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!
All students have been in remote learning school for the month of January. However, teachers and students did not let the fact that they were not meeting in person stop them from exciting, hands-on E-STEAM activities and PBL activities.
A targeted E-STEAM education approach ensures students engage in science, technology, engineering and math regularly. PBL is a teaching method in which students gain knowledge and skills by working for an extended period of time to investigate and respond to an authentic, complex question, problem, or challenge.
Our teachers know from experience that E-STEAM and PBL projects harness student curiosity and allow a deeper exploration and understanding of studies.
In the photo example above, this meant that a student was conducting science experiments at home in his kitchen!
Second grade students at The Learning Center Charter School learned about weather by immersing themselves in a hands-on E-STEAM activity designing and making anemometers.
E-STEAM stands for entrepreneurship, science, technology, engineering, arts and agriculture, and math and is a guiding educational philosophy at the charter school. An anemometer is an instrument for measuring the speed of the wind.
Second graders at the school studied weather patterns, climate, and seasons as well as weather instruments used to measure properties of weather.
“Weather is an important science standard for second graders in North Carolina,” said Emily Willey, elementary science teacher at the school. “Designing and building our own tools for measuring wind speed engaged students deeply in the weather study and had students excited to learn more.”
Willey added that students also made windsocks to measure the direction of the wind and used thermometers to accurately measure temperature. Students also learned about barometers, Doppler radar satellites, and weather balloons as important tools to predict weather patterns.
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.
Seventh grade students learned about force and motion in a fun hands-on way. Students designed, engineered, built, and troubleshooted both roller coasters and catapults!
Building and testing both catapults and roller coasters was a good way to learn about the relationship between force, mass and acceleration.
Students also learned about accuracy, precision, and angles.
As a result, students are now able to describe how force affects the motion of a projectile, explain and compare the meanings of accuracy and precision, and explain the optimum angle for launching a projectile the farthest distance. Plus, the students had a total blast.
Fourth grade students participated in an extended Thanksgiving project that had them programming computers to make tiny robots do what they wanted them to do.
Students used Ozobots which are little toy robots that blends the physical and digital worlds — and teach kids programming. Ozobots can identify lines, colors, and codes on both digital surfaces, such as an iPad, and physical surfaces, such as paper.
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.