The Outdoor Academy is an accredited, residential semester school for high achieving sophomores and juniors as well as select 9th graders. Focused on intellect, environment, community, and craft, OA delivers rigorous high school academics infused with experiential education in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Our small community of students also spends a quarter of the semester developing technical and wilderness leadership skills on backpacking, climbing, and paddling adventures all over the Southeast.

Read our blog post from 10/26 for a view into our current semester.
Check out past updates on our response to Coronavirus COVID-19 
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Four Cornerstones. Seven Principles.

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 and founded it 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 field 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, we’re cutting edge.



Testimonials from a recent semester

May 2020 Virtual Open House

Why Attend The Outdoor Academy?


“Our classes were out-of-the-box; most of them literally took place outside. One period, I’d be hiking through the woods with my biology teacher looking for liriodendron tulipefera, and the next I’d be sitting on the dock by the lake learning how to find the derivative of polynomial equations in math class. Spanish, World History, Environmental Seminar, Art—they were all there, but taught in small classes by passionate teachers who made the subjects come alive.”

~ Sierra Granados, Semester 28
Click for the OA Viewbook


JAN. 12, 2021

OA Favorites: Our Current Top Reads

It’s that time of year, friends: the days are as short as they come, the nights are deep and cold, and that armchair and cozy blanket are looking more and more like the perfect place to spend an evening tucked in with a good book.  So, in preparation for a winter break where most of […]


A Member of the North Carolina Association of Independent Schools.