All the conversations I am having right now with parents and teachers revolve around going back to school in September. Our feelings run the spectrum from relief to disappointment to confusion to anger and frustration, sometimes all in one day. Most of our school systems are not receiving the guidance or financial support they need to open safely, and this highlights the inequity and low priority given to our children and schools. My frustration at times is overwhelming.
As an advocate for outdoor play and learning, this is where I put some hope. It won’t solve all of the problems facing our children and teachers as they go back to school, but it provides some relief, backed by the current research about how Covid spreads. There have been several articles in respected publications bringing outdoor learning forward as one of the ways we can reduce the spread of the virus and still get students back to school (New York Times, The Atlantic, Washington Post, CBC The Current).
Last week, I spent a couple of hours with two teachers in their schoolyard. We explored the space, talked about their worries and brainstormed solutions. With our combined knowledge we came up with workable scenarios, obviously still to be tested when students come back! Will it be hard? Yes. Is it all going to go smoothly? No. But they have a starting point and permission to try.
What’s stopping you from getting outdoors in September? What advice do you have for teachers, schools and students? Let me know, I would love to share it with everyone. If you need support with ideas or brainstorming, please drop me a note, I would be happy to help.
Organizations that focus on outdoor learning and play have started to mobilize with ideas and supports for teachers, families and school boards. I won’t bombard you with a mega list but below I share a few practical tools and resources to inspire and spark your imagination.
Calgary Regional Consortium Outdoor Learning Collaborative Community
In collaboration with the CRC, I am hosting two on-line collaborative communities starting in September, one will be for K-3 teachers and the second for Grades 4-6 teachers. We will meet on-line 5 times throughout the school year to offer each other support and ideas in taking learning outdoors. Learn more about K-3. Learn more about Grades 4-6.
Should I go outside in the Covid-19 era?
Posted on Outdoor Play Canada, this article isn’t specific to schools but offers a good summary of some of the research and benefits to our mental and physical health of going outside. Read the full article.
Green Schoolyards America
This site has sections about policies, case studies, equity and infrastructure to support outdoor learning during these times. Find the website here.
Blog Megan Zeni
Megan is a teacher who is outside with students all day. She thinks deeply about being outside and shares very practical ideas on her page. Read her blog and sign up for her
Juliette Robertson is out of Scotland and has a focus on early learning. Her page is FULL of amazing ideas. She has also authored two books - Messy Maths and Dirty Teaching. Find all here.
Alberta Council for Environmental Education (ACEE) Resource Hub
This searchable resource database can help you find curriculum connected ideas to take learning outside. There is also a fabulous monthly newsletter you should sign up for. Search it here.
I could go on, but I am going to stop here. Teachers are already feeling overwhelmed with the changes this September, a huge list of resources, won’t help! Please do reach out if you need any additional support, I definitely don’t have all the answers but we can figure this out together.
I regularly receive emails from people who want to know how they can start an outdoor learning program or just work with children in outdoor environments. What advice do I give? Well, as with most things in life, it depends! Here are few of my thoughts.
Play is so much more than fun! This question dismisses the complexities of play, we can do better.
One of the big educational supply companies is now selling stumps! In this blog I share my opinion on all this.
Alberta will have new child care regulation on February 1. In this blog I share any of the updates that relate directly to outdoor play and experiences.
4 ideas on how to move loose parts in and out of a play space if you don’t have permanent outdoor storage.