We are very excited to announce that the Riveredge Outdoor Learning Elementary School (ROLES) has been awarded a charter school planning and implementation grant from the Wisconsin Department of Instruction.

Riveredge Nature Center is the developer of this nature-based public elementary charter school.  The Northern Ozaukee School District is supporting this unique learning environment through serving as the school’s authorizer.  Once operational, the ROLES will become an independent organization led by a Governance Council and Lead Teacher.  ROLES will operate at Riveredge Nature Center under a user agreement with the Center.

Together, many groups and individuals have already come together to support this initiative. We are very excited for the planning year to come, as we work together to create a unique learning environment which engages the curiosity of students while using the natural world as a teaching tool.


Nature-Based Learning Pillar

  • Nature-based learning is active and increases students’ physical, mental and social health. Access to nature has also been shown to decrease the symptoms of ADHD. Nature-based learning additionally decreases stress levels of students and teachers. We will fully utilize Riveredge Nature Center as our partner in nature-based learning with access to 10 miles of trails, a research and conservation center, and 379 acres of Wild Wisconsin. Additional resources include: Children’s Organic Garden, Composting, Woodland Harvest Permaculture Site, Engineered Wetland Wastewater Treatment System, Lake Sturgeon Rearing Facility, Geothermal Heating and Cooling, and Ongoing Land Restoration/Stewardship. Nature-play and Adventure Education, which focuses not only on physical activity, appropriate risk taking, and outdoor recreation, but also the development of emotional and social competencies, will be an integral part of the nature-based approach to our educational pedagogy.

Inquiry-Based Learning Pillar

  • Inquiry-based learning is a form of active learning that starts by posing questions, problems, or scenarios rather than presenting established facts. This pillar will focus on a set of teaching and learning strategies involving student-centered research and investigation that encourages metacognitive thought process, discussion and collaboration. We will utilize a great deal of existing Riveredge Nature Center programming. Our own research suggests that after attending an onsite school program at Riveredge Nature Center, students were 54% more likely to explain their reasoning in response to a question – an indicator of inquiry-based learning. This type of learning will culminate in individual student inquiries that are personalized to incorporate our other pillars as well as integrated common core standards.

Community-Based Learning Pillar

  • In a community-based learning environment, students see the school as part of the local community and the local community as part of the learning in the school. Parents play an important role in the anytime/everywhere learning experience. Experts in the community will be utilized frequently to maximize the learning experience of each student.

Frequently Asked Questions

Will there be an enrollment fee?

  • The Riveredge Outdoor Learning Elementary School (ROLES) is a public charter school open to any student, regardless of district.  Students who do not reside in the Northern Ozaukee School District will need to open enroll into NOSD to enroll in ROLES.

What grades will be served and how many students?

  • ROLES will begin in the 2019-20 school year with grades K-4, expand to K-5 in 2020-21, and will reach maximum enrollment of 99 students in K-5 in 2021-22.  Each grade will serve 16-17 students.

Can I add my child’s name to a waiting list?

  • No, as a public school we do not have a waiting list for enrollment.

How and when can I enroll my child in ROLES?

  • The enrollment window will open in early 2019 for the 2019-20 school year.
  • An open-house and information sessions will be available in early 2019.
  • If demand exceeds available spots, a lottery system will be utilized. Once a family is enrolled in ROLES, exemptions to the lottery process will be provided to siblings.

Will bussing be available?

  • Yes.  We are working to provide transportation options from several drop of sites in Washington and Ozaukee Counties. If possible, a southern Sheboygan County site may become available based on enrollment.
  • Transportation fees may apply.

What does the DPI Charter School Grant fund?

  • The $700,000  grant from the DPI supports support services to develop the school, first year lead teacher salary/benefits, equipment purchases, and classroom furniture.  It does NOT support the construction of new facilities.

When will more information become available?

  • Significant updates will become available throughout the autumn and into winter as the Lead Teacher is brought on board, the Governance Board is appointed, and final school development progresses.
  • A new website for ROLES is anticipated to be launched by January 15, 2019.
  • Please join the email list (below) if you’d like to be notified of any significant updates.

What will happen to the current nature-based 4K program?

  • It will continue!  We are very proud to be a partner with the Kettle Moraine YMCA and West Bend School District (WBSD) to host a public nature-based 4 year old Kindergarten. The charter school will provide an additional resource for teacher professional development and inspiration for this partnership.
  • The charter school begins with 5 year old Kindergarten, and we hope families with 4 year olds will consider the WBSD nature-based 4K program for their children.
  • You can learn more about the nature-based 4K partnership on its webpage.

Who can I contact if I have additional questions?

  • Please contact Sunny Knutson, Director of Education, or Jessica Jens, Executive Director, of Riveredge Nature Center with any questions.  They can be reached at 262-375-2715.

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