Ivy Academy is a tuition-free, environmental public charter school that sits at the headwaters of the North Chickamauga Creek Gorge in Soddy-Daisy. Ivy has gained state and national recognition for its outdoor education model, conservation programming and service learning projects. The local wildlife, trails, and creeks of TDEC land and the school’s numerous outdoor classrooms play an important role in the academic experience for the school’s grade 6 -12 students. Enrollment is open to any student living within Hamilton County.
Outdoor learning has always been one of Ivy's hallmarks, and research has shown that outdoor learning increases academic performance and improves social-emotional health in school-age children, and may decrease the need for some medications, said officials. Over the years, Ivy has conducted several parent surveys about outdoor learning and its effect upon their students’ academic growth, enjoyment of school, behavior, and overall health. Results from these surveys suggest overwhelmingly that outdoor learning and physical movement within multiple classes improved students’ academic growth, attitude toward school and social-emotional health.
Several parents also noted either a decrease in the dosage and types of some medications their children were taking or discontinuation of those medications altogether.
Ivy’s outdoor learning model and well-equipped indoor and outdoor classrooms and spaces (in addition to acres of accessible TDEC land) are proving to be golden in this age of social distancing and the accompanying uncertainties about students going back to school, said officials. Studies are showing that being outdoors combined with other current COVID-19 safety measures lowers the risk for coronavirus transmissions over being indoors, in addition to positive effects on childrens’ physical, emotional and mental health and behavior.
Over the past 10 years, going on 11, Ivy has developed its campus to integrate academics and the development of the whole child in the outdoor learning model. Staff are trained to teach in this timely model, and students from across the county come each year to experience Ivy, Tennessee’s only rural charter school.
Click here for an album of photos of several of Ivy Academy’s outdoor learning spaces: