What is Intrepid?
Intrepid Academy at Hale is an outdoor semester day school for Boston Public Schools students held at Hale, a 100-year-old outdoor education organization in Westwood and Dover, MA, with more than 1,100 acres of woodlands, ponds, and streams. The mission of IAH is to provide a unique, personalized learning opportunity that combines three major themes: exercise, nature, and rigorous academics.
The concept for IAH was born from conversations between Hale’s executive director, Eric Arnold, and two public school teachers, Seamus Foy and Josh Katzman. All three recognized the so-called nature deficit among today’s youth, the opportunity gap that exists for low-income students, and the need to reinvent our schools. After several years of collaboration and planning, Hale and BPS agreed to work together to pilot the concept.
Our Inaugural Cohort
On January 29, IAH welcomed its first cohort of 48 students to Hale. Nervous but excited, students, staff, and teachers began their journey into unknown territory: building a school from scratch. During those first few days, small advisories met, hiked, explored and engaged in active discussions together. It only took one week for everyone to realize this concept would work. Student reactions were overwhelmingly positive and exercising outdoors led to drastic changes in academic cognition, sense of community, and overall happiness. One student remarked:
“I never thought I would be looking forward to school and everything they planned for the day. Major changes have occurred for me in these past two weeks. I’ve been much more active and my mind has opened up to so much more in the world from our classes. I’ve found some peace with this place, with its silence, listening to nature’s song as I walk on my own.”
Another student commented:
“The last two weeks influenced my perception by me wanting to come to school because before being in Intrepid Academy I wanted to drop out, but Intrepid opened my eyes to a lot of new things. I learned that there is more to life than just sitting in a classroom. At Intrepid, we do work and then go out and walk and talk about what we learned and how we feel about it. It is a better way to learn things.”
Partnership with Kahtoola
What started as a blind email from IAH’s lead outdoor guide to Kahtoola’s community relations team quickly blossomed into a great partnership. Kahtoola generously donated enough MICROspikes® to fully equip IAH’s students—preparing them for safer, more comfortable winter travel.
The gear arrived just in time: on its second day, IAH opened to four inches of fresh snow across its campus. Its students were hesitant to go outside; in the city, snow quickly becomes dark, dirty slush that turns to ice and makes for hazardous travel. But in a forest, snow quietly crunches beneath one’s feet, captures animal prints, and brings a feeling of freshness.
With MICROspikes® on their feet, the students confidently set out, climbed hills with ease, and felt a new sense of freedom as they explored any terrain they pleased. Students who initially complained about being forced to go outside in the snow remarked on the glistening trees, laughed through a snowball fight, and dropped to make snow angels.
The stress, anxiety, and boredom that often accompanies school on what could be a snow day dissipated. Being outside—as long as you’re well-equipped—brings out the best in all of us.