Intrepid Academy at Hale

Launched in 2018, Intrepid Academy at Hale (IAH) collaborates with Boston Public Schools to develop powerful semester-long opportunities for students.  A semester at IAH emphasizes wellness through relationships, nature-based leadership, and community-based challenges blended with academic courses to transform individuals and communities. Staff and school leaders, faculty members, and students complete visioning, planning, and implementation through an in-depth series of collaborative meetings to establish objectives that meet schools’ goals and align with the program’s experiential project- and place-based model.

What helped today was the silence of the forest. Nothing loud, nothing lasting. Just quiet.

Through careful design and implementation, a semester at IAH develops knowledge, understanding, and skills. Participants:

  • exude a sense of confidence and belonging in the outdoors, and appreciate the awe of connecting with nature.
  • understand how to lead groups through outdoor experiences and have transferable skills for their careers, which may include nature-based occupations.
  • can build and lead intentional and just communities with knowledge gained through supportive and challenging physical, academic, and community-building experiences.
  • know what it means to be mentally and physically well, and can articulate how moving one’s body in a natural environment enhances wellness.
  • have firsthand experience in building relationships with themselves, their communities, and nature.

IAH nurtures body and mind, inspires passion and curiosity, and teaches skills that translate to success in academia and life. Students explore their own identities and goals and build community using an Afrikanized and Indigenized framework to explore their own past, present, and future.

Being at places like Intrepid helps you get in touch with nature which opens your mind up to so much. You literally will have no worries if you go on a nice run or bike ride at Hale.

The IAH Experience

Bus Time

Students travel to Hale daily on a bus from their sending school. Transportation, as well as breakfast, snacks, and a hearty lunch, are included in the program.

Hale's campus is unique: students can explore 1,000+ acres, 20 miles of trails, four ponds, three year-round lodges, and two challenge courses.
Students build community as they participate in small group advisory sessions, create collaborative community expectations, and participate in rite of passage circles.

The humanities come alive at Hale as students explore the relationship between people, current events, history, culture, and the environment.

Fitness Lab
Outdoor Leadership Lab offers students the opportunity to learn and master technical and interpersonal outdoor leadership skills through activities like interactive scavenger hunts.
Science and math curricula are tied directly to the land at Hale; students have the opportunity to deeply study topics like solar power, forest health, water chemistry, populations, and more.

Technology isn't rejected at Hale, but it doesn't take center stage, either. Students use laptops, devices, and other inventions to enhance their understanding of the world.


Physical and mental challenges are carefully integrated throughout the curriculum. These challenges complement lessons students learn in the classroom.

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Curricular Rationale

Our experiential curriculum is challenging, personalized, and interdisciplinary. Lessons, units, and activities are designed to promote student engagement and increase higher order thinking and social skills. Students examine and build relationships with themselves, with their peers and teachers, and with nature in order to holistically develop as leaders. The curriculum meets all state standards for math, science, and humanities.

Student FAQs

How do I get there?

Transportation is provided either from the sending school or from a local MBTA station.

How long is the school day?

Schedules are developed in collaboration with partner schools, so the answer to this question varies!

Is there food?

Breakfast bars, afternoon snacks, and a hot lunch are provided daily. On cold days, we serve hot chocolate.

Will I have homework?

Yes. IAH is very different from traditional school in many ways, but it is still school, and there is assigned homework.

It says physical activity is involved, but I’m not in good physical shape. Is that okay?

Yes. IAH tailors activities to participants. Everyone is active at whatever level is most appropriate to their physical condition.

Do I need special clothing or equipment?

No. IAH provides technical outdoor gear and apparel including winter coats, fleece jackets, rain jackets and pants, boots, hats, gloves, and wool socks.

Why focus on wellness and relationships?

By creating opportunities for physical movement and access to healing spaces, IAH allows students to explore what it means to be well, and to identify practices that lead to a sense of personal and community wellness. Wellness is critical to academic achievement and community engagement, yet many educational institutions—especially public high schools—do not focus on it. At IAH, students report feeling calm, happy, hopeful, strong, and inspired. When we focus on wellness and learn social and emotional skills, we can achieve and exceed our own expectations.

Why focus on nature and leadership?

Nature is the perfect setting for experiential learning. Learning outdoors engages all five senses and creates an ideal canvas for the application of real-world skills like navigation, field studies, student-centered project-based learning, and place-based exploration. Group experiences in the outdoors build social skills in authentic ways, allowing students to develop and practice leadership. IAH students gain real-world experience and receive information about nature-based careers, and many join a growing number of BIPOC individuals pursuing environmental careers.

Intrepid Academy at Hale

Continued education at Hale's Intrepid Academy

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IAH calls Hale’s 1,000+ acres home. The site provides ample space that meets the academic, social, emotional, and health needs of the school’s students. It also blurs the line between traditional and outdoor classrooms as students spend significant time exploring the natural world every day.

Faculty and Staff

The faculty and staff consist of:

  • Core academic teachers from sending schools
  • Program administrators, outdoor guides, and adjunct subject specialists from Hale

Erica Pernell is Intrepid Academy at Hale’s director, and Sydney Howland, Heron Russell, and Bola Origunwa are its outdoor guides.

Design Team

A talented and committed group of educators and professionals volunteered to design IAH. They met many times over several years and provided guidance and direction regarding the school’s concept. Members included Jennifer Antonucci (Co-founder, AthenaK12 Educational Consulting), Spencer Blasdale (Chief Program Officer, The Calculus Project, Inc.), Bill Chamberlin (Retired Business Manager, Noble and Greenough School), Alexandra Oliver Dávila (Executive Director, Sociedad Latina, Boston School Committee Member), Phil Jackson (Director of Teen Initiatives, Boston After School & Beyond), Emily Parks (Superintendent, Westwood Public Schools), Joe McConaughy (former record holder of the fastest unsupported thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail).

Design team members are now occasionally called on to act in an advisory role and provide guidance.

Sending Schools

Hale currently partners with two Boston Public Schools: Boston Day and Evening Academy and Margarita Muñiz Academy. If you would like to learn how your school can become an IAH sending school, please contact Sunny Pai, Director of School and Professional Programs.


During its pilot phase, students from sending schools attend IAH tuition-free; sending schools and private philanthropy cover the expenses. If your student is not from one of our sending schools please reach out to Sunny Pai, Director of School and Professional Programs, to discuss admission and tuition.


If you have general questions, please reach out to Erica Pernell, Director of Intrepid Academy at Hale.

Partner Schools

Boston Day and Evening Academy, Roxbury

Margarita Muñiz Academy, Jamaica Plain

Support and Sponsorship

Corporate & Foundation Support

Arcadia Charitable Trust
Barr Foundation
Boston After School & Beyond
Highland Street Foundation
Hunt Street Fund
Barney Katzman Foundation
Massachusetts Charitable Society
Mass Networks Education Partnership
Needham Bank