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Career Academy Students Gain Hands-on Education in Outdoor Classrooms

St. Johns County School District

Business partner Jason Rickards from St. Johns County Utilities teaches Creekside High School students about environmental issues.

Designing complex structures, scouting for recycled materials and learning to use handheld GPS devices are just part of a normal day for the students enrolled in Creekside High School's Academy of Environmental and Urban Planning. More than 250 students currently participate in the school's innovative career academy focused on project-based learning in various outdoor classroom settings.

During the past year, students have designed and constructed eco-friendly projects, including a greenhouse made out of recyclable plastic bottles and agricultural shade structures for the University of Florida's Agricultural Center. Several students also competed in an engineering competition hosted by the University of North Florida to construct and sail a concrete canoe.

Students also built and installed bird houses around the school's campus. When academy students are in a traditional classroom, they are able to earn industry certifications in professional design software. The academy is the fourth program in St. Johns County to earn national distinction as a Model Career Academy, the highest designation awarded by the National Career Academy Coalition (NCAC).

National research shows that career academy students have better attendance, better scores on standardized tests, higher college attendance rates, and often earn higher salaries than the average non-career academy student. And because the academies involve local businesses and community organizations, students are able to use their knowledge in real-world applications.

For more information, visit the Florida Department of Education's Career Academies webpage.