TA Receives $55,000 Grant to Fund Outdoor Initiative Year 2

TA Receives $55,000 Grant to Fund Outdoor Initiative Year 2

This summer, The Woodbury Foundation awarded Thetford Academy a $55,000 grant to support Year Two of the school’s Environmental Science and Outdoor Education Initiative, which the school launched with the Foundation’s support in 2015.

Last year, the renewable grant (also in the amount of $55,000) helped Thetford Academy begin to implement a vision to integrate outdoor and environmental education across the school’s curriculum and into the fabric of the school’s mission and values. To indicate its support for the initiative, the school’s Board of Trustees approved a school-wide strategic planning goal last winter to “nurture emerging areas of excellence in environmental studies and outdoor education.” Through the generosity of the Woodbury Foundation, this goal is well on its way towards implementation.

In its first year, the Environmental Science and Outdoor Education Initiative supported Outdoor Initiative Coordinator Rose Dedam and a team of a dozen faculty members, as they sought to implement the program’s core objectives. The initiative enabled the creation of TA’s outdoor club, cross country ski club, trail building crew, and climbing team. It was responsible for the development of a series of outdoor education curricular modules for classes in nearly every discipline, including nature writing in English and nature-inspired outdoor sculpture in art. And it enabled the Why Foods Matters class to build a bio-filtered aquaculture system in the TA greenhouse and plant potatoes for donation to the Food Bank on school property.

The first year of the program also supported a community outreach hiking program, a nature photography initiative, and a sustainability, recycling and composting program. It provided support for the development of summer programming, and made funds available for outdoor equipment and outdoor-related student transportation. And it defrayed the expenses associated with TA’s management of the Thetford Hill State Forest, per a 10-year agreement with the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks, and Recreation.

With renewed support from the Woodbury Foundation, Thetford Academy plans to build on the successes of the program’s first year by achieving the following goals:

  • Create a half-day, interdisciplinary Outdoor Leadership course that will focus on teaching real-world skills related to environmental careers, for implementation as early as the 2017-2018 school year.
  • Develop an affordable, accessible, environmentally-focused summer camp for elementary-aged students, for implementation as early as the summer of 2017.
  • Continue to expand environmental course offerings and integrate outdoor and environmental units across the curriculum.
  • Engage students in trail construction to provide work experience and educational opportunities.
  • Begin student-led design and construction of a large outdoor classroom and community gathering space, to be built by the timber framing class.
  • Purchase supplies and equipment, including the investment in a vehicle or bus, to ensure successful implementation of the outdoor curriculum and ensure that equipment and transportation are not barriers to student participation.
  • Continue planning for and development of the Barrett property (the 10.7 acre property and house directly to the south of Thetford Academy’s main campus, which the school purchased in 2015), with the goal of creating a physical headquarters there for the Outdoor Initiative.
  • Take steps towards becoming accredited by the Wilderness Education Association.

The mission for the Outdoor Initiative is to provide a high-quality, experiential, and environmentally-focused learning experience to the students of Thetford Academy. The school has a socio-economically and academically diverse student community, and strives to provide educational opportunities that reach and inspire every student. There are few programs in Vermont that provide outdoor educational experiences that are both accessible and affordable to students of all backgrounds and learning styles. With the continued generous support of the Woodbury Foundation, Thetford Academy aims to fill that gap.

The Outdoor Initiative’s website (TAOutdoors.org), maintained by Design Technology and Timber Framing instructor Chris Schmidt and Rose Dedam, provides a comprehensive overview of the program and its goals, and offers a multitude of photographs, student blogs, videos, and other outdoor-related content.