10 Images That Tell the TEA Story

“Take 10 pictures that richly convey the climate of the school."

This was our prompt during the recent self-study we completed as part of our CAIS (California Association of Independent School) accreditation process. The prompt continued by saying, ” and please submit them with a title explanation and an explanation of how these particular samples were created and why they were chosen.”

For those out there who have been part of this school community for the better part of our 13 year history, you will see that several of these photos were grabbed from the archives. We’ve been fortunate to have some truly remarkable photographers capture moments in our school’s history. One of them is even featured in one of these photos – as he dressed up like a wayward Revolutionary War soldier to add to a student fieldwork experience. Some of these photos were taken by students, some by teachers, and some from visiting experts.

To address the portion of the prompt that asked us to title each and explain how these samples were created and why they were chosen, we included this narrative:

“CommuniTEA” is a term that encapsulates our students, faculty, staff, parents, experts, and members of the communities surrounding our school. When telling the story of TEA, it is crucial that each of these constituencies is represented. To achieve this, each of these photos is paired with a quote from a constituent. Whether the constituent is a student reflecting on their experiences in the field, an expert sharing their impressions of our students after a visit, or a parent advocating for our school in an online forum, these words truly help paint a picture of what “CommuniTEA” means at TEA.


We hope you enjoy these photos as much as we enjoyed rediscovering them!

Image # 1: A Foundation Built on Trust

“My student is known deeply (and loved deeply) by all of the staff at TEA.”

At TEA, we embody the spirit of a crew, not mere passengers. Through shared experiences both within and beyond the classroom, students and their Crew Leaders (teachers) forge a bedrock of trust upon which we collectively venture into the world.



Image #2: Willingness to Learn Anywhere

“My children are better critical thinkers and investigators, more resilient, confident, and empathetic human beings because of the education at TEA.”

Tasking students to reflect while they are still in the field offers several advantages. It allows them to capture their thoughts and observations while the experiences are fresh in their minds. This immediacy can lead to more insightful and authentic reflections. Additionally, it fosters a sense of ownership and engagement in the learning process, as students are actively involved in evaluating their own progress.



Image #3 : Failure by Design

“Students are encouraged to take on hard projects where ‘failure’ is part of the process.”

One of the most cherished spaces on our campus is the aptly named “Failure Lab.” This moniker was coined by our students themselves, as the conventional term “STEAM Lab” did not truly reflect the essence of this unique learning environment. Within the confines of the Failure Lab, students are granted unfettered access to the resources and tools they need to conceptualize and bring to life innovative solutions to challenges they have encountered throughout their studies. Whether their pursuit involves developing a solar-powered vehicle or creating a captivating video for an awareness campaign, the Failure Lab serves as the incubator where their ideas take flight. And more often than not, these student-driven concepts result in setbacks and failures, a phenomenon that is not viewed as an anomaly but rather embraced as a fundamental aspect of the learning journey at TEA.



Image #4: Academics in the Field

“The real learning happens outside of the classroom—by doing and experiencing.”

Our 1st-Grade Crew embarked on an immersive learning adventure throughout the spring semester, delving into the fascinating world of birds. Through biology, math, creative writing, and art, our students gained a profound understanding of these remarkable creatures. Beyond the academic disciplines, our Crew also explored relational character traits such as stewardship, advocacy, gratitude, and empathy.

This photo captures a moment during a two-night field study in the serene Tomales Bay, where our students engaged with local conservationists and artists. Through these interactions, our young explorers gained first hand exposure to the importance of protecting our delicate ecosystems and the power of creativity in fostering appreciation for the natural world.



Image #5: TEA Parents Doing TEA Things

“We wish we could have gone to a school like this!”

This photograph captures our 5th-graders engaged in a unique educational experience, snow camping in a local wilderness area while immersing themselves in the harsh realities faced by soldiers during the Revolutionary War. To enhance this immersive learning environment, one of our TEA parents stepped into the role of a wayward soldier, captivating the students with firsthand accounts of battlefield experiences. While parent involvement at our school is not mandatory, it is an integral part of the nurturing atmosphere that defines our “CommuniTEA.”



Image #6 : Engaged Learners

“I loved hands-on learning and connection to real-world problems.”

As part of a middle school project, students embarked on a journey to explore sustainable building practices, seamlessly integrating math and science concepts. After acquiring a solid foundation of knowledge through comprehensive research and engaging interactions with experts, the students were presented with a tangible challenge: designing sustainable buildings for their own campus.



Image #7 : Capable Doers, Here and Now

“My child now tells me that they feel like they can make a difference in the world.”

Upon hearing about the University of Nevada Reno’s upcoming climate strike, students from all grade levels eagerly expressed their desire to join the cause. In keeping with TEA’s unwavering support for student engagement, our team promptly arranged bus transportation to the university, located an hour’s drive from our school. From kindergarteners to high schoolers, our students arrived in full force, armed with signs and megaphones, their voices echoing a collective demand for a sustainable future.



Image #8 : Finding Your Voice

“My child is growing academically by leaps and bounds, all while finding his own voice and challenging his own preconceived notions of the world.”


This photo is a self-portrait captured by a middle school student during a fieldwork trip to Lassen National Park. As part of the fieldwork experience, students were encouraged to bring along journals or cameras to facilitate reflection and foster deeper engagement with hands-on learning. This student independently conceived and captured this image, using it as a personal representation of their fieldwork journey.



Image #9 : Social Conscience

“TEA students are not only prepared for college, they are prepared for life.”

In an ongoing effort to foster authentic learning experiences, TEA high school students are regularly given the opportunity to showcase their knowledge and skills to a diverse audience of peers and professionals. In this particular instance, a student is presenting a short film on gun control, culminating a week-long immersion program in Washington DC.



Image #10 : TEA Spirit

“Before starting at TEA she was never ‘excited’ to go to school. Now she is disappointed that there is no school on the weekends!”

This photo was captured deep within a Rio Grande cave, during a 10th-grade expedition to examine the impact of water scarcity on migrant communities. It epitomizes the true spirit of TEA, showcasing students working together in a collaborative and communicative manner, literally holding each other up to form the letters “TEA”. Divided into small groups, the students were tasked with using their bodies to spell out TEA, and this is how they rose to the challenge. Through a process of trial and error, they managed to achieve this feat on the final round of picture-taking.