The National COVID-19 Outdoor Learning Initiative is a collective impact project led by Ten Strands, Green Schoolyards America, Lawrence Hall of Science, San Mateo County Office of Education, and others.
While online K–12 education and homeschooling was introduced as an emergency and temporary measure to the pandemic in spring 2020, it has become clear that this approach is wildly inequitable with severe learning loss experienced, especially among students who lack internet access or high-speed internet.
In addition, studies show that spending time outdoors is critical to student academic, physical, and mental wellbeing. Outdoor environments typically have better air quality than indoor spaces, and environmental conditions may reduce the amount and length of time the COVID-19 virus can stay viable on surfaces.
At the same time, a recent policy brief developed by Lawrence Hall of Science, Ten Strands, and North American Association for Environmental Education highlights the devastating impact of COVID-19 on environmental and outdoor learning organizations, who provide crucial outdoor learning opportunities to students. There is a unique opportunity now for these environmental and outdoor educators to partner with K–12 teachers in reimagining the educational experience.
Currently, working groups are convening to explore key topics, share ideas, develop implementation strategies, and build frameworks around outdoor learning. The groups will create resources for district and site leaders across the country to use as they consider how to make it possible for students to return to schools safely and effectively.
Extensive media coverage related to this initiative can be found here.
Photo credit: Thomas Kuoh Photography