February’s Stars of the Month are two Oak Hill School teachers who are taking history class to an experiential new level. Together, Stewart Roddey, 5th and 6th grade teacher in his second year, and Nathan Kraai, instructor and tech coach in his sixth year at the school, have spearheaded the Nashville-centric elective dubbed Beyond the Oaks.
The class period gives 5th and 6th grade students at Oak Hill School the opportunity to listen to local speakers talk about area history, including sports history. Kraai shared that while the course topics shift with each trimester, “the undercurrent is really the history – past, present, future – looking at Nashville through that lens.”
“This is our first year doing an experiential learning class,” said Kraai. “We want kids to get beyond the walls of the classroom, beyond the walls of the school, and get out into the community and learn things they wouldn’t otherwise learn in a school setting.”
Both Roddey and Kraai believe the course will give students context to the history that built the remarkable city of Nashville they are so fortunate to grow up in. Group field trips to the Parthenon and the historic Union Station are also a key part of the curriculum.
“We talk about the bubble that they’ve grown up in,” said Roddey. “It’s easy to fall into a routine [living] in a certain part of town – you have limited experiences, and a lot of times the history of a city like this gets glazed over because of those routines. …Experiences in this class can show them that Nashville really is a dynamic and unique city.”
Oak Hill’s new elective is also an opportunity to spark conversations surrounding sports history in Tennessee’s capital. “Why are there opportunities for so many professional teams to establish themselves in this booming city?” asked Roddey. “What are the circumstances that allow that kind of growth and that kind of excitement to really concentrate in a city where we’re so fortunate to be? A lot of it is trying to build perspective for our students.”
Both teachers appreciate the cultural significance that Negro Leagues and Nashville Stars history plays in welcoming a Major League Baseball franchise to the city of Nashville.
“History is critical, in my opinion, to know what’s happened in the past and how that shapes our future,” said Kraai. “History really underlies Nashville, the current of it. It was really neat for Skip [MCB historian] to share how baseball fits into that narrative.”
Roddey and Kraai value the positive effects having a local MLB team to root for would have on their students. They believe the history of teams like the Stars will blend into and ignite the excitement of a future program.
Roddey views MLB coming to Nashville as “an incredible opportunity – every team that’s established themselves so far in Nashville has exploded. Nashville is such an entertainment city, with a great group of residents, not just fans, but interesting people.”
“And baseball is such a comforting sport. Skip mentioned it in his talk with us. There’s something about a baseball stadium that makes you feel safe. There’s palpable energy that is often associated with baseball.”
Kraai feels similarly, expressing hope for the Nashville Stars plans to come to fruition.
“I think especially for these kids, they would be like your first generation of fans,” said Kraai.
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