Attending a semester at The Outdoor Academy will be a uniquely rewarding and transformative experience for your teen. At OA, we emphasize the importance of cultivating a strong community as the foundation from which all of our academic pursuits and wilderness adventures emerge. We teach our students the life and relationship skills necessary to resolve conflicts with compassion and dignity, to compromise and remain open to new ideas, to be resilient and resourceful in moments of challenge, and to practice leadership with grace and integrity. Our students are offered genuine leadership opportunities both in and outside of the classroom and return home with a heightened awareness of their own responsibility.

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Reflections for OA Parents



Academically, we are able to challenge and support our students in a unique setting most of them have never experienced before. All of our teaching faculty are skilled experiential educators and gifted in making their lessons “come alive” for students. Through integration across classroom subjects and interactive hands-on lessons, we strive to return students to their sending schools at or beyond their curriculum.

One of the benefits of our small classrooms is that we are able to work closely with individual Sending Schools to ensure the compatibility of our curriculum, and meet any special needs or requirements of individual students. If your teen needs to take a course not offered in our curriculum, please contact our Dean of Academics. If possible, she will help you and your teen plan an Independent Study into their schedule when they can complete the course online with support from Faculty on campus and from their Sending School. While we cannot offer AP curriculum, all of our classes can be taken at an Honors Level. If your Sending School is on a Block Schedule, your teen will be asked to choose between taking a World Language OR Math class at OA.

Each faculty member also serves as an Advisor. Throughout the semester students will meet with their Advisor once a week over lunch, multiple times for dinner, and have as many informal check-ins as needed. They are an advocate and touchstone for students as they transition through each stage of the semester. Faculty Advisors will also keep parents updated on their teen’s progress at OA, and help them address any concerns throughout the semester.


The Outdoor Academy was founded on a strong environmental ethic of education and responsibility. We believe that when students are able to immerse themselves into a natural environment and cultivate a sense of connection with the land, they are better able to serve as its steward. Throughout the semester we deepen this connection through activities ranging from wilderness adventures to Outdoor Programs class to daily work in the organic garden.

All students are given the opportunity to participate in our Environmental Seminar, which is often the highlight of their experience at OA. In this class they will explore various environmental themes from different perspectives, and ask challenging questions about: where does my food comes from? How do my daily decisions have a global impact? How can I participate in an environmentally sustainable future?


We recognize that allowing your teen to study away for a semester is a difficult and thoughtful decision. Above all, our first priority as a residential program is the safety and security of your teen. Our Residents and Wilderness Leaders are trained in advanced wilderness medicine and have significant experience leading extended multi-element wilderness trips with adolescents. Residents will live with students in the cabins, and most of our faculty live on campus including our Head of School, Dean of Students, Dean of Academics, Medical Coordinator, and Foundation Risk Manager.

We hold weekly Community Meetings with our students to not only ensure the smooth progression of their residential and academic life but also to share important life skills with them that they can transfer to their life back home. We explore and practice tools such as: Conflict Resolution, Active Listening, Feedback, and Choice Theory. Our hope is that students will return with not only a deeper understanding of themselves but also those around them and a curiosity for learning more about people who may seem different than they are.


Students at OA will be expected to demonstrate craft and quality through any endeavor on campus, whether it’s carving a beautiful wooden spoon by hand or cleaning the dishes after lunch. It’s important not only to our students that we emphasize Craft but also to our school and facilities. Each day students will contribute to a healthy campus community through Morning Contributions and Chore Areas. Our goal is that your teen will return home with a heightened awareness and respect of the effort it takes to maintain a thriving home and the satisfaction that comes from a job well done.

We recognize that many students come to OA never having had the opportunity to contribute to a community in this way before. With that in mind, we structure our semester into three different phases: Learn, Master, Lead. In the Learn Phase students are introduced to campus norms, provided training on their Morning Contributions and Chore Areas, and guided by Faculty through each of our campus traditions. During the Master Phase students begin to  practice their peer leadership skills and exercise a higher level of freedom and independence within the community. By the end of the semester, in the Lead Phase, the students are able and expected to independently address community concerns, delegate daily tasks, anticipate their own needs, and truly shape the direction of their semester.

Please read the Manuals and Resources below for more details about The Outdoor Academy and the transformative experience your teen will have here. You may also contact our Admissions Director or Dean of Students anytime with any questions or considerations you may have.

Community Manual >>

Curriculum Guide >>

Featured Articles

Our school has been featured in a number of articles on the value of studying away for a semester. Please click the links below to read more:

“Experiential Education Promoting the Natural World,” SEEN Magazine, Winter 2013

“10 Semester Schools that High School Students Should Consider,” Make it Better, Spring 2014

“Term-Away Programs: A Sampler of Independent School Exotica,” Education Week, Spring 2013

“A New Adventure at Semester Schools,” College Bound, Spring 2011

“The Boarding School Edge – Developing the Whole Child,” Newcomer Magazine, Fall 2008

Area Resources & Links

Local Wilderness Areas:

Local Information and Organizations:

Local Lodging :

Clothing and Camp Gear:



“Such a profound experience! The living of great values, the examination and embracing of personal integrity, the special blessings of community living… OA provided Nina with strong academic experiences but also those pivotal personal experiences, the high moments, the grand adventures that focus and inspire and enlighten a lifetime.” – Parents of an OA Alumni


Click for the OA Viewbook


A Member of the North Carolina Association of Independent Schools.