Even in cold, snow, Tate’s students take it outside

  • From left are Cruz Kowaleski, Jack Madigan and Reeve Brumit on one of Tate’s School’s seventh-grade snowshoeing trips. - Photo submitted

  • From left, Ezra Hodge, Justin Leitch and Tiana Ling are harvesting broccoli to be used in Tate’s School’s kitchen. - Photo submitted

Even with the recent snowstorm, students at Tate’s School, 9215 Bob Gray Road, are discovering learning does not have to happen indoors.

The school’s faculty took advantage of the January weather as a teaching opportunity.

“We were so pleased to have students return to school (Tuesday, Jan. 23),” said Tracey Van Hook, Tate director of Communications. “

Physical education classes played Capture the Flag in a large field just off Bob Gray Road, while students used recess to catch some B-Roll.

But enjoying the snow is not the only opportunity taken at the school, which is celebrating its 56th year.

“We have been a highly academic environment from the beginning,” said Lou L Tate, CEO and founder of Tate School. “We have a teaching garden, forest learning, zip lines and use of three pools to teach students swimming instructions each fall.

“(Using the outdoors has) been a big part of what we’ve done,” principal Kaye Simmons said. “Looking at the research of what’s been done showing the benefits of time in nature and how that can reverse the negative effects of so much screen time (sitting at a computer).

“Even the little kids, even though they don’t have screens here at school, when they get home, they are on tablets, computers, video games,” she added. “As a nation, we’re realizing that all of this screen time is changing their brain,

“But now research is showing that time spent in nature actually reverses that.”

Scattered throughout the campus are outdoor teaching areas, where all classes use them as a bonus to the learning process.

In the science arena, fourth-grade science teacher Michelle Clark shows her pupils about agriculture with a broccoli garden, in which students a couple weeks ago, harvested broccoli, which survived the storm, and micro greens.

“The chef is going to put that (broccoli) in a salad,” Clark said.

They also are raising trout from eggs, learning about water quality and water resources, engaging in a stream habitat study and learning a conservation ethic, Van Hook said.

In middle school, students are taught fly-fishing, boating and have a ski club.

“Our middle school students love the outdoors and most participate in our adventure club and snow skiing club,” the founder said. “We like to embrace the winter weather and students benefit. These are memories they are making today.”

Also in middle school, eighth-grade science teacher Alex Edwards uses camping trips to Mount Rogers in Virginia to teach students about wildlife species, such as the Weller’s’ salamander, they would never see otherwise.

“They keep active field journals,” researching 300 native species on their own, Edwards said.

The school even has its own summer camp.

Additionally, students and faculty relieve stress with the help of Luna, a 2-year-old mini Labradoodle therapy dog.

“One day a week, she is an all-day dog,” said Heather Jenkinson, administrative assistant and licensed social worker who handles Luna. “She’s here (in the principal’s office) for anyone who needs her.”