The Four Cornerstones and Seven Principles of The Outdoor Academy:
Imagine that rising sun as our student, a person ready for a transformative experience and experiential education that addresses the whole person. We’ve built a school around that student founded upon four cornerstones: Intellect, Environment, Community, and Craft. In everything we do, we develop the character required for life-long success by practicing our seven principles: Simple Living, Work Ethic, Curiosity, Integrity, Stewardship, Self-Reliance, and Gratitude.
Our intellectual experience goes beyond just academics to cultivate a life of the mind. OA students come to know their own thoughts and ideas, to take responsibility for their education, and to ask good questions. The question we ask most often of our students is: “What do you think?”
Our environmental education curriculum empowers students to find their place in the world, realize practical sustainable solutions, and create positive change. Our wilderness trips develop technical skills, leadership and teamwork, and a true sense of the unique biome of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The thriving Garden to Table program allows students to help produce our seasonal fruits and vegetables and gain valuable knowledge of gardening, cooking, and food preservation.
By intentionally building the connections and personal responsibility necessary to create a close-knit community, OA teaches students to live well together and be their best selves. This is, of course, the heart of what we do and where our principles are really put into practice. Sharing work, meals, and life together requires all of us to do our part, to keep our word, and to always give thanks.
An emphasis on craft means not just creating art and doing work with our hands but also expecting quality in everything we do. An afternoon spent hammering at the forge, throwing pots at the ceramics studio, or playing bluegrass on the Cheoah steps creates an awareness of beauty in our lives and develops a sense of appreciation for the process of creation. By emphasizing the craft of hands and minds, OA students learn to take true ownership for their work, their education and their lives.
These cornerstones and principles truly work because of that rising mountain in the middle. That place of challenge is where we build persistence, resilience, and grit. That’s the mountain we climb, the stack of wood we split, the essay where a thought is expressed just right. It’s the place where the student joins the school and is launched into a greater sense of self and place. This is the work we do and have been doing for a long time.
We’re so traditional that we’re cutting edge.
- Michael Brown, PhD, Head of School
Take a Glance into The Outdoor Academy Culture
“Leaving your home, or your ‘comfort zone’, takes guts, and that’s the first sign saying you’re ready for the OA experience. Leave home for a little while, learn a lot about the natural world as well as your studies, and have a good time. That’s what’s it’s about. It’s the OA experience, and the one that has changed my life.”