“We hope that our students become environmental advocates and leaders, and make a lifelong connection to the natural world.” says Scott. “And we hope that they will gain confidence and build leadership skills that will serve them well beyond their high school years.”Scott EllisTweet This
TA initially referred to the program as “Environmental Studies and Outdoor Education Initiative.” This year, with the launch of the Environmental Studies and Outdoor Education half-day course and the hire of Scott Ellis as coordinator of the program, TA rebranded the program as the Thetford Outdoor Program (TOP). In addition to the half-day class, TOP includes: outdoor units integrated into a wide variety of classes across the curriculum, an outdoor adventure team (TOP Outdoor Adventure), an Outdoor Club, and a Nordic Skiing club.
Thetford Academy’s Environmental Studies and Outdoor Education course is an interdisciplinary, project-based academic course that meets from 12PM-3PM each day. The course takes advantage of TA’s vast natural resources, and students spend most of their class time outside.
Students enrolled in the course for the full school year will earn 2 Science credits, 1 English credit and 1 Elective credit. The class is open to all Thetford Academy sophomores, juniors, and seniors. Sophomores taking the class for the whole year will earn their required Biology credit as one of the Science credits. Students can also enroll in the course for half the year. If they choose this option, they will earn 1 Science credit, ½ English credit and ½ Elective credit.
The course uses field experiments and exploration, reading and reflection, independent study and completion of capstone project to teach ecological literacy and build skills in leadership and presentation.
Students take on topics like forest ecology, snow science, geology, and fluvial dynamics. They will learn about photosynthesis, geologic time, life cycles, human impact on the environment, natural selection, biological evolution, weather, and climate change.
Students will read and reflect on classic and contemporary outdoor-focused literature including Walden by Thoreau, Reading the Forested Landscape by Tom Wessels, The Trap by John Smelcer and other selected readings.
At the end of each semester students will complete a capstone project of their choice. Each project will focus on creating a community resource and sharing what they have learned with a broader audience.
Overall, students in this class will gain a deeper connection to the natural world and what role they play in that world.
The vision for the TOP program includes expansion of the program to include a second section of the class, and create a path for students to take a multidisciplinary, project-based outdoor course for half the day for 3 years of their high school education. In addition, TA hopes to develop the recently purchased property adjacent to TA’s campus to house the TOP outdoor program. They have received a $100,000 grant to start that process, and hope to cultivate additional support for this effort.