Why Move Outdoors?
There is a call from the top-down, including Dr. Anthony Fauci and The American Academy of Pediatrics that schools should utilize the outdoors as much as possible when returning to in-person learning. Not only does outdoor learning improve safety for students, teachers, and school communities, but outdoor instruction is proven to help close the learning gaps that COVID has exacerbated.
Teaching Outdoors Improves Safety
Spending time outdoors is proven to drastically decrease the potential for transmission, but few schools have the resources or bandwidth to spend all day outdoors. Fortunately, getting students outside for even a portion of the day can help improve indoor conditions by allowing indoor air more time to ventilate, and giving particles time to settle on cleanable surfaces, reducing the overall indoor viral load.
Using the Outdoors to Teach Improves Learning
Experts estimate that students returning to school have lost 1/3 a year in reading and 1/2 in math and 80% of teachers say their students are learning less during remote instruction, making a return to in-person learning critically important for children, especially those in underserved communities. Not only can outdoor learning facilitate a return to in-person instruction, it supports hands-on experiential learning, and accelerates and deepens subject comprehension for all students. Outdoor learning experiences also improve STEM, SEL, and 21st Century skill development, making it an important resource schools can use to combat learning loss.
Getting Started Outdoors
Creating an outdoor learning program isn’t an all-or-nothing proposition. Across the country, many schools are working to implement a range of outdoor learning strategies to improve both the safety and effectiveness of their in-person instructional plans. But even though most schools have access to usable outdoor spaces, introducing an outdoor learning program can be daunting. Challenges and questions range the gamut, from scheduling and weather concerns to lesson planning and effective instructional techniques.
To help schools make in-person learning safer and more effective, Out Teach has created a series of tools any school can use to help navigate the physical and logistical barriers to moving more learning outdoors. We’ve also identified resources from other experts in the field to help make it as easy as possible to plan and execute an effective outdoor learning program that produces health and academic benefits through COVID and beyond.