Courtesy of NYT:
Seeking ways to teach safely during the pandemic, schools across the United States have embraced the idea of classes in the open air, as Americans did during disease outbreaks a century ago.
The efforts to throw tents over playgrounds and arrange desks in parks and parking lots have brought new life to an outdoor education movement, inspired in part by Scandinavian “forest schools” where children bundle up against frigid temperatures for long romps in the snow.
“The outside provides much more flexibility,” said Sharon Danks, the chief executive of Green Schoolyards America and the coordinator of the National Covid-19 Outdoor Learning Initiative, which formed in May. “You can have a six-foot-apart seating chart, and have enough space to move around.”
While some educators balked at the costs and logistical hurdles, others embraced the idea, with teachers learning carpentry to build their own outdoor classrooms, and parents raising money and hitting up local businesses for lumber.
“Covid has hastened the pace of a shift toward trying to take better advantage of the outdoors,” said Maria Libby, the superintendent of the Five Town Community School District in Rockport, Maine, who bought tents and Adirondack chairs for outdoor classrooms.
This would successfully clear almost all of the hurdles preventing us from safely returning children to a classroom setting.
In fact, once implemented I would like to see schools continue to utilize spaces like this for their education needs.
I have personally taught in an outdoor setting a number of times and it can be a really great way to connect with children who are easily bored or often have a case of the fidgets.
Of course, the main problem with this approach is the weather.
Currently, in Anchorage, we are enjoying temperatures in the single digits or even below zero, and that is without counting the wind chill factor.
Having said that it would still be a workable solution on some days and one where students, parents, and teachers would all feel much safer.
The Anchorage School District is moving ahead with plans to return most children to the classroom right after the beginning of the second semester.
That is causing a lot of fear and stress for just about everybody involved and some teachers and students have put their feet down and simply refused to consider a return to in-person teaching with our Coronavirus numbers skyrocketing as they are right now.
I don’t blame them.
If school districts really want to get kids back to school safely they want to take a serious look at these open-air classrooms.
Because in the end that might be the only solution that makes any sense.