As the world changes how we live, work, and learn in the pandemic, taking learning outdoors is one effective strategy to aid in the return to on-campus learning.
Collaborating with the Trust for Public Land and Green Schoolyards America, we built on their existing research and tools to inform a strategy for creating outdoor learning spaces in OUSD. The district will use these documents and the Kit of Parts to design, budget and implement our Outdoor Learning Spaces, where needed at our OUSD schools.
Outdoor learning has positive effects on children’s ability to focus and engage, while keeping students and staff healthier. Dr. Anthony Fauci says schools should be outdoors as much as possible to reduce the spread of the virus. In addition, the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley found that having a connection to nature greatly benefits kids’ ability to focus, relieve stress, develop more self-discipline, feel engaged in learning, and be more connected socially and to the environment. By mobilizing Outdoor Learning Spaces we can bridge an equity gap, allowing students with the most barriers to successful distance learning outcomes a path back to in-person learning.
Our team of staff members and pro-bono designers worked together to create sample plans for outdoor learning spaces and recommendations for materials that fit within the guidelines set by the California Division of the State Architect.
Moving forward, the district will work with safety leads and site principals to determine which campuses need outdoor learning spaces as a part of the plan to return to campus safely. Outdoor learning spaces are only one option that we are considering as a part of our reopening plan, as the priority remains to ensure that we are making all of our indoor spaces as safe as possible for use by students and teachers.