TSS Blog

Public Curriculum Meets Outdoor Education at Ivy Academy

This week we are learning about several different charter schools around the Volunteer State during National Charter School Week.

Today, we hear from Ivy Academy Environmental Charter School in Soddy-Daisy, Tennessee, as they highlight their outdoor education program. Read about how the program meets state standards and offers an alternative learning experience for their students.

Ivy Academy uses authentic project-based learning to educate students holistically and provide them with the real-world skills they need to become successful and able decision-makers for the future of our environment. Combining experiential learning with formal education might seem like a challenge. Still, this rural charter school in East Tennessee has come up with an educational approach that goes beyond the parameters of state standards and above the growing call to educate students about conserving natural resources. 

To incorporate outdoor learning into Ivy’s curriculum, the school utilizes several outdoor classrooms nestled into the North Chickamauga Creek watershed adjacent to the school’s campus. Courses specific to outdoor learning and unique to Ivy Academy are the middle school related arts course: Student Junior Ranger and a few of those that make up The Environmental Institute’s Natural Resource Management Pathway for high school students. The Student Junior Ranger Course is a state standard aligned expansion of Tennessee State Park’s Junior Ranger Handbook also designed to set all Ivy 6th graders up for success in outdoor learning.

The Environmental and Natural Resource Management pathway is a four-year program supported by Tennessee State Parks through guidance and resident rangers who work with students on Ivy’s campus daily. Ivy’s Applied Environmental Science course offered in this pathway is designed to allow students to assess and solve real environmental problems on their campus and in their community. Students take on many projects to collect data on the watershed, raise awareness about point and non-point source pollution, and call their fellow students into action to change their own habits to better the entire learning community. Both courses are taught by former national park ranger, Mike Ellis, who adds an extra lens of stewardship to every lesson. 

Matching state standards with environmental and outdoor learning has proven a successful model for Ivy Academy. Ivy students are able to take their relationship with the land that holds their campus with them into the world when they graduate. The outdoor learning model can transfer into their adult lives and translates to a lifelong commitment to stewardship outside of their middle and high school experience. 

Starting on their first day at Ivy, students learn what it means to be an environmental steward. As they progress through middle school and into high school, they build a personal relationship with the local ecology and begin to understand environmental issues. Students in the Applied Environmental Science classwork with their peers to help solve some of these local issues and learn what needs to be done to broaden the scope to global change.

Learn more about Ivy Academy at http://www.ivyacademychattanooga.com/home.

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