Learning Outside the School in a COVID World
Across Canada child care centres are re-opening while keeping both children and staff safe in a world reshaped by COVID-19. In this second of a series of blog posts we’ll look at outdoor learning for a safer education environment in a pandemic context.
As we look to ways to cope in a pandemic world, school communities in Canada and around the world are looking to expand learning outside the traditional in-school classroom because:
- The number of children inside a classroom or school can be reduced and thus increase social distancing
- Extra space and more sun and air circulation inherent to being outdoors, seems to reduce risk of transmission
- The value of currently closed, underutilized public spaces like museums, community centres can be maximized
For outdoor learning, many classrooms across Canada have turned to the Outlast line of furnishings that includes tables, seating and mud kitchens. Outlast is carefully finished with smooth surfaces that can be written and drawn on like you would at a desk. But the wood, preserved with acetylation -- whose only by product is vinegar and water -- is built to survive extremes of Canadian winters and summers. Rubberized edges, ensure no splitting or splintering.
The Outlast blocks, built the same way, can be configured for playing and learning. Proportional with a knobs and holes, children can construct their own learning environments or outdoor play structures. Outlast, can be hosed down with soap and water or cleaned with a bleach solution too.
Students in Niagara Ontario building learning and outdoor play spaces. Mrs. Meade's K2Awesome Twitter feed was a #MyKoolClassroom Contest Winner.
“Walking through surrounding neighbourhoods may require masks and social distance but being outdoors during this time has been therapeutic for many of us and is for children.”
In Italy, which was ravaged by COVID through the spring, Patrizio Bianchi, who heads a committee of experts studying how to reopen schools in September, told Repubblica Daily, schooling would need to be rethought outside of the traditional in-school classroom.
“Trentino (in northern Italy) will have to use its woods, Milan its museums, Rome its parks," he said (The Local "Italy eyes plans for kids to go to micro-nurseries and have lessons in the forest").
Canadian educators and policy makers will look to ways of bringing the classroom to non-traditional spaces for older students, too.
Image from the Observer , "Split classes, outdoor lessons: what Denmark can teach England about reopening schools after Covid-19"
The Surf workstation is a lightweight, durable and ingeniously versatile portable desk option. Use indoors or out, and as they are stackable, they are a simple addition to schools, museums, or other locations now being repurposed as classroom spaces.
Zoe Sills, who manages the Earthtime forest school nursery in Elgin, Scotland was quoted in a recent article (The Guardian “Scotland eyes outdoor learning as model for reopening of schools”)
“When you’ve got the natural world at your fingertips, you don’t need so many toys, which means fewer surfaces where the virus can be passed on.”
The practice of the forest school described in the article is similar to what many child care centres for essential workers, have implemented as they have had to remain open. Each child is given a bag containing their own paintbrush, crayons and glue stick, then encouraged to spread out and find their own space to do their activities.
LKG new Creativity Kits are available in a junior and senior version with the tools/resources that a child can use throughout the year. The Enhanced Kit comes with storage options, including tubs and bags. These have been tested with Caviwipes (medical grade disinfection wipes) and bleach diluted to 2:10.
- Bogdan Pospielovsky