photos courtesy of Kroka Expeditions

What if there was an alternative to sitting in the same classroom five days a week, 180 days a year, learning the basics of math, reading, history, and science?  What if instead you could learn all of those topics in an applied setting, while also learning about sustainability, organic agriculture, outdoor navigation, and wilderness adventure skills? What if you could call the forest your classroom, and geology class meant going climbing and learning about the rock wall right in front of you? What if you could do all of this on a solar-powered campus, and then continue your lessons while travelling through the mountains and waterways of New England?

That’s how newly solarized Kroka Expeditions structures their Semester programs, accredited 5-month programs for high school, gap year, and college students designed to teach self-sufficiency, community building, and wilderness skills. Kroka aims to support students in growing into skilled, compassionate, and community-minded young people, which they do through a series of summer and school programs, as well as their famed Semester programs. Both Semester programs (this year they are offering “Legends of the Rio Grande” and “Arctic to Manhattan”) start out on their campus in southwestern New Hampshire (just down the road from the also-newly-solarized Badger Balm). Set on 120 acres in Marlow, NH, Kroka has an organic farm and camp village, and students use the forest to sustainably harvest wood for cooking and building. Students and staff at Kroka grow fruit and vegetables in their gardens, and raise cows and chickens for meat and dairy; students learn respect for the animals, and how to use the land sustainably.

Kroka Expeditions is also working on becoming a zero-waste and carbon neutral organization. Last year they started refurbishing their 200 year-old farmhouse and administrative building to be the first Living Building in New Hampshire. This includes a fossil-fuel-free heating system, solar hot water, triple-glazed windows, passive solar, rainwater collection for the gardens, and composting toilets. It also includes 37 photovoltaic solar panels, installed by ReVision Energy this past summer. These solar panels provide over 14,500 kilowatt-hours of electricity a year to the campus, offsetting 15,440 pounds of carbon each year. Taken all together, this building embodies Kroka’s values of beauty, simplicity, and regenerative systems, and will serve as a sustainability center for visitors and students.

“On our campus, we have perfect southern exposure, and installing photovoltaic panels was just one piece of the puzzle in divorcing our infrastructure from fossil fuels while investing in clean energy sources,” staff member Hannah Billian said. “We plan to install micro-hydro and wind systems eventually, and are proud to share our sustainably produced energy with our community by tying into the grid.”

At Kroka, education is the number one goal. Billian said, “We teach children about energy sustainability so that they may learn and become invested in pursuing sustainability work in their future. By having a solar array, students and staff are able to actively participate in tracking energy production and usage every single day! With the money saved by using this system, Kroka is able to reinvest funds into our scholarship program, bringing more community members to our programs so that they may participate in all that Kroka has to offer!”

Kroka founders Misha Golfman and Lynne Boudreau have dreamt of solarizing the entire campus for over 25 years. “Thanks to our partners at ReVision Energy, as well as Hammond Climate Solutions, we were finally able to make this dream a reality!”