In a year when all schools look different from usual, some teachers are embracing the outdoors as their classroom. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention included outdoor learning in recommended strategies for schools to reduce the spread of COVID-19, and research has shown positive instructional outcomes from such methods. Long-time outdoor educators also tout the social and emotional benefits. But getting started can feel daunting. Below are five tips from experienced teachers for trying outdoor learning in any setting.
Look for possibilities in different spaces
Becky Schnekser is teaching K-5 science fully outdoors this year at a private school in Virginia Beach. She has the advantage of a well developed outdoor classroom, but that’s not a prerequisite. “Any outdoor space is an opportunity, whether you have a beautiful wooded area or you have concrete jungle,” she said. From sidewalk math to history walks to socially distanced singing, educators are finding ways to teach outdoors across environments and subjects. It takes thinking differently, which, as Schnekser pointed out, teachers are already doing because of COVID-19. “There are ways to take advantage of that. You just have to flip a little dimmer switch in your mind,” she said.