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Western Albemarle to Offer Environmental Academy

June 5, 2013

Something green is coming to Western Albemarle High School.

In 2014, the school will offer an Environmental Studies Academy open to any high school student in the county.

"We felt it was a good fit for our school," WAHS principal Dave Francis said. "We felt that it would provide the needs of a diverse population of students."

The opportunity is modeled off similar academies at other Albemarle County high schools. Monticello has an academy in medical sciences, and Albemarle has one for math and engineering.

"It's this really broad academic field, because really, the environment is everything that surrounds us," WAHS 11th-grader Mary Swanson said. "It's our natural environment, it's the manmade environment, it's the relationship between the two and how humans interact with these."

Swanson said she plans to make environmental studies a career.

"The great thing is that because it's such this broad field of study, there's so many different job opportunities that students can learn about within the academy," she said.

Students won't just take courses about forestry or wildlife conservation, but also environmental policy and law.

"Environmental studies is such a huge area with so many different directions that we can go in," Francis said.

One of the goals of the program is to feed the passion of kids who want to make environmental sciences a career and to give them an outlet they don't have right now.

Not only will kids get book smart in the classroom, but they'll get hands-on experience at some local farms.

"It's more than just the science, it's more than just a vocation," said Peter Traverse, the farm manager for Innisfree Village who will be working with the academy. "It's policy, it's our value system, it's how we're going to look at our landscapes and how we relate to them in the future."

The next school year will consist of planning for faculty. Students can begin applying to the program in the middle of the year, and the academy is expected to begin its first courses at the start of the 2014 school year.

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