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Tags: Coronavirus | Education | schools | covid-19 | pandemic

Are Outdoor Schools a Viable Option?

a teacher talks to students in an outdoor class setting
Outdoor Learning Leader Steve Gunning teaches kids outdoor fun activities around a socially distanced campfire at Llanishen Fach Primary School in Cardiff. (Press Association via AP Images)

By    |   Tuesday, 04 August 2020 11:45 AM

The concept of outdoor schooling has been around for a long time, and may provide one answer to the dilemma of school reopenings this fall.

The New York Times revealed that when tuberculosis ravaged many American cities in the early 20th century, some educators created open-air classrooms to help mitigate the spread of disease. In light of the coronavirus, which seems to spread more readily indoors than out, this may be an option here, experts say.

Scientists reviewed 7,000 cases of COVID-19 in China and found only one reported case was caused by fresh air transmission. According to Slate, some experts say that outdoor classrooms benefit children in many ways, including increased attention spans, better learning levels, and improved mental health — especially after being socially confined for so many months.

The Danes and Germans have been holding outdoor preschools called “forest schools” for years, and an organization called Green Schoolyards of America is gathering working groups to help create similar classrooms for grades K-12 in the United States.

Critics say that creating outside classrooms presents many questions: Do urban facilities have enough space to physically distance children? How can educators teach without the use of laptops and smartboards? Class sizes would still have to be adjusted to reduce transmission of the virus, so schools would have to hire more staff. Can we afford to do this?

Teachers who have experience in outdoor classroom settings told Slate that once adjustments were made, the children enjoyed the learning process and had more focus. Laura White, a fifth-grade teacher at Chesterfield School in New Hampshire, said her school bought 21.7 acres adjacent to the building in 2017. Administrators created two outdoor classrooms on the land, and White said she takes her students out “rain or shine.”

She told Slate that biggest obstacle in the way of adopting outdoor classrooms is “just a paradigm shift, a change in attitude,” much like the shift America already experienced this spring when schools took learning online. While the idea of moving classrooms outside may seem daunting, White said we are living in desperate times.

“In biology, when your environment changes, the organisms that adapt are the ones that survive,” she told Slate.

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The concept of outdoor schooling has been around for a long time, and may provide one answer to the dilemma of school reopenings this fall.
schools, covid-19, pandemic
Tuesday, 04 August 2020 11:45 AM
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