Since opening its doors in August 2014, Skyview Learning Academy’s mission has not changed. The goal of the school has always been to think outside the box of what standard education has looked like in the past and what it can look like in the future.

In the two years since its inception the school has doubled in enrollment and has proven itself to be a leader in innovative and educational design strategies that are unrivaled in the local area. “Skyview has taken a new approach to education in that first and foremost we acquaint our students with a love of nature and being in the outdoors,” says Skyview director Michele Ray. “We take the steps to create a passion for nature and the outdoors in all our students through long recesses and plenty of outdoor free play.”

Being Outside

Kids today often face a severe lack of outdoor education and play time. Determined to change that, the school decided to use a common sense approach. “We figured that there is no way kids are going to want to work outside if we can’t even get them to play outside, so we fixed that! Our students are happy to be outdoors, no matter what the weather,” adds Ray. “We are fully outfitted in mud boots, snow pants, shorts, gardening gloves or whatever else is needed for the day’s weather. And letting the kids play and get dirty during recess has paid off!”

Earlier in the spring the school decided to plant a large asparagus patch and Ray says the students were more than eager to jump in and help. “The kids don’t think twice about getting a little dirty—it’s a part of life here at school that they enjoy. This is a mind shift that we would like to see our students take home to their families as well.”

Ray believes that a love of nature is not only good for students but that “whole families could benefit from the fresh air–the oxygen circulating through their blood and pumping that blood to their hearts,” as Miss Michele tells prospective parents during school tours. “We are trying to teach our students to be leaders in their home lives in this ‘healthy foot forward’ initiative.”

From its inception, Skyview Learning Academy was to not only be a school that strives for excellence in academics but also a place of health for the whole body as well as the mind. Today, just two years into its existence, Skyview is fulfilling that vision.

New Orchard

orchardA couple of weeks ago the beginnings of a large orchard started to take shape. “We knew we wanted an orchard and we wanted to do it right, so we hired a consultant to help us learn about soil nutrients that we were lacking. This consultant, a neighbor and local orchard farmer himself, brought together ideas about landscape design, soil quality and cover crops that will all play an important role in the school’s orchard in the future.”

For Phase Two of the orchard, Ray also initiated help from the local Farm Service Agency (a division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture) to help with planting trees and pollinator strips (for bees) next year. “Support for starting and maintaining an orchard is available through the USDA,” says resource conservationist Michael Burgert. “It’s just not something that we get asked for very often so we are excited to be part of this with Skyview.”

Cutting edge greenhouse

greenhouseAnother exciting announcement was made during Skyview’s Spring Program. Following along with the school’s mission to be on the cutting edge of modern practices, a new geothermal greenhouse is being installed on campus this summer. The design and plans come from veteran greenhouser Russ Finch from Alliance, Nebraska.

“Using the geothermal technology, our students can learn how to produce their own food all year long, even in the winter,” says Ray. “This is unheard of anywhere in our local area and we are extremely excited to get started. Growing all kinds of citrus in Nebraska, including oranges and lemons, is absolutely ground breaking!”

The school plans to sell the produce from the orchard and the greenhouse in a few years as a way to maintain the school’s current healthy financial status and to create a lasting educational legacy for future students. Skyview Learning Academy also hopes to share their knowledge with other schools that would like to learn more about self-sustaining gardening and use of natural resources.

Skyview Learning Academy is a private, PreK-8th grade elementary school located 25 miles southeast of Lincoln, Nebraska on a 20-acre campus. The school is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization with an active operating board and currently has four employees.

Learn more about Skyview Learning Academy