Our Campus and History
Odyssey School is nestled in a natural sanctuary in the heart of a vibrant city, and is a stone’s throw from some of Asheville’s greatest treasures. Our wooded six-acre campus in the gently rolling hills of the Montford historical district is easily accessible from both I-26 and downtown Asheville.
The campus of Odyssey was built by Duke University a quarter-century ago specifically as an educational facility, and the grounds include the main building’s 25,000 square feet with its 15 classrooms, offices, a greenhouse and aquaponic system, an auditorium/gymnasium, and a commercial kitchen and cafeteria.
Odyssey’s campus is home to nearly 100 trees which create an intentional, natural setting for the imagination. In Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder, researchers in Sweden found that children who played in an environment dominated by play structures rather than natural elements established a social hierarchy through physical competence; whereas in open play spaces, or “vegetative rooms,” children use more fantasy play, and their social standing became based more on language skills, creativity, and inventiveness. In other words, the more creative children emerged as leaders in natural play areas. This research inspires our expansive, wooded playgrounds.
Odyssey has updated the facilities to include a working music studio, computer lab, SmartBoard classrooms, and a pottery studio complete with a kiln. Our campus also includes a newly renovated junior Olympic-sized pool, two tennis courts, and a huge, wooded playground. Our neighbors include the campus of UNC-Asheville and the Asheville Botanical Gardens. From here, it’s easy to take advantage of all that the urban center and the wilds of the mountains have to offer!
In February of 2007, several families approached our founding director, Dr. John Johnson, with the desire to create a new school in Asheville founded on a commitment to nurturing a lifelong love of learning and self-knowledge in multi-age, continuous progress classes with a high level of commitment to emotional safety and citizenship. Through the incredible energy of our original Board of Trustees, Director, teachers, parents, and volunteers, our founders continued to give of their time and resources for years to come ensuring that the fledgling school would succeed. A working, dedicated Board, staff, faculty, families, and volunteers continue to be the backbone of the Odyssey community today.
How must the education of our children transform if we are to expect them to be creative citizens and personally fulfilled adults twenty-five years from now? Answering this question laid the foundation of Odyssey and is a continual pursuit for Odyssey’s faculty, whose vision of education assimilates the integral philosophy articulated by Ken Wilber and the emergent cosmology voiced by Thomas Berry. The result is a compassionate, creative community inspired by solution-oriented thinking, reflection, and the development of our relationship with ourselves, our communities, and our greater human experience. “We have to teach today’s children how to learn,” said Dr. Johnson. “We have to lead by example, invest in the self-knowing techniques of inquiry, honesty and authenticity. We have to present our students with an inclusive, integrative, and creative world.”
In 2014, as is characteristic of a seven year cycle, Odyssey underwent a transformation. The Board of Trustees began a search for new leadership and began a multi-year strategic plan to relocate the school. After a community-wide effort, the school community selected its current leaders, creating two leadership positions in favor of the historical single head of school. This change in Odyssey’s governance reflected our growing commitment to collaboration and deepened our dedication to the Integral Model: building multiple perspectives into our framework as well as our classrooms. Our Executive Directors are Megan McCarter Martell and Coranna Adams, both served with the school for many years before their current positions, in both an academic and administrative capacity, and are passionate about continuing Odyssey’s legacy of leadership in the field of Integral and Design Education.