The Learning Center awarded TVA STEM Education Grant

The TVA and local partner, Murphy Power Board, presented a $3,500 grant award to The Learning Center Charter School on February 4, 2020.

The Learning Center Charter School is excited to announce a recently awarded grant of $3,500 by the Tennessee Valley Authority, in partnership with Bicentennial Volunteers Incorporated for a STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education project.

“Students will design and construct a putt-putt golf course on our campus,” said Jess Stephens, eighth grade social studies teacher at the school.  The design will center around North Carolina history and will include replicas of historical artifacts. 

“We’ll be using the grant for building supplies and hope to continue adding holes to the course every year,” said Stephens.

The grant award is a part of $600,000 in competitive STEM grants awarded to 142 schools across TVA’s service territory. The competitive grant program provided teachers an opportunity to apply for funding up to $5,000 and preference was given to grant applications that explored TVA’s primary areas of focus: environment, energy, economic and career development and community problem solving. Schools who receive grant funding must receive their power from a TVA distributor.

“This is the second year we offered this program to the entire Valley and we saw a major increase in grant applications this year,” said Community Engagement Senior Program Manager Rachel Crickmar. “There is a demand in the Valley for workforce development through STEM education and I am proud of the way TVA and our retirees are responding to that demand by supporting teachers in the classroom.”

For additional information about the TVA STEM grants and see a full list of recipients visit https://www.tva.gov/Newsroom/Press-Releases/TVA-Partnership-Awards-600000-in-STEM-

High Tech Electives

Every semester, we present a different choice of electives to our 5th-8th grade students. Offerings can vary wildly, but our focus in electives is always to give students a place to apply the skills they are learning during the academic day in a fun way. 

Offerings have included Aquaponics, Pottery, Art & Design, Web Design, Drama & Theater Arts, Knitting and Crochet, Hiking, Forest Management, Puppetry, Primative Skills, Coding, Chess, Cooking, Robotics, Choral Singing and many more.

This semester we offer Coding as an elective. Beginners started with Scratch and more advanced coders began using Microbit/JavaScript. Students started with learning the language then creating cat art. Afterwards they moved on to creating a dinosaur dance party. The advanced students worked on programming a robot to walk around in a certain pattern.  

Students Use Technology Daily

Students at The Learning Center Charter School are no stranger to the use of state-of-the-art technology as part of their every day learning experiences.   The school has 3D printers in several classrooms, Smart Boards in every classroom, computers and laser printers available to every student, and more.

The school has cultivated an E-STEAM environment where students learn using a variety of methods, tools, and techniques.   E-STEAM stands for entrepreneurship, science, technology, engineering, arts & agriculture, and math.

Head of school, Ryan Bender, said, “We use technology as part of our inquiry-based learning approach and have found that students gain a deeper understanding of a subject by means of experimentation with it.”

Bender pointed to a science class as an example of technology enhancing student learning.  “By giving our students access to technology and tools, we allow our students to “do” science instead of just “learn” science.”

For example, third grade students studied conduction, friction and heat transfer on January 20, 2020.  They conducted an experiment using infrared thermometers.  Students experimented on how the properties of different objects affect friction when rubbing with a cloth. Temperature was taken with the infrared thermometers and measured at different times through the course of the experiment.  Conduction, convection and radiation were all concepts that student learned as a result.

Bender added, “Using technology not only helps young students learn the skills required to operate the newest devices and latest software, but also allows them to research and solve problems in a collaborative and cooperative manner with their peers.”

5th Grade Muddy Sneakers Trip to Hanging Dog Campground

You might recall that our fifth graders 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.

Students spent the day at Hanging Dog Campground learning about Energy and Heat Transfer.  Students learned about heat transfer, insulators, and conductors, by testing the temperature of a rock in its original setting, then taking the rock and trying some different methods to warm the rock up and then testing the temperature again. 

They also created a habitat out of only natural and native materials to see who could create the warmest environment.  They tested their habitats by inserting a heated bottle of water and checked the temperature before inserting the water and at about 10 minutes after inserting the water.  They also got to sample some pine needle tea as they learned about conduction, convection, and radiation. 

2nd Grade E-STEAM STEM Gingerbread Houses

Before Christmas break, students in second grade participated in an 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. 

The students had to design, build, troubleshoot and redesign their gingerbread houses over the course of several days. Students had fun working with each other and with the entire design/construction process. Their resulting houses added a festive touch to the classroom.

2nd Grade Cross Curricular Study of Thanksgiving

Second grade completed a cross curricular Thanksgiving lapbook project where students learned all about the history of Thanksgiving through reading, writing, research and collaboration. 


As part of the project, students were partnered up and given instruction on how to work collaboratively and how to have constructive conversations.

Next the students were taught how to conduct research on laptops and how to take notes.

Lastly, the children worked closely with their partners to complete their Thanksgiving lapbook projects and presented them to the class, taking questions from classmates and giving feedback. 

5th grade students enjoy Muddy Sneakers trip to Fires Creek

Building boats and racing them down the creek was the order of the day on October 29th for fifth grade students at The Learning Center Charter School.  That’s because field educators from Muddy Sneakers took the class on an expedition to Fires Creek to learn about force and motion.

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.

While at Fires Creek, students had to construct a boat and see how fast it could travel in the creek in 11 seconds.  Students made a hypothesis, tested their boats, made adjustments and then tested them again.  They also investigated how a pulley system works by trying to find the best way to get a rope over a tree limb to lift a weighted backpack off the ground.

Fifth grade science teacher at the school, Gina Stafford, said, “The students loved the trip not just because it was fun, but because they were divided into small groups and were really able to focus on what the instructors were teaching. I loved seeing the kids so involved with the activities and enjoying the outdoors. They really did get muddy sneakers!”

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2nd Graders Immersed in STEM & PBL Project About Bats

Second grade students at The Learning Center Charter School spent the month of October immersed in a STEM and PBL project all about bats.

STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and mathematics and PBL stands for project based learning. Students at The Learning Center charter school are very familiar with each since students at the school engage in STEM and PBL education daily.

A targeted STEM education approach ensures students engage in science, technology, engineering and mathematics 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.

Of course the second grade students read about bats but they also expanded their studies across the curriculum.  In science, students learned that bats are flying mammals that are important for our environment. In geography, they learned that bats live in warmer climates, closer to the equator and that no bats live in the continent of Antarctica. In math, they learned how to read thermometers as related to the preferred climates of bats as well as measurements of bats’ wingspans.  

 “Bats are a good fit for students in the month of October due to Halloween,” said second grade teacher Stephanie Hopper. “The kids are interested in spooky things and I take the opportunity to harness that curiosity and use it in every subject we study and really delve into the subject deeply.”

Hopper added that “What we could have learned about bats in one lesson on one day is nothing compared to the deeply engaged learning that we participated in during our PBL unit with bats as the overall theme,” said Hopper.

2nd Grade Science — Weather Satellites

Second grade recently learned all about weather patterns and climate. Part of their learning included satellites as they monitor and track weather patterns and changes over periods of time. STEM time was devoted to designing and building satellites. Students had a great time and enjoyed sharing the satellites they designed and built.