The outdoors would be the classroom for about 60 young students in a proposed "green" charter school in Woodbury that would open next fall.

The Michael Frome Academy is one of 11 new charter schools the Minnesota Department of Education approved last fall. The school would stress putting students "into wild places" where they would be immersed in nature, said Laurel Tangen-Foster, the school's start-up coordinator.

"They become young naturalists," she said. "We really want to get people out and about and active."

In its first year, the school would serve students in kindergarten through third grade. A fourth grade would be added in 2009 and a fifth grade in 2010.

The school would be housed in a 4,000-square-foot building in the Woodbury Crossing development at the southeast corner of Radio and Pioneer Drives, near the Math and Science Academy, a charter school for grades 6-12. The school still needs approval from the city.

Michael Frome is a conservationist, author and educator whose writings have focused on preserving wilderness areas, protecting national parks, and environmental stewardship and ethics.

The academy, sponsored by The Audubon Center of the North Woods, would be committed to environmental education through classes in the outdoors in the St. Croix River Valley, the Education Department said.

Tangen-Foster said the school plans to develop students into "caring stewards" through field trips to the Audubon Center in Sandstone, Minn., and by using Woodbury's natural features, such as Tamarack Nature Preserve and the many ponds and habitats in Washington County.

Woodbury's reputation as a "green" city figured in the decision to open the school there, said Tangen-Foster, a charter-school consultant from Hudson, Wis., who has a doctorate in education.

"The city's overall vision is pretty spectacular," she said.

The building would be built and owned by Robert Engstrom Cos. of Minneapolis, which would lease the building to the academy. The building and its surrounding area will have environmental features such as in-floor heating, native plants and rain gardens to collect runoff. Students would tend a vegetable garden and organic lunches would be available, Tangen-Foster said.

Anyone wanting further information about the academy can contact her at 651-788-5803.

Charter schools are independent public schools. The first charter school in the nation opened in Minnesota in 1992. About 26,000 Minnesota students are enrolled in 158 charter schools.

Kevin Giles • 651-298-1554