One of the distinguishing characteristics of the charter school movement is that charter school leaders and staff have the opportunity to design a curriculum to focus on specific interest areas. For example, some charter schools focus on fine arts, others reflect the culture of their community, and this charter school focuses on law and democracy. For Earth Day, I wanted to showcase three charter schools that are using the environment and sustainability to educate students.
Odyssey Charter School was recognized by the U.S. Department of Education as a 2015 Green Ribbon School. Green Ribbon Schools are recognized for their effort to reduce environmental impact, improve health and wellness of students and staff, and provide environmental education. Odyssey Charter School does all of the above—all while maintaining an impressive academic record that has earned the designation of a ‘High Performing Charter School’ by the Florida Department of Education.
Odyssey’s school building features naturally lit classrooms and solar energy while the curriculum incorporates gardening and nutrition classes. The mission behind everything they do is to support students as they achieve a balance of intellectual, physical, emotional, spiritual, and social skills as a foundation for life.
Green Street Academy was founded on the concepts of sustainability and project-based learning. Located in West Baltimore, school leaders aimed to educate students while addressing the city’s hunger issues by bringing farming to this energy-efficient urban campus. And by farming, I don’t just mean a vegetable garden. This school has a tilapia farm and chicken coops. Students take the food that they harvest and run a CSA (community-supported agriculture) program that teaches lessons in business, finance, and customer service.
The mission of Ivy Academy is to provide a quality educational program with an emphasis on scholarship, environmental stewardship—and the school lives their values every day. As many classes as possible take place outdoors and emphasize the importance of taking time away from tech devices. Outdoor field studies and nature walks are regular occurrences and allow teachers incorporate lessons in subjects like science and photography. How many 6th graders get a lesson in tree phenology? Students at Ivy Academy do, and it’s taught by the high school students.
We’re certain these charter schools are celebrating Earth Day today. We celebrate with them. Happy Earth Day!