When the National COVID-19 Outdoor Learning Initiative was launched in the summer of 2020, as a joint effort between founding partners Ten Strands, the Lawrence Hall of Science, Green Schoolyards America, and San Mateo County Office of Education, it was done to disrupt the educational inequities that were exacerbated by COVID-19. Since then, the intersection of new learning models and funding has created an opportunity to redefine the educational experience and better serve students, families, and communities.
This is the ideal moment for school districts to plan and implement outdoor learning. The Lawrence Hall of Science has produced critical tools to help lead the way: the Outdoor Learning Guidance provides a guide for implementing outdoor learning, while the Outdoor Learning Menus explore sustainable approaches and implementation to support students, provide professional learning for educators, and build capacity.
Current research shows that remote learning has widened and will continue to widen disparities between white students and students of color. Schools need to disrupt and reset this pattern. Outdoor learning keeps schools open during a pandemic.
A hundred years ago, schools around the world moved outside to reduce the spread of tuberculosis and Spanish flu. It is even easier and more important to do today.
Through the CARES Act, Supplemental CARES act, American Rescue Plan, and state assistance programs, there is a massive infusion of money to districts and schools that have helped remove cost as a barrier and provided many possibilities for supporting outdoor learning.
But how best can we implement these funds? The Outdoor Learning Menus provide a guide to sustainable approaches that simultaneously attend to multiple, strategic areas of implementation: support to students; professional learning for teachers and administrators; and, systems-level reflection and capacity building. The Menus are broken down by immediate needs, content integration, and place-based and community partners. It is our hope that these resources help you apply your outdoor learning goals to ultimately provide children with the boundless educational environment they deserve.