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tatla lake school

The Tatla Lake School is part of British Columbia School District 27.  Enrolment for the 2016/2017 school year is 17 students, from Kindergarten to Grade 10. In addition to the BC curriculum, Tatla Lake School has a thriving arts program and an emphasis on outdoor education. Here, we speak with Clare Gordon, Principal of Tatla Lake School.

How do students in such a remote area get to school?

Almost all of the students ride the school bus. Some students have to drive (or cross country ski, or ride bikes/ATVs) first to get to their bus stop.

Is Tatla School one of the smallest in the province?

Tatla School is definitely one of the smallest public schools in the province and may very well be the smallest Kindergarten to Grade 10 school in the province.




The school ends up feeling like a big family. Due to the fact that the school is small, class sizes are also small. Students get more individualized instruction than at larger schools. Student needs are identified and met quickly. The whole school can easily fit on one school bus and go on field trips together. The students get a chance to play games such as Capture the Flag, Kick the Can, Sardines, Infection, and Camouflage during Whole School PE. Christmas Plays and Spring Musicals include everyone – including staff and community members. There is a real sense of belonging. Our Parent Advisory Council plays a vital role in school planning and meetings are well attended. Community members are welcomed into the school to share knowledge. The school really feels like the heart of the community. If things are going well at school, then the whole community feels it and is a happier entity. 


What modern educational tools do you incorporate the into rural curriculum at Tatla School?

Our secondary students attend academic classes online with a live-time specialized teacher in Williams Lake. Their classmates are in the other remote schools in our district. They wear headphones with microphones so that they can communicate with each other – mind you, during class discussions, they tend to type questions and answers so they don’t feel as self-conscious speaking out loud when the other people around them may be attending a different class. We received a grant from Participaction this year to purchase a Desk Cycle. Students take turns pedaling on this while they are online. We have a complete science lab. The online teacher put together a science lab kit so that the students could run through the labs with the Tatla based teacher. Teachers attend online Rural Secondary staff meetings once a month as well as regular school based meetings. Our secondary students have taken courses in robotics, metal work, foods and nutrition, geocaching, carpentry (not recently – but we are looking for a local expert) and musical theatre with community members who have come into the school.


What extra-curricular programs do the students enjoy during the school year?

We have a large ice rink at the school. Students have had an opportunity to stay after school to play hockey. We have an incredible collection of outdoor equipment. The students have been cross country skiing, snowshoeing, geocaching, hiking, bouldering (we have a bouldering wall in our gym), camping, mountain biking, tobogganing, and shelter building. Students have participated in Walking Wednesdays. The primary class is outside for the morning, learning about nature, researching in field guides, looking at animal tracks, hiking, snowshoeing, or cross country skiing, harvesting, using their senses, sitting at their thinking trees, and writing in their nature notebooks.

The senior class spends Wednesday afternoons outside learning about Environmental Education. The whole school spent two days skiing and snowboarding at Mount Timothy. The senior class went to 100 Mile House to see a play, stayed at The Hills Health Ranch, and went tubing. Last year, the senior class went to Tweedsmuir Park, hiked in to a cabin, stayed overnight, learned about avalanches, and went skiing/snowboarding. This past February, we hosted just over 30 students from Williams Lake for a week. They learned from our local experts about wilderness first aid, fir beetles, tracking, and life in Antarctica. We took them snowshoeing, cross country skiing at Martin Lake, and hosted a school dance at the Community Hall. Our students are writing a book “Hoofprints in History”. The 11th Edition should be ready just in time for the 30th Anniversary of the First Edition. Our students have been able to develop their musical talents. Fiddle, guitar, and piano lessons are offered once a week at lunchtime. For the past two years our school put on plays twice a year, a Christmas Play, as well as a spring musical. There was a dinner theatre event which raised money that was targeted for a new playground. Our primary class went on a weeklong field trip to Bella Coola. They camped, hiked, toured the Bella Coola museum, went on a guided tour to the petroglyphs, took a boat to the Tallheo Cannery, had swimming lessons, and went to a salmon feast with cultural dances for National Aboriginal Day.


Moving forward, how would you like to see the school develop?

I am looking into ways that our school could become an outdoor academy. We started small this year with one school from town coming out to spend a week with us. Next year, we are working with some other schools. Students from each school would be local experts and would hosts school groups for a week. We are looking into going to Gavin Lake for the first week in November and being hosted by the home school group. Then we would host students for a week in February. We would go to town for a week in April to be hosted by the Outdoor Academy at Lake City Secondary – Columneetza Campus. Finally we would go to Wells for a week in June and combine this with a whole school field trip to Barkerville. I am working on having our high school students spend one afternoon a week with a mentor from the community 3 times a term (12 times in total). Hopefully we can get a number of people in the community interested in becoming mentors, so that our students can get a taste of a number of different careers. I am interested in finding out if students and parents would like the Tsilhqot’in language to be taught in our school. I am looking into our intermediate students partnering with the intermediate students in Tsi Del Del to do a literature circle on Skype. I am wondering if there is a way to partner our grade 5-10 students through Skype with a senior citizen who can speak French, German, or Spanish – so students can gain practice speaking a second language. I am also interested in taking our senior students on an Educational Tour to New York so that we can experience Broadway.



Evan Howarth

Evan is a natural educator of horsemanship and loves to share his knowledge with anyone who is keen to become more aware. He offers several intensive horsemanship clinics every year.





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