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The Benefits of Outdoor Learning

Group of children with binoculars outdoors. School outdoors.

One of the outcomes of COVID-19 is that educators have had to become creative in utilizing different modes of education to help students learn. We have always known that students learn a great deal from the outdoors. It is a place of real-life occurrences that embody some of the changes in nature that teach us many lessons about life.

In a recent article in the Hechinger Report, Karen Cowe and Craig Strange who work in the field of environmental literacy, discuss some of the ways students have been exposed to outdoor education during COVID-19 that helped them learn in new ways. What is important is how effective these programs have become. Here are some excerpts from this interesting article:

When schools across the country closed their doors and began remote instruction last spring, most of us in education braced for the worst.

We weren’t wrong. The academic, social and health challenges that besieged K-12 students during the pandemic are well-documented and appalling. Students of color and those from low-income families received the least services and experienced devastating inequities.

Child with school supplies and tablet, outdoor school.

However, at the beginning of the pandemic, a few schools and districts — which grew to become hundreds — leaned into a simple, elegant but rarely used solution to bring kids back to school: They took learning outside.

Forward-thinking schools from Portland, Maine, to Santa Cruz, California, created outdoor classrooms as a way to safely and cost-effectively bring more kids back to school. After a year of taking outdoor learning to scale, we’re learning what works, what doesn’t and, more importantly, what we should hold onto going forward.

With new investments flowing to districts and schools from the American Rescue Plan and other sources of state and local funding, money is now available to make outdoor classrooms born out of necessity permanent.

One of their fears is that all the progress and discoveries made may be lost once students return to indoor classrooms. These innovations had tremendous results and what was learned needs to be retained and utilized for improved and expanded learning modalities. If you are interested in this idea, please read the rest of the article

Gerry Vassar

President/CEO

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