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All Saints Episcopal School rebuilds Outdoor Learning Center after winter storm fire

Published: Sep. 26, 2021 at 5:06 PM CDT
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TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - A new space has been built after a fire destroyed the Outdoor Learning Center at All Saints Episcopal School during this year’s winter storm.

During the storm the school’s outdoor learning cabin experienced power surges before catching fire. But now the sounds of learning, questions, explanation and discovery are back among the trees of All Saints in Tyler.

“It was such a loss for us, not only in the physical form, but this is a place our students loved. We also, during that same storm, we lost our beloved friend Mr. T.,” said Mike Cobb, Head of School. “He was a 26-year-old tortoise that was 125 pounds and we loved him dearly. During that time we really emphasized with our students that we need to embrace the loss but we also need to decide what we’re going to do with this.”

It wasn’t easy on students or teachers. For life science and leadership teacher Karen Lanford, who’s been teaching at All Saints for 16 years, the destruction “took the wind out of her sails.”

“The lesson was that you just pick yourself up, and brush yourself off, and you keep moving forward. And you prepare to make things better than they were,” she said.

Soon after the fire, administration and staff began thinking of plans for the new space, Cobb said they couldn’t begin construction until school was out.

“June 1 we began to rebuild and we’ve now built all three of the cabins and have them all in place, and now we’re able to leverage this really beautiful space with our outdoor chapel and our outdoor dock system,” Cobb said.

Lanford said the all-purpose space on 15 acres is something that students kindergarten through 12th grade all benefit from.

“It’s just fun to know that you come each day with you may have a plan in your mind but then you look outside and something during the night has happened,” she said. “Maybe there’s a change, maybe a weather event, anything. And it takes that lesson and the fact that kids can engage their senses, and it sparks their sense of wonder, there’s no substitute for being able to use nature and this setting to help kids explore other avenues and more about life.”

They may have lost their Mr. T in the fire, but now have a new one, Miss T, who is about 11 years old and weighs about 30 pounds, who Cobb said they are looking forward to taking care of for years to come.

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