school of environmental studies

Welcome to the School of Environmental Studies

SES will be open for visitors interested in joining us for the 2018-19 school year on December 13th and 14th from 6:30-8:00 pm. We start with a presentation that gives information and then follow it with tours of the building. Half the staff is there each night, along with a great many student volunteers, so it’s a great opportunity to ask questions. We look forward to meeting you!

As a parent we often see the world through a different lens than our child. Below you will get a sense of our educational philosophy and approach to learning that prepares students to succeed in their future.

Opened in 1995, SES is a unique partnership between Independent School District 196, the City of Apple Valley, and the State of Minnesota (Minnesota Zoo). SES is a response to the well-documented need to create smaller, more effective learning communities providing authentic learning experiences. Our mission is to create citizen leaders who are environmentally informed, self-perpetuating learners, and connected to the local and global community.

Educational Philosophy

Experiential Learning and Real World Applications
We believe that learning is richer when it is active, that ideas found in books are best understood when applied in the real world, that the classroom can and should expand beyond the walls of the school. We expect our students to look at problems from multiple perspectives. We believe that quality comes from relationships between individuals.

In addition to our 25 on site staff members, students interact daily with adults in other places and in other professions. We have partnered with the MN Zoo, Lebanon Hills, Climate Generation: A Will Steger Legacy, the MN DNR, the City of Eagan Water Resources Department, Three Rivers Park District, and dozens of other organizations to enrich the experience of our students.

What good is getting into a college if you aren’t prepared to succeed once you get there? We emphasize reading, writing and critical thinking across the disciplines. Our students engage in high-level inquiry and discussions daily.

Stewardship / Sustainable Living
By "Environmental Studies" we mean understanding ecological systems and investigating how humans interact with them. We believe that ethics and leadership are key components in knowing how we should best live.

shool of environmental studies


Much of our curriculum is based on thematic questions that don’t have a single answer. Students are encouraged to take part in their own education by exploring the many aspects of these questions. Fundamental to our philosophy is the idea that students must participate and engage in their own learning.

Have questions about SES? Please feel free to contact us.
Phone: 952-431-8750
email: great


content integration • question driven • thematic design


A three trimester study of the relationship between humans and the natural world. Foundational studies of the living planet and of the development of human civilization in relationship to it.

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A three trimester study of the impact of humans on the natural world. Foundational studies of sustainability and of the relationships between human activity and the quality of life on the planet.

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A rich elective program broadens the student's understanding of the world, providing a final foundational base for thinking about and acting on environmental issues.

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Field Studies are a great example of our idea of "school without walls." They are academic excursions around the planet and are intended to immerse students in new climates, cultures and environmental issues.

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Intensive Theme

Intensive Theme courses allow students to explore one subject intensively over a short period of time. These courses occur near the end of each trimester. Courses cover a wide range of interests.

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"SES has been life changing for our daughter. She entered high school with optimism. She was an excellent student, a varsity athlete, and excited to get involved in all the "right" extracurricular activities. As time went on, it all felt meaningless, and she was bored with it all. She decided to "try" SES her junior year, and everything changed. She immediately was drawn in by caring, passionate teachers."

Katherine Hoff - Parent of SES Alumna

Learning in Academic Houses

gold • green • blue • rose

school of environmental studies

SES is Divided Into Four Houses.

The academic house is both the physical and philosophical division of the school into smaller communities. Each of four houses is made up of about one hundred students. Two houses are for juniors, two for seniors. House are used to deepen understanding of new concepts and build learning communities.

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Registration dates are listed in the school calendar (link). Note that registration forms from incoming juniors are collected either at the registration open house or during your second registration homeroom. Senior registration forms from new students should be mailed to, or dropped of at, the office (link).