TA Receives Grant to Support Outdoor Education and Annual Fund

On July 5, a local foundation awarded Thetford Academy a $25,000 grant and pledged an additional $100,000 over the next four years to support Thetford Academy’s Environmental Science and Outdoor Education Center and the Fund for Thetford Academy. The foundation, which has asked to remain anonymous, is committed to both educational and environmental concerns.

TA’s Environmental Science and Outdoor Education Center is the recipient of $20,000 of this summer’s $25,000 gift, and the remaining $5,000 has been designated for the Fund for Thetford Academy.

The $5,000 for the annual fund is the first of five annual installments towards a $25,000 pledge for the Fund for Thetford Academy, which provides critical unrestricted support for TA’s curriculum and programs.

The $20,000 gift for the school’s outdoor initiative is the first of five annual installments towards a $100,000 pledge for the Environmental Science and Outdoor Education Center. Thetford Academy hopes that this leadership gift will enable the school to launch a focused campaign to establish an Environmental Science and Outdoor Education Center on the recently-acquired Barrett property, which lies just to the south of TA’s main campus and just to the north of Thetford Hill State Park. The proposed project includes an extensive renovation to the early 20th century house located on the property (known as the Barrett House) and the construction of a timber-framed outdoor classroom adjacent to the State Park.

“This generous grant is one of the largest gifts Thetford Academy has ever received,” said Cameron Cudhea, president of the Thetford Academy Board of Trustees. “It is a high-impact gift with the potential of transforming our school and helping us nurture a program of excellence in environmental studies and outdoor education.”

The school’s Environmental Science and Outdoor Education Initiative, now known as the Outdoor Initiative, was launched in the fall of 2015 with the support of a $55,000 renewable grant from the Woodbury Foundation. In its first year, the Outdoor Initiative saw the creation of TA’s outdoor club, cross country ski club, trail building crew, and climbing club. It was responsible for the development of a series of outdoor education curricular modules for classes in nearly every discipline. It supported the costs of a recycling and composting program and a bio-filtered aquaculture system in the TA greenhouse. It also provided funds for outdoor equipment and transportation, and defrayed the expenses associated with TA’s management of the Thetford Hill State Forest.

Past support from the anonymous foundation making the July 5 gift allowed TA to begin the work needed to bring the Barrett property into use. A $10,000 gift in 2015 enabled TA to complete urgent repairs to the house, make the property accessible from campus, and retain the architectural firm Smith & Vansant of Norwich, VT, to undertake a comprehensive study of the Barrett House. The architectural study, in progress now, will be finished as early as the end of August.

The school’s vision for the house is to create a welcoming hub for our environmental and outdoor program, one that will provide TA with much-needed additional classroom and meeting space, while also addressing the specific needs of an outdoor-focused program. It is our hope that the renovation will result in three large, multi-functional spaces, complemented by a kitchen, an outdoor equipment lending “library,” and an exhibit space that could function as a small nature museum.

In addition to the renovation of the existing home, TA plans to build a timber-framed outdoor classroom on the Barrett property. This project will be integrated into TA’s Timber Framing class across several semesters, and will engage students in every aspect of its development, from engineering to installation. Like the Barrett House itself, the timber-framed classroom will be a home for the activities and curriculum of our outdoor initiative, housing classes like Forestry, Environmental Science, and Outdoor Leadership, as well as serving as a place for English, Art, and other classes to go to for inspiration in the outdoors. It is also hoped that the outdoor classroom will serve as a community resource for special events.

Thetford Academy’s outdoor initiative aims to make high-quality, experiential, and environmentally-focused learning and leadership opportunities accessible to all TA students and the broader TA community.