First graders spent time in one of the many school gardens collected marigold seed. This gardening activity was part of science class where they were learning about what plants need to live and grow. They also were learning about the life cycle of a plant.
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.”
TLC students love to be outside! Our teachers have them outdoors for everything from physical education, reading, math, science, art and more!
During the very first week of the new school year, our fourth grade scientists spent time outdoors observing similarities and differences in leaves.
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.
Let’s face it. The 2020-21 school year is looks vastly different than years past. Masks. Social distancing. A and B schedules. Remote learning days. However, one thing is not different. TLC students get outside often!
As often as possible, classes will be outside and our Outdoor Learning Center will be utilized to it’s fullest potential.
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.
What does a third grade teacher at The Learning Center Charter School do when she senses a restless class?
She takes them to the Outdoor Learning Center for a giant leaf playing session of course!
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.
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.”