Teton Science School

By DonaldMoon

A REIMAGINED VISION OF EDUCATION: This is the simplest way to convey Ted Major’s dream, founder of Teton Science Schools in 1967. He began taking students outside of the classroom to teach science.

You’ll find the Teton Science School vision thriving on four campuses in Idaho and Northwest Wyoming, as well as learning environments across the country and around the world. Fast forward half a century and you’ll be able to see it. TSS directs six programs: Journeys School and Teton Valley Community School; Teacher Learning Center; Wildlife Expeditions; Field Education; and the Graduate Program. These programs not only transform the way that learning happens but also change how education and communities relate to one another. TSS “connects people and nature through education, science and stewardship.”

Journeys School and Teton Valley Community School combine place-based learning with an experiential multi-aged, interdisciplinary, project-based curriculum. TSS has been developing local curriculum for 15 years through these two settings. Now, TSS is in the beginning stages of creating a global digital network that connects learning environments around the globe with the possibility of incorporating one’s own place into the learning experience. The digital network will expand upon the current work of TSS at the Teacher Learning Center. It invites educators from all walks of the globe to learn, explore, and test place-based strategies they can use in their local communities.

This interconnection is explored by a special group of science fair board adult learners, who spend an entire year exploring it. Through a partnership between the University of Wyoming, and other universities, participants can earn 32 credits in the TSS Graduate Program. They learn from alumni of both public and private schools around the globe to be future leaders in place-based learning. The Graduate Program is guided by the same open-walled philosophy as all TSS programs. It challenges learners to connect curriculum and community in order to increase understanding, agency and impact.

Each stakeholder–learners, parents, educators, graduate students, or community members–has an essential role in positively impacting local places and making Teton Science Schools’ mission come to life. TSS’s programs are constantly innovating thanks to their powerful contributions. They are currently in the process of launching two additional pilot programs, and they have plans to launch other programs. We are excited to see where their journey leads them.

The Connection Between Education and Ecology


The new campus of Teton Science School integrates the K-12 Journeys School and an immersive residential environmental education program. The buildings’ sloped roofs, inspired by the geology of the site and allowing natural light to enter the building, maximize natural ventilation, and allow for views of nearby native habitats.


Staggered building masses can be positioned to easily navigate the site’s dramatic topography and accommodate mule deer and elk migration patterns. Teachers have the option of multiple configurations in L-shaped classrooms that can be adapted to suit their teaching style and groups. Each classroom has direct access outdoors to learn and play to support the school’s place-based curriculum.