Green Fields at 75 - The Explorer: El Sol

Green Fields at 75

K-12 school sends nearly everyone to college

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Posted: Tuesday, April 28, 2009 11:00 pm | Updated: 1:26 pm, Mon Apr 18, 2011.

It's likely one of the Northwest's best-kept secrets.

Green Fields Country Day School, Southern Arizona's only independent K-12 school, traces its history back 75 years to its founding on a 77-acre alfalfa farm.

Located on N. Camino de la Tierra just north of the Rillito River, Green Fields opened in 1933 as a boarding school for boys that blended East Coast academic traditions, designed to prepare the boys to be accepted by elite high schools in the East, with western outdoor ranch life.

At the time, every student cared for his own horse, and the boys frequently rode down the Rillito riverbed to Hacienda del Sol, then a boarding school for girls.

The earliest frame building at Green Fields — the original sleeping quarters for faculty and students — is now part of the History Building, and an adobe structure built by students in 1934 now houses administration.

Classes were held primarily outdoors or on screened porches at the school, a tradition that continues in some forms today.

"We have 172 students in all grades, which is a bit low compared with our historical average of around 200," said Lori Foster, director of development, marketing and alumni relations. "We've always been a small school and want to continue that because one of our trademarks is the value of small classes. We like students to have an intimate feel of the school."

In a typical year, Foster noted, 100 percent of the graduating class goes on to attend four-year colleges or universities, including many of the top schools in the country.

Green Fields became a day school in 1960, still an all-boys school, which changed in 1966 when girls were first admitted.

Today's Green Fields campus is also smaller than at its founding — 22 acres — and there is no more livestock. The last horse died in 1999, and the last sheep and chickens departed in 2000.

However, the school boasts 18 buildings, including a gymnasium, a 200-seat performing arts theater and a geodesic dome built by University of Arizona architecture students and used to this day by the Green Fields art department.

A new landmark on campus is a solar-powered iPod charger and stereo system, a result of Solarizona, the school's alternative energy project that also will include installing solar panels on one building to generate enough energy to offset the utility costs of three campus buildings.

Foster pointed out that Green Fields is known today for its study experiences outside the classroom, including travel study in Europe and Mexico, living on the Hopi reservation, and studying marine biology, desert ecology and archeology in the field.

"Seniors can embark on a Masterwork project, which is a year-long course of independent study where they pursue a passion beyond the classroom, conduct research, find a mentor in the community and culminate the project with a performance, video or interactive presentation," she said.

As part of its 75th anniversary, Green Fields has embarked on a capital campaign aimed at raising a half million dollars to support the school and its goals for the future.

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