Ms. Carrie knows that her students love challenging games and always engage more deeply with a subject if they are having fun while doing so. That is why she created an “escape room” challenge activity for her students to learn more about the Civil War. This “escape room” also happened to be glow in the dark!
Teamwork and collaboration were at its best among the primary classes at The Learning Center Charter School as students in kindergarten through second grade celebrated Native American Heritage Month in November.
Each grade level represented a different Native American Tribe across the nation and studied their tribe in-depth. The unit ended with a pow-wow among all the grades.
Kindergarten represented the Woodland tribe of the Wampanoag. The Wampanoag was the first tribe to meet the Pilgrims. Kindergarten students learned the Wampanoag taught the pilgrims how to survive in their new land and they were also the tribe that celebrated the first Thanksgiving.
First Grade students represented the Southeast region as the Cherokee tribe. They learned the Cherokee language and writing system was invented by Sequoyah, a famous Cherokee. First Graders also learned how the Cherokee used natural resources to make their homes, canoes, jewelry, and clothing.
Second grade students represented the Plains as the Lakota Sioux. Students learned how the Lakota were nomads and buffalo hunters who traveled around the Great Plains. They also learned the Lakota were great warriors, like Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse who defeated Colonel Custer in the Battle of Little Big- Horn famously known as ‘Custer’s Last Stand’.
As part of the culminating pow-wow, students created Native American costumes, jewelry, and instruments. Students paraded around the campus to authentic Native American music. At the pow-wow each class shared with the others facts about the tribe they represented. The students were even able to sample cornbread made by the hands of the Wampanoag (kindergarten). The Cherokee (first grade) shared Tuya Gadu, delicious bread made with sweet potatoes, corn and sweetened with maple syrup.
Second grade students studied the Lakota Sioux Tribe both as part of social studies and Native American Heritage month in November. Students made Teepee Treats to celebrate all they learned about the tribe.
One of the most important things students learned about the tribe was that they were nomadic and lived in Teepees, which were easy to put up and take down.
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.
Fourth graders flexed their design and engineering muscles recently as they made their own paper Greek columns as part of an extension of their social studies lessons about ancient Greece.
To celebrate the birthday of Johnny Appleseed, Kindergarten students made apple crisp. Little did they know that they were also learning about recipes, following directions, and proper measuring too!
Students at The Learning Center Charter School are outside a portion of each school day. The school has an official screened room dubbed The Outdoor Learning Center as well as numerous gardens and trails.
Students regularly can be found doing art, reading, learning science, participating in PE, learning math, gardening, or having recess outdoors.
“Having our students outside is just what we’ve always done,” said Shelley Farmer, physical education staff and STEM coordinator at the school. STEM stands for science, technology, engineering, and math.
“Our campus sits right near the river and Cherokee elders have told us that it would have been prized Cherokee land,” said Farmer. “That in addition to the Cherokee people and culture so prevalent in our region, we make it a point to study the tribe, their language, culture, and traditions each school year.”
Farmer added that students are learning new Cherokee words each week. Students recently learned that osiyo means hello in Cherokee.
The school also includes traditional crafts in their studies. Students recently made Dream Catchers from natural materials found around the school’s Outdoor Learning Center.
“Being outside engages students by providing a living environment to observe, discover, experiment, nurture, and learn,” said Farmer. “Layering on the culture of the Cherokee Nation enriches those experiences.”
During remote learning this past school year, third grade students were assigned the task of researching some famous statues across the world, like the Statue of Liberty, Christ the Redeemer, and The Motherland Calls. They were asked to create their own statues to represent the Covid-19 Crisis and Quarantine. These students totally knocked it out of the park!
As soon as stay-at-home orders switched daily school to remote education from home, Kathleen Shook, third grade teacher at The Learning Center Charter School, immediately switched gears on how to continue enriching E-STEAM and PBL projects for her remote class. As a result, students embarked on an extensive project based on lost cities of the world.
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.
The premise of the lost cities project came from a book the class read together about cities in history that are no longer inhabited either by means of disappearance, natural disaster, or mysterious episode. Students researched lost cities and chose ones to focus on depending on their interests. Petra, Atlantis and Great Zimbabwe were popular choices.
At the conclusion of the project, students designed and built models of their chosen lost city. Many used recycled materials while others used both technology and materials found in nature to build outside forts.
“Not being able to be in the same room with my students is challenging to be able to gauge how my students are delving into a subject,” said Shook. “However, I know from experience that PBL projects like this harness student curiosity and allow a deeper exploration and understanding of studies.”
The lost cities project included science, reading, writing and social studies components.
“What we could have learned about lost cities in one lesson on one day is nothing compared to the deeply engaged learning that we participated in during our PBL unit with lost cities as our overall theme,” said Shook.
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Middle school social studies students read about the Underground Railroad and the quilt codes used during the early to mid-19th century. The Underground Railroad was used by enslaved African-Americans to escape into free states and Canada. The scheme was assisted by abolitionists and others sympathetic to the cause of the escaping slaves.
Students were tasked with making a paper quilt and then describe the “message” that was being conveyed. Each quilt block sent a specific message. The blocks in the photograph above conveyed the following message: The “Monkey Wrench” turns the “Wagon Wheel” at “9:00 o’clock” following the “North Star” to the “Log Cabin” for some “Bow Ties”. Bow ties represented getting a change of clothes.