21st Century Academics for a Sustainable Future

At New Roots, the academic challenge is applying what you know and can do to make your vision for yourself and your world a reality. Visit our alumni page to learn how our New Roots graduates are doing just that!

Learning Applied to Life

New Roots students learn to be active, engaged members of their community and workplace by taking leadership on community sustainability and justice initiatives, participating in democratic school decision-making processes that model and consider a democratic world, and learning the skills and knowledge needed to be community leaders, innovators, entrepreneurs, and environmental stewards.

Our students prepare to graduate in four years with a Regents diploma by completing a four-year core curriculum sequence connected by interdisciplinary themes and project-based learning related to Education for Sustainability Benchmarks.  

This powerful interdisciplinary lens for understanding their community, their bioregion, and the global community inspires a real-world understanding of how their learning in school relates to their life and future.  These experiences make them stand out in competitive college admissions and job application processes.

Our Four Year Learning Sequence

Our lower school program (grade 9-10) cultivates foundational understandings and skills that prepare students to become actively involved in their school and local community as leaders, entrepreneurs, and activists when they move into the upper school program (grades 11-12).  Academic courses at both levels reflect Education for Sustainability Standards appropriate to their level.

Learning expeditions at each level are designed around interdisciplinary academic themes that connect core academic courses, one theme each semester.  One day per month is devoted to extended field work related to the expedition theme.  The expedition experience culminates with a public event where students share their learning through displays, videos, presentations, computer programs, art, music and other creative venues.

Lower School

Essential Questions:

Who am I?
Where am I?
Where have we
come from?

Upper School

Essential Questions

Where are we going?
How will we get there?
What is my role?
How will I prepare myself?


New Roots Students Learn Entrepreneurial Thinking

In our rapidly-changing economy, entrepreneurial thinkers have an advantage. New Roots curriculum is designed to empower the next generation of entrepreneurs. Creating a dream job or managing a new enterprise is sustainable with critical thinking, interpersonal communication, problem-solving and organizational skills.

Thinking Outside the Box

New Roots students are encouraged to recognize emerging opportunities, be critical thinkers, and work with others in the community to create sustainable solutions. They gain confidence by experiencing the value of their contribution to the community.

Learning expeditions and interdisciplinary courses focused on community-based learning, empower students with real-world application of knowledge and authentic opportunities to contribute. Experiential learning and internships reinforce these innovative education practices.

Sustainable Food Systems

The New Roots Sustainable Agriculture & Food Certificate Program provides in-depth knowledge of social, scientific, and cultural factors about how we bring food to our table.

Through internships, electives, special projects, and events, students learn skills that few other schools in the country currently offer high school students. Students also have a range of culinary arts experiences focusing on the connections between the farm, the food, and the table.

Required electives a culinary certificate include;
Café, Culinary Arts, Foodshed Studies, Sustainable Entrepreneurship, and Ecological Design.

Students develop portfolios that demonstrate their learning about how cooking, farming, food distribution and processing have developed throughout history. Food insecurity, poor nutrition, ecological degradation, the history of agriculture, and the social causes of hunger and nutrition are some of the various topics that students are immersed in.


Intensives are week-long interdisciplinary, community-based courses. 

To satisfy our students’ unique interests and varying learning styles, our teachers collaborate with community partners to offer a variety of intensive courses, from backpacking on the Finger Lakes Trail to Urban Gardening and Culinary Arts to History Tours of Ithaca. These classes are credit bearing with field work components where students meet with experts in the field and often create a final product for the public. Students have the option to gain elective credits or core subject area credits depending on the focus of the course.

Steel Drums

The product of New Roots Steel Drum intensive. With three days of focused work and learning, students who participated in the Steel Drum Intensive learn 5 pieces of music including a medley of Star Wars themes.

Students generally engage in this intensive without steel drum experience or knowledge of the written form of music. In three days students learn the basics of music notation and literacy, the layout and design of their particular instrument, the rehearse and memorize the music.

Students explore learning expeditions and interdisciplinary programming focused on community-based learning, to empower them with real-world application of knowledge and authentic opportunities to contribute. Business planning, budget development, and market research engage students in the experience of entrepreneurship.
Local History
Students explore the history of Ithaca by taking a historical walking tour of the city. We explore various aspects of our local history, from the geological period to the present, and each student does a short oral presentation and written script for our culminating project, which is a short historical documentary about Ithaca. Some of the historical aspects of Ithaca we cover are Cornell University, Silent Films in Ithaca, the Commons, Carl Sagan and the Planet Walk, the Ithaca Gun Factory, the Inlet, FDR’s New Deal in Ithaca, and the Clinton House. Students enjoy intense walking and hiking in the morning and research their topics and piece together a video in the afternoon.
Computer Coding
Students brand new to programming and computer science learn the foundation of computer science and the basics of computer programming. The primary language for the programming is Python. The week consists of video lectures, daily programming exercises, coding assignments, and a lot of fun.
First Aid/CPR

New Roots students from all grade levels come together for several days to learn about personal wellness and how to help others.  For the first couple days; students are trained as Mental Health First Aid Responders by the Mental Health Association in Tompkins County.

The next couple days, students are trained by the American Red Cross  CPR/AED and First Aid.  Throughout the week, students practice reflective listening skills with The Listening Workshop. Students become trained, certified and compassionate humans who can help in a crisis!

Cayuga Wetlands Restoration

For hundreds of millions of years, Earth has supported life, and life has in turn influenced the Earth. Changes in the Earth’s climate (over hundreds of millions of years) have resulted in the evolution of life to survive, while such adjustments by life have influenced the dynamics on Earth. Our modern lifestyle has introduced rapid changes to our environment, disrupting the equilibrium that had existed long before. The Haudenosaunee knew how to exist in balance with this equilibrium, and modern society can learn a lot from the knowledge they held.

In the Cayuga Wetlands Restoration intensive, students apply ecosystem knowledge held by the Haudenosaunee to bioremediate (heal with plants) the impaired southern end of Cayuga Lake. The goal is to transform a section of Stewart Park into a regenerative Muckyland: an ecosystem known by the Cayugas to be regenerative.

Students experience four days of wellness practices to learn about ways to achieve a sense of well-being. From power walks, running, pilates, steel club training, nature walks, and journaling, to learning different forms of yoga: acroyoga, slow vinyasa, kundalini, restorative and meditation. Students also learn about different forms of massage therapy, body posture awareness, flower essences, and healthy eating. Conversations about social, emotional, professional, physical, community, spiritual and environmental well-being take place. Students visit Wellspring Forest Farm and School to enjoy an afternoon of joyful play, chasing ducks and watching sheep, including sixteen lambs, companionship, and work, helping plant brussel sprouts, tomatoes and kale. Students share their experience at the end of these four rich and full days, and agree to mindfully practicing these activities every day to be more centered and calm.
Urban Gardening
Students spend several days learning about what goes into preparing, planning and sustaining a garden in our local community. On day one we move soil and compost to the front of the building and prepare large pots and gardening beds for dozens of seedlings. After researching the traits of our plants, students carefully chose which ones could share space well and which would not. Following the completion of our New Roots Garden, students go into the local community to help with other gardens. With the help of the Cornell Cooperative Extension, we are able to identify and remove invasive weeds from the permaculture garden and prepare their gardening beds for the upcoming growing season. Throughout the whole experience, students discover various flora and fauna that inhabit our local community and see how they may help or pose a problem for a gardener in our area. By the end of the intensive, the students learn what goes into making and maintaining a garden and learn to work as a team in order to accomplish our goals.


Every student is part of the “crew” that contributes to making New Roots Charter School a unique and dynamic learning environment in which all people are valued contributors.

"We are crew, not passengers"

Kurt Hahn, Founder of Outward Bound

Crews meet weekly with a faculty mentor to contribute to school governance and engage in service learning.  In crew, students learn teamwork and consensus-based decision-making skills, consciously building community across the divides of gender, age, race, and class. The faculty mentor monitors each student’s academic progress and serves as the liaison between school and home.

Most importantly, crew creates social connections across the lines of difference that often divide people, weaving the fabric of our inclusive school culture that celebrates each individual’s unique contribution to the whole.  This not only supports the well-being of people in our community, it gives our students a deciding edge in college and the workplace.

College and Career Success Seminars

College and Career Success Seminars help students develop the savvy to succeed in high school, prepare for college, and develop a meaningful career path. All New Roots students participate in this weekly seminar, which culminates in the college application process.

College Now Program

Logo TC3

New Roots and TC3 have a partnership to offer concurrent enrollment classes that grant students high school and college credit, without the cost of college tuition. Several Junior and Senior year classes use syllabi from TC3’s CollegeNow program. Students are also able to take additional online and regular TC3 offerings based on areas of specialization and interest. A recent report from the American Youth Policy Forum demonstrates, students who graduate from high school with college credits are more likely to apply to college, and show greater persistence in college beyond the first year. For more information, visit TC3 College Now.


Inspiring Opportunities Occur Inside & Outside the Classroom

New Roots students explore career interests, build skills and confidence while making lasting community connections through our internship program. The Internship & Service Learning Class at New Roots empowers students to explore career opportunities, and build character with a sense of responsibility within our community. Students learn how to research internships, write resumes and cover letters, apply for internships, interview with confidence, and engage in internships professionally.

Students interested in internships are encouraged to inquire about internship opportunities.

Businesses interested in offering internships are encouraged to get in touch!

New Roots Charter School was authorized by the State University of New York as a response to the United Nations’ Decade of Education for Sustainable Development. New Roots answered the UN’s call to integrate sustainability into daily school practice and programs and to identify local sustainability challenges and integrate local knowledge and skills into solutions while remaining conscious of our place in the international community. Inspiration from this UN initiative continues to influence the New Roots curriculum today.