[In October 2011, 8th graders visited Western Carolina University’s Forensic Science Department as part of TLC’s Venture Out Program. Students got to scientifically analyze their own mock crime scene.]
A Learning Center! Charter School Cross-Curricular Appalachian Studies Program designed to introduce 8th graders to the process of making the world their classroom
In my last year in the classroom, I assigned Peter Jenkin’s book Walk Across America to my rising 8th graders as a summer reading requirement. Inspired by an author that had turned the world into his classroom, so to speak, I found myself in a state of growing fascination with all the possibilities of combining travel with education. I soon saw with this particular book and extended study how research, virtual tours, and creativity could be used in an assignment called “Walk Across North Carolina” that is still, by the way, being used with Learning Center 8th graders.
As the year had progressed with the original class that had initially been assigned the “Walk Across North Carolina” project, I became determined to push my 8th graders to VENTURE OUT into the most fascinating textbook they could possibly use…the world around us. It was obvious to me that our region offered many day trips that in turn offered lessons across the curriculum. Soon other teachers began to get involved in the development of our VENTURE OUT program. You might even say that Peter Jenkin’s wanderlust spirit seemed to take root in our school mindset. As the well known saying goes, “The rest is history”. We educators at The Learning Center naturally insist upon adding literature, science, and math to that quote, creating a rich, cross-curricular Appalachian Studies experience linking education and travel.
The VENTURE OUT program promotes trips to places and people of interest across the Mountain Region of North Carolina. Typical outings may include, but are not limited to the following:
Cherokee County: Historic downtown Murphy including the trail of historic cemeteries; John C. Campbell Folk School, Brasstown, including resident artist hands-on tour and the Rivercane Wall; a stop at the renowned “Clay’s Corner”; a step back in time at the old country store in the Peachtree community; Walker Inn, Andrews; study of historic area schools.
Clay County: Finding fairy crosses, visiting the Ogden School as part of a study of historic area schools in the midst of scenic Clay County.
Graham County: Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest, stopping along the way to explore a small portion of the Trail of Tears, Cherohala Skyway, Fontana Dam
Jackson County: Forensic Studies Field Trip to Western Carolina University
Macon County: Gem and Mineral Museum of Franklin, Civilian Conservation Corps, Wayah Bald, Nantahala Lake as a source of hydroelectric power, Glen Choga Lodge.
Swain County: the abandoned sites of Hazel Creek and Proctor; Deep Creek area of Great Smoky Mountain National Park.
Venture Out goals include expanding to overnight trips in other Mountain Region Counties of North Carolina.
Additionally, VENTURE OUT works in conjunction with the annual Upper Grades Class Trip opportunities that are offered to Learning Center students on a three-year cycle, covering the 6th, 7th, and 8th grade years of our students. The three year cycle always includes 1) New York City, with in-route stops including Natural Bridge, Hershey Factory, or Gettysburg. 2) North Carolina Coast, with in-route stops in the Piedmont area. 3) Director’s Choice: This choice has included Charleston, Savannah, and New Orleans.
Center students start their North Carolina studies in fourth grade. We like to say that we start Venture Out Junior at this point, laying the foundation for combining education with travel, using the world and people around us as a rich, educational resource. Again, a cross-curricular approach is taken to social studies and history, expanding into a STEM to STEAM approach, including rich field work including such sites as Cherokee County Historical Museum, Heritage Park Cherokee Exhibit in Hayesville and the Clay County Museum. Students even venture into northeast GA to better understand the regional ties to a border state such as ours. An annual visit to Georgia Mountain Research and Education Center to experience the “Trees Program” is always a part of 4th grade adventures.
4th and 5th graders are also offered a one night, two day travel opportunity comparable to the 6th-8th Upper Grades Class Trip. This offering has included the HOTlanta tour featuring the Atlanta Zoo Night Crawler Program, Center for Puppetry Arts, World of Coca Cola or Fernbank, and the famous Pitty Pat’s Porch; The Sleep with the Sharks tour featuring “Hands on Cherokee” and Oconaluftee Indian Village, Cherokee Botanical Garden and Nature Trail, and Ripley’s Aquarium; the Chatanooga Belle tour featuring an overnight adventure on board the new dockside boat and all that Rock City has to offer.