Sky Islands – An Arizona ‘best public school’ in US News and World Report rankings

We welcome your interest in Sky Islands for your education, however all charter schools are not alike. Please weigh your decision carefully—we do not offer credit-recovery programs, and our curriculum is not fast-paced or strictly individualized.  Students who enroll at Sky Islands join an academic community and are expected perform at high academic levels.

All students take academic core courses in math, science, social studies and language arts.  Additional classes are offered in Spanish, the Farm-to-Kitchen program, drama and visual arts, and classical guitar through the UA.  Our classes are aligned with Common Core and AZ State standards, and feature arts, environmental, and community-based projects.

Classes are scheduled in blocks of 1.5 hours each twice a week–repeating Monday/Thursday and Tuesday/Friday, 3 classes per day, totaling 6 classes per week. Wednesday is the exception–with early release at 12:30.

There is also a short block after lunch and before the final period each day except Wednesdays known as Seminar. Seminar courses vary widely, but typically offer a small peer group the opportunity to investigate areas of interest. Seminar options are primarily student-driven, and may be changed each quarter. Seminars aimed at juniors and seniors also include a college and career exploration and planning component.

College Readiness – A word from the founder

Sky Islands aims to prepare students for success in college.  I taught at the University level for 20 years, and I know that getting into a college is only part of the story.  Integrating social and emotional competencies into academic content is equally important to college readiness.  Skills in collaboration, problem solving, and creative thinking are as necessary as skills in literacy and math.

Across the educational program, students at Sky Islands are given opportunities to develop multiple competencies and to become confident in their abilities.  Whether the goal is a 4-year college, a 2-year college, or heading directly into the work world, colleges and employers are looking for people who can communicate clearly, have empathy, collaborate on problem solving, possess initiative and a strong work ethic.  Sky Islands’ project-based program, inquiry-based learning, and focus on design thinking, as well as depth in the sciences and humanities, all prepare students to enter their fields and be successful.

We foster the habits and competencies that the 21st century world requires.

Dr. Shari Popen / Founder and Director

Levels of Academic Engagement  

*Please note that courses with an asterisk may not be offered each academic year                                                   

9thskills/ habits/ principles: Ninth grade students are ready for academic content, yet sometimes see the world in only black-and-white.  Our program challenges freshmen to observe, question, and imagine alternatives. Coursework reflects the early steps of analysis and more abstract thinking.

  • Strategic Reading + Writing
  • Algebra 1
  • Field Studies*
  • Plant Biology/ Food Biology
  • Urban Horticulture
  • Civics*
  • Visual Arts
  • Ceramics (9-12)
  • UA Lead Guitar (9-12)
  • Restoration Ecology (9-12)
  • Forensic Debate (9-12)
  • Creative Writing (9-12)

10thindividual knowledge: Tenth grade students seek to understand process, growth, and transformation as they experience it in themselves and the larger world.   This level further develops basic skills but challenges students to work towards greater levels of abstract and critical thinking.

  • Content Literacy
  • Geometry
  • Earth Science/ Geology
  • US/AZ History
  • Multi+Mixed Media (10-11)
  • Culinary Arts (10-12)
  • Ceramics (9-12)
  • UA Lead Guitar (9-12)
  • Restoration Ecology (9-12)
  • Forensic Debate (9-12)
  • Creative Writing (9-12)

11thsocial knowledge:   Eleventh grade students have a growing capacity for self-reflection and begin to examine questions of individuality and community. Students at this level consider their own paths within the larger whole and apply learned skills.

  • Literature and Urban Worlds
  • Algebra 2
  • Ecobiology/ Regional Ecosystems
  • Chemistry in the Community*
  • World History/ Geography
  • Multi+Mixed Media (10-11)
  • Culinary Arts (10-12)
  • Scientific Research and Design (11-12)
  • Art + Design (11-12)
  • Spanish I and II (11-12)
  • College and Career Readiness (11-12)
  • Watershed Management (11-12)*
  • Ceramics (9-12)
  • UA Lead Guitar (9-12)
  • Restoration Ecology (9-12)
  • Forensic Debate (9-12)
  • Creative Writing (9-12)

12th—public knowledge:  Twelfth grade students integrate knowledge and experience and begin to see their place in the world.  Coursework helps seniors explore critical questions and prepares them to participate globally.

  • Media Studies
  • Applied/ Tech Math
  • Pre-Calculus
  • Astronomy/ Astrobiology
  • Government/ Economics
  • 2D/3D Art Portfolio
  • Culinary Arts (10-12)
  • Scientific Research and Design (11-12)
  • Art + Design (11-12)
  • Spanish I and II (11-12)
  • College and Career Readiness (11-12)
  • Watershed Management (11-12)*
  • Ceramics (9-12)
  • UA Lead Guitar (9-12)
  • Restoration Ecology (9-12)
  • Forensic Debate (9-12)
  • Creative Writing (9-12)
Blue Sky Café —Urban Farm

The ecological farm-to-kitchen program at Sky Islands high school focuses on the sustainable cultivation of edible and ornamental desert-adapted plants, while the Culinary program focuses on the diverse food cultures from the Southwest and around the world.  These programs collaborate throughout the year, and the school’s lunch program—Blue Sky Café—is designed as part of their integrated curriculum.

Classes that are aligned to the combined ecology/ culinary program include:

  • Urban Horticulture/ 9-10
  • Plant Biology/ Food Biology/ 9
  • Field Studies/ 9
  • Restoration Ecology/ 9-12
  • Eco-Biology/ Regional Ecosystems/ 11
  • Culinary Arts/ 10-12
Courses