3rd Grade 21st Century Approach to Johnny Appleseed


Students in third grade took their studies of Johnny Appleseed to a new level when they opted to create Prezi presentations. Prezi is presentation software that uses motion, zoom, and spatial relationships to bring ideas to life. It’s used by professionals all over the globe. . . and it’s now effectively used by Third Graders at The Learning Center!


Inventor Camp 2016


In June, area students in 6th – 12th grades converged on our campus to be part of Inventor Camp 2016.


The brain child of Table Top Inventing, Inventor Camp operates on the premise that teens are explorers, tinkerers, innovators, and deep thinkers. The Table Top Inventing approach is to encourage Maker Learning. Maker Learning puts kids squarely in charge of their own education by providing an environment where growth naturally occurs through the process of “hard fun”. Working with their hands, hearts, and heads, students collaborate and learn with each other to solve challenging problems.


During Inventor Camp 2016 students used 3-D design software,  3-D printers, robotics, and Arduino Electronics (an open-sourse platform for building electronics projects) on a mission based on the popular blockbuster movie, “The Martian.”


Steve Kurti, self-proclaimed “Chief Maker and Mad Scientist,” holds a PhD in physics and has an undergraduate minor in education. Together with his wife, Debby, who has a Masters degree in Educational Technology, make a dynamic team committed to creating interesting learning activities focused on the cutting edge of emerging technologies.

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All the student inventors in attendance took the concepts of “Maker Learning” and “hard fun” to a new level and had a absolute blast!

Cultivating the Lowly, (But Important) Worm


Earlier this year, a member of the community came through for The Learning Center! Charter School when she heard about an unusual request. Local masseuse and yoga teacher, Renee Lamance, owner of Soul Therapy Massage & Bodywork in Murphy, donated a worm bin for research needs. Second grade teachers Stephanie Hopper and Emily Willey then began an intriguing study unit involving worms that spaned several months and crossed the entire curriculum of the school.


“We have been exploring how important earthworms are to human life,” said Hopper. “The worm unit ties in reading, writing, language arts, math, agriculture, and environmental studies.” Students have been experimenting with vermiculture – the cultivation of earthworms and their by-products for composting.


Students used the donated worm bin to house the worms for study, conduct experiments, and make observations to learn the importance of worms to soil. They also created individual worm jars to observe earthworm anatomies and ecosystems, worm tunnels and soil churning.


Experiments included recycling food scraps and other organic materials to turn food waste into rich, organic nutrients used to grow plants. The students learned what worms can and cannot eat, how they eat, how to care for the red wiggler composting worms, change their bedding, and how to harvest the castings (worm excrement) to use for garden fertilizer.


The worm composting will be an on-going project in which the worms’ castings will be used to help fertilize the outdoor garden areas at The Learning Center.


School Maker Faire Recap

A TLC student gets a helping hand in making her motorized solar system hang correctly.

On March 10, 2016, our school hosted our first School Maker Faire. Over 40 makers were on hand for the event and it was a rousing success. A special thank you to our wonderful community of makers that made this event possible. The hands on activities, demonstrations, delicious food and engaging conversation made for an inspiring and educational evening for everyone who attended.

Students from TriCounty Early College showed off their Gravity Games cars.
Prepping the hover craft!
Working hard to assemble the Arduino radio.
Did you see the amazing aluminum can foundry?
There were several live performances including clogging, skits and music.
The Mashburn brothers brought their race car and were on hand to view the Foody 500.
The Foody 500 participants and winners!
Making shingles for a Tiny House on display.
The hand build wood fired oven was put to good use.

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Seeking Tech Enthusiasts for School Maker Faire

An array of items made with a 3D printer at The Learning Center’s summer Inventor’s Bootcamp, hosted by Steve Kurti. Mr. Kurti will discuss his unique brand of Making at the School Maker Faire on March 10.

The Learning Center! Charter School will host a School Maker Faire® on March 10th from 3:30pm – 7:30pm. The event is part of a network of Maker Faires that happen across the globe every year. Designed to bring innovative, resourceful people together to share their love of “Making,” these Faires have been described as a combination of science fair, craft show, tech conference, and county fair – all rolled into one! So far, 27 Makers have signed up to show off their innovations, performances, and crafts at the School Maker Faire. “An exciting lineup of Makers is beginning to build,” said school director, Mary Jo Dyre, “while we have a strong crew of traditional Makers, we are still looking for additional high-techies to submit proposals.”

From computer programming to 3D printing to creative circuitry, The Learning Center invites the public to share their innovations at the School Maker Faire. To submit your project, go to www.naturallygrownkids.org and click the link in the School Maker Faire section.

In addition to the Maker booths, meal Makers will provide delicious, affordable treats. The Faire will feature a number of performances including musicians, dancers, actors and special guests who will discuss Making in their unique jobs.

One of those special guests is Mark Conde, assistant dean of information services at Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University. Conde, who works closely with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), will show attendees the fascinating inside world of “Making at the CDC.”

In addition, special guest and WNC native, Steve Kurti will join the Faire via Skype to talk about “Table Top Inventing” and educating tomorrow’s Makers. Kurti has brought “Inventor’s Boot Camp” to The Learning Center’s campus for the past two summers. To top it all off, Learning Center students will race edible cars in a pinewood-derby style race called The Foody 500.

If you don’t consider yourself a Maker but still want to support the School Maker Faire, volunteers are warmly welcomed. The Learning Center invites the public to help make the Faire a community success. Mark your calendar for the School Maker Faire happening at The Learning Center! campus on March 10, from 3:30pm to 7:30pm. Visit www.naturallygrownkids.org or contact the school at 828.835.7240

Calling all Thinkers, Tinkers, Inventors and Makers!

b4777cfb-1cc7-47f8-a6c7-376c61f7375bImagine a science fair, craft show, tech conference, and county fair, all rolled into one and you can picture a Maker Faire. These events, which began a few years ago in California, have been growing in popularity around the globe. The School Maker Faire® attracts tech enthusiasts, tinkerers, crafters, students, educators, artisans, hobbyists, engineers, science clubs, and commercial exhibitors. Makers come to show their creations and share what they’ve learned. The Learning Center! Charter School is an official host of the very first School Maker Faire to come to Murphy. The event will be held on Thursday, March 10th, at 3:30 pm.


As an “E-STEAM” (Entrepreneurship, Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts & Agriculture, and Math) school, The Learning Center! emphasizes learning through doing. Providing opportunities for participation in the Maker Faire Movement is the perfect way to engage and excite students about the world around them. “Our goal is to help students to make innovative, positive change in our world,” said school director, Mary Jo Dyre, “and a School Maker Faire is the perfect way to celebrate making and its potential for positive innovation.”

As students work on plans for their own Maker projects for The School Maker Faire, The Learning Center is spreading the word for a call for Makers from the greater Community of Learners. The School Maker Faire isn’t just a student showcase, it is a chance for Makers of all ages to come together and share the joy of creating. The school invites the public to submit a project proposal and be a part of The School Maker Faire. Demonstrate a craft, showcase an invention, teach others how to make something, bring something edible, or just come check out the fun! The sky is really the limit at a Maker Faire!

The first step to being a part of The School Maker Faire is to visit The Learning Center website: www.naturallygrownkids.org. On the home page, you’ll see The School Maker Faire logo and a link to “Submit a Project Proposal”. Contact The Learning Center office at 828-835-7240 for more information.

“Makers are going to make” at the School Maker Faire on Thursday, March 10th, at 3:30 pm! Join the fun as part of the Maker Team.

School Wide E-STEAM Project — Gingerbread Houses


Before Christmas break, students in kindergarten through eighth grade participated in a school wide E-STEAM/STEM project that had them sculpting with all sorts of confections in order to learn a variety of concepts and skills.


E-STEAM stands for entrepreneurship, science, technology, engineering, art and agriculture and math. For many years, we have worked diligently to make our curriculum and campus a true E-STEAM environment. We teach students that science, math, and technology skills are essential for becoming 21st Century citizens and are deeply integrated within the activities of entrepreneurship and agriculture, as well as language, music, and visual arts. Our philosophy of education is built upon the idea that young learners need to be exposed to a broad array of rich learning experiences.  This means that in addition to the regular in class E-STEAM/STEM environment and projects, our incredible team of educators implement several school wide events each school year.


This year teachers and students are gearing up for the summer Olympics by investigating different countries around the world.  Each class has chosen a country to study and represent throughout the school year.  This overarching theme will tie in current events to classroom studies and be used in conjunction with subjects across the board. For example, in October many students created scarecrows that were theme related. We are currently planning an end of the year culmination to the country related focus that is similar to an international fair.  Our field day will also pay tribute to the Olympic spirit.


The school wide E-STEAM/STEM gingerbread project also tied into this overarching theme. Each grade built gingerbread structures related to a country they are studying. Kindergarten built structures related to Australia. First grade focused on Italy. Second grade focused on China. Third grade focused on France. Fourth grade focused on Mexico. Fifth grade focused on Great Britain. Sixth grade on Greece. Seventh grade focused on Russia and eighth grade on United States.

Notice the Eiffel Tower!
Empire State Building complete with King Kong!


The students have made connections with historic landmarks and their locations though exhaustive research and study. Spending time researching, designing, building, troubleshooting, working with teammates and presenting to others has taught important skills!

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Holiday Happenings Across Our Campus & Community

20151205_143919There is much holiday merry MAKING taking place on campus and around our community. Our annual float in the Murphy Christmas parade featured a tree decorated with all recycled ornaments. This gorgeous tree will grace our terraced garden during drab December and January.  A special thanks to Frank Dickey, owner of Dickey’s Supply in downtown Murphy, who graciously allows us to store our float and work on it in one of his buildings. 20151205_143923 20151205_143927 20151205_143937 IMAG6708A huge thank you goes out to PI (Parents Involved) for making Santa’s Workshop a rousing success for our students. Well done you merry making elves! IMAG6709 IMAG6710 IMAG6711 IMAG6712

20151204_181930_resizedAdditionally, our K-4th grade chorus students again performed at the annual Murphy Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony. They always sing several holiday songs including “Santa is the Man” that brings in Santa Claus! 20151204_181932_resized