Academics at Tennessee Nature Academy

Tennessee Nature Academy’s academic model is informed by extensive research on teaching and learning. Our model is:

  • Aligned to the Tennessee Academic Standards:- Our curriculum aligns to the Tennessee Academic Standards - just like all other public schools in Tennessee. Tennessee Nature Academy’s curriculum is unique in that our units of instruction typically have some application to nature or the outdoors. At Tennessee Nature Academy, students in the middle school take English, math, science, social studies, art, and music classes each year. Additionally, students take physical education in 5th and 6th grade, keyboarding in 7th grade, and introduction to agriculture sciences in 8th grade. Our high school students take all classes required for graduation by the Tennessee Department of Education, including electives in the Agriculture, Food, and Natural Resources career cluster and Advanced Placement courses.
  • Inquiry and Project-Based:- Deep learning is learning that pursues a challenging line of inquiry or works towards the completion of a project. At Tennessee Nature Academy, students explore and master the state standards through inquiry-based classroom instruction and by completing fun and engaging academic projects (often with a nature or community connection).
  • Interactive and Engaging:- Our units involve multiple modes of engaging with the content. Students will read, write, calculate, explore, argue, discuss, and create in all of their classes.
  • Nature-Based:- Classrooms are great places to learn. We also believe that deep learning can happen beyond the walls of a classroom. Sometimes outdoor learning might take a few minutes of class time (for example, if students need to collect data or capture an observation). Outdoor learning might also take place during an entire class period or over multiple days of study, depending on the lesson or project.

Why Nature-Based Learning?

  • People who spend more time outdoors are happier and healthier.
  • Learning and playing outdoors stimulates brain functioning and leads to higher academic performance.
  • Time spent outdoors improves students’ physical health and contributes to decreased episodes of ADHD, ADD, depression, and antisocial behaviors.
  • An understanding of the natural world better prepares students for all possible careers– including business, engineering, medical sciences, and communications.

Questions About Academics at Tennessee Nature Academy:

Middle school homerooms include 27 students and two homeroom teachers.

Absolutely! Licensed educators will support our students with disabilities and language learners. All eligible students will also receive an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) or Individualized Language Plan (ILP) to ensure they have all needed academic support.

No. All teachers at Tennessee Nature Academy have traditional classrooms indoors. Teachers decide whether part or all of a lesson will take place outdoors depending on the particular classroom activity and the weather.

Yes! Students in grades 5-8 participate in Workshop blocks four days per week. Workshop blocks allow time for students to explore electives and extracurricular activities during the school day. Examples of Workshop blocks might include Garden Club, Business Club, Student Government, Creative Writing, Arts and Crafts, Cross Country, Club Soccer, STEM Club, etc. Workshop blocks change throughout the year and are based on staff and student interest.

Check out this collection of research below:

Nature-Based Learning

Chawla, L., Keena, K., Pevec, I.,& Stanley, E. (2014). Green schoolyards as havens from stress and resources for resilience in childhood and adolescence. Health & Place International Journal, 28, 1-13.


Oswald, T.K., Rumbold, A.R., Kedzior, S.G.E., & Moore, V.M. (2020). Psychological impacts of screen time and green time for children and adolescents: A systematic scoping review. PLOS ONE, 15(9), 1-52.


Szczytko, R., Carrier, S.J., Stevenson, K.T., (2018). Impacts of outdoor environmental education on teacher reports of attention, behavior, and learning outcomes for students with emotional, cognitive, and behavioral disabilities. Frontiers in Education, 3(46), 1-10.


Engemann, K., Pedersen, C.B., Arge, L., Tsirogiannis, C., Mortensen, P.B., & Svenning, J.C. (2019). Residential green space in childhood is associated with lower risk of psychiatric disorders from adolescence into adulthood. PNAS, 116(11), 5188-5193


Faber Taylor, A., Kuo, F.E., and Sullivan, W.C. (2001). Coping with ADD: The surprising connection to green play settings. Environment and Behavior, 33(1), 54-77.


Ruiz-Gallardo, J., Verde, A., and Valdés, A. (2013). Garden-based learning: An experience with “at risk” secondary education students. The Journal of Environmental Education44(4), 252 - 270.



Project and Inquiry-Based Learning


Chen, C.H. & Yang, Y.C. (2019). Revisiting the effects of project-based learning on students’ academic achievement: A meta-analysis investigating moderators. Educational Research Review 26, 71-81.


Cervantes, B., Hemmer, L., & Kouzekanani, K. (2015). The impact of project-based learning on minority student achievement: Implications for school redesign. NCPEA Educational Leadership Review of Doctoral Research, 2(2), 50-66.


Geier, R., Blumenfeld, P.C., Marx, R.W., Krajcik, J.S., Fishman, B., Soloway, E., & Clay-Chambers, J. (2007). Standardized test outcomes for students engaged in inquiry-based science curricula in the context of urban reform. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 45(8), 922-939.

Other Resources

TNA's Foundational Literacy Skills Plan

TNA Diverse Learners Guide (English / Spanish)

TNA General Circulation Book List

Prohibited Concepts Complaint Form

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