As schools nationwide search for ways to protect students and educators during the COVID-19 pandemic, some have adapted to outside the box classrooms. For many, this means classrooms have moved to an all outdoor setting helping to lessen the worries surrounding closed spaces and transmission of the virus.
Research shows COVID-19 is much less likely to be spread outdoors. With public and private schools offering large plots of land this can provide many opportunities to take teaching outside. One school administrator has found "being outside and socializing during the pandemic has proved important to the students' mental and physical health." Students not only get fresh air during the school day, but they are also experiencing learning time away from a computer screen.
Forest schools are making a name for themselves as traditional teaching methods are struggling to adapt during the pandemic. This Scandinavian educational tradition focuses primarily on preschool-aged children to take the classroom experience outdoors. Instead of sitting at desks learning, students are in the forest, building forts from sticks, picking fresh berries, and have storytime in nature. Physical activity is encouraged and social connections are part of the natural classroom setting.
Many feel the outdoor learning model is the future of schooling during this pandemic. While some parts of the country may find it challenging during the colder and rainy seasons, many believe the therapeutic aspect of outdoor classrooms outweighs the challenges this could present. Science has long suggested decreased time spent in front of a computer screen will improve mental health and academic performance. A recent report from the University of Adelaide found, "Nature may currently be an under-utilized public health resource, and it could potentially function as an upstream preventative and psychological well-being promotion intervention for children and adolescents in a high-tech era."
As the number of outdoor or Forest Schools increases throughout the country, many are hopeful that this new learning model will continue, even after the pandemic subsides.
By: Sharla Schuller