In an article for OutsideSharon Danks, CEO of Green Schoolyards Americanotes that during the pandemic, thousands of schools across the United States have moved classrooms outdoors and plan to make outdoor spaces a long-term part of teaching and learning.
Technology and grants get schools started with outdoor learning
Thanks to a mix of private, state and federal grants, many schools are embarking on outdoor learning programs this year.
“During the pandemic, we wanted kids to have the option to go out and take their masks off for a while,” says Brian Engle, assistant superintendent of instructional innovation at Glenview School District 34 in Illinois. The Glenview Education Foundation, a community-run nonprofit, provided funds to purchase several mobile stations with yoga mats, chairs and whiteboards for teachers to check in and roll around outside.
Students have their own learning devices through the district’s individual program, so to extend the Wi-Fi signal, the district has installed Aruba wireless access points outside each school building.
further north, Novi Community School District, located in a suburb of Detroit, is also starting up and has big plans for its nearly 7,000 K-12 students at nine schools. While the neighborhood already had several community gardens, this year, thanks to funding from a local company, a school set up a garden of hammocks, a serene place where students can read, dream and relax.
The district plans to expand its outdoor classrooms over the next two years. With a recent $400,000 grant of Michigan State, the district plans to add solar-powered greenhouses to five of its elementary schools.
WATCH NOW: Students with disabilities explore technical skills in hydroponic greenhouses.
RJ Webber, deputy superintendent at Novi, also wants to allocate funds for outdoor science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) initiatives.
“Integrating technology into nature can seem counter-intuitive. But the goal is to use technology to share and amplify what we can learn outside,” says Webber.
His vision includes projects that use coding, programming and 3D design. Outdoor cameras will help students observe nature when it’s too cold to go outside, and sensors can measure soil moisture.