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A new public charter school will open near Maple Lake this fall with a focus on environmental stewardship.
For Jane Goodall Environmental Sciences Academy, such a focus — coupled with a hands-on learning style — will be unique in Minnesota, according to its board chairman, Craig Wignes.
“We talk about getting out of the classroom and into the world,” Wignes said. “We envision students being able to come in and have a different approach to education.”
The academy plans to open in the 2015-2016 school year serving grades six-12. About 100 students are projected the first year, with enrollment increasing the next two years.
The academy’s founders plan to lease building space at Camp Courage, a lakeshore site that hosts retreats and programs for people with disabilities. Public parks in Wright County also will be used as classrooms, according to a news release from the academy.
Wignes currently teaches alternative learning in St. Michael. He says the concept for Jane Goodall Academy came from Bob and Kathy DeBoer, who helped found the former New Visions Academy in Minneapolis.
The environmental model for Jane Goodall Academy is based in part on Wildlands School, a charter near Eau Claire, Wisconsin, Wignes said. The instructional approach will center on project-based learning, interaction with professionals and personalized curricula based on a student’s interests, according to the news release.
It will be “fundamentally different than the lecture model,” Wignes said.
He envisions a student coming to class with questions about the condition of a nearby lake. The student might design a project to monitor the lake’s water quality, then give a presentation to discuss the findings, Wignes said.
“One of the big things here is engagement and ownership,” Wignes said. “There’s just a different level of ownership when kids are responsible for the project.”
Goodall, the academy’s namesake, is an international conservation and animal welfare icon most widely known for her research on chimpanzees. Wignes said Goodall personally gave the academy permission to use her name.
The academy’s authorizer is the Minneapolis nonprofit Innovative Quality Schools, according to the Minnesota Department of Education.
Authorizers are organizations that oversee charter schools, and in turn are overseen by the Department of Education, according to the department’s spokesman, Josh Collins. They can be nonprofits, colleges or school districts. In Minnesota, each charter school is required to have an authorizer.
Follow Mark Sommerhauser on Twitter @msommerhauser.
WANT TO LEARN MORE?
Jane Goodall Environmental Sciences Academy, a new public charter school, will hold an informational meeting in St. Cloud Thursday for prospective parents and students.
The meeting is from 6:30-8:30 p.m. in the Mississippi Room at St. Cloud Library.
The academy, located in Maple Lake, will begin classes this fall. Visit its website at www.jgesa.org to learn more.
Source: St. Cloud Times by Mark Sommerhauser
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