Center Charter School are accustomed to being outside during the school day because teachers use the outdoors as an extension of the classroom as often as possible.

“Learning outdoors is a cornerstone of our educational philosophy,” said Ryan Bender, head of school.  He added that the great outdoors provides the perfect setting for all subjects. “Most people will tell you that being outside is the perfect place for teaching a science lesson.  And, they are right!  But, the outdoors is also hugely beneficial when teaching reading, social studies, math, and art.”

According to National Wildlife Federation, American Institutes of Research, and the Sierra Club, when children are taught in the outdoors, better test scores, higher grade point averages, decreased behavior problems, and improved health are the result.    

“We have an Outdoor Learning Center at our school that is a screened classroom,” said Bender.  In addition to the classroom, classes also meet around the fire pit, among the school’s many gardens, and along the trails around the school.

Outdoor Learning at TLC

Our school has always put an emphasis on being outdoors. Our teachers take students outdoors for lessons on science, to engage in garden based learning, to read and write in the outdoors, to engage in physical education, and for countless other reasons. It’s part of the reason we have a dedicated outdoor space that we call the Outdoor Learning Center. The outdoors offers an expansion of our classroom walls as well as the space for students to spread out and move their bodies.

As our new school year unfolds during the Covid-19 pandemic, be assured that our students will continue to be outdoors as often as possible.

This specific area will be used often by EC students.

Why do we emphasize Garden Based Learning?

Students at TLC aren’t strangers to getting their hands dirty.  Why?  Because 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.

Gardening encourages students to become active participants in the learning process.

Although our students were not on campus this spring to bring our gardens to life, Ms. Emily was sure to still plant flowers and vegetables to beautiful our campus during the global pandemic.

Outdoor Science Activities During Remote Learning

During this remote learning environment that our students and staff have been experiencing as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, elementary science teacher, Ms. Emily, has included activities in her science lessons that get students outside exploring the outdoors.

Students were tasked with an outdoor challenge to build a fairy fort or a troll tower to welcome tiny outdoor friends. Students had a wonderful time at home interacting with the great outdoors to create beautiful dwellings.  

Additionally, students were also guided on how to take tree and leaf rubbings to help properly identify trees in nature.

3rd Grade Science…and Snack

Third graders recently enjoyed DIY microwave popcorn grown in the TLC garden. An heirloom breed called pappys gems was grown and students microwaved it simply in a brown paper bag avoiding the chemicals often included in microwave popcorn. A science lesson with a snack was a hit for all!

5th Grade Starts Muddy Sneakers

For the third year in a row, fifth graders at our school are participating in 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.

Students had their first excursion to learn the rules and procedures during these field work expeditions.  Students learned things like how to identify poison ivy, what to do if they see a snake in the woods, how to use compasses and magnifying glasses, and how to behave around stinging insects.

On the second day, students focused on matter and the water cycle. Students did a scientific experiment with transpiration where they placed baggies on leaves and collected data about which leaves had the most transpiration.  They also did an experiment where they had to create a representation of the water cycle. 

The students really are excited to learn more on future Muddy Sneakers expeditions!

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Why Our Students Compost Food in Our Dining Commons

What is compost?

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.

Charter School Students Play in the Dirt

 

Students at The Learning Center Charter School regularly play in the dirt.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.

Garden based learning at The Learning Center Charter School.

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.”

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