3 TIPS FOR TEACHING OUTDOORS DURING A PANDEMIC
Are you a teacher who has chosen to open the schoolhouse doors to take your class of children outdoors? Are you excited about this idea; however, not really sure how to use your outdoor space for learning? Maybe stumps have been placed in your outdoor space, 6 inches apart and all you can see is each child sitting on their designated stump listening while you teach a lesson. It can be overwhelming with the pressure of getting kids back on track, adhering to all the new COVID-19 protocols, and adjusting to new outdoor classrooms. The good news? Within all the chaos and fear there IS a silver lining. I wholeheartedly believe that all the hands-on playful learning happening within all the new outdoor classrooms across the country will transform how we deliver education and teach our children.
Let’s unpack this a little. This Fall I worked with teachers from private schools, small nursery schools, and big public school systems. Although the schools were different, the goals for each school were the same, “We want to spend as much time as we can outdoors.” Some schools vowed and prepared to spend every day, all day outdoors while others set goals to spend less than 2 hours inside a day. In working closely with these teachers, principals, and directors, I shared 3 Tips for Teaching Outdoors in a Pandemic. They include:
TIP 1: PREPARE, PREPARE, PREPARE
Walking through your outdoor space as a child would is key to knowing and understanding what is needed. This is the perfect place to start.
- What do you need to teach a lesson outdoors? What do the children need? Prepare materials for your lessons outdoors.
- Determine how your materials will be transported outdoors. Make sure you have an easy system.
- How can children help you? What can the children carry and how?
- Be clear on your directionals and creat visual cues. Mark how children will enter and exit the space with arrows.
TIP 2: CHOOSE A GATHERING SPACE
- Determine what children will sit on and their assigned seats that are 6 feet apart.
- Be playful! Create games where children need to find their seats.
- Create spaces where children can take mask breaks.
- Determine why you are gathering and what your plan is for this time together.
TIP 3: CREATE OUTDOOR LEARNING STATIONS
Children can’t sit in their gathering places the entire time they are outside. Therefore, it’s important to create Outdoor Learning Stations to encourage movement. These stations will be different depending on the age of the children. It’s important to remember…
- Create boundaries for each learning station.
- Make signs and give purpose for each area.
- Add playful learning and hands-on activities.
Remember, it takes time to create an outdoor classroom. There will be periods of trial and error, so never give up. You will come to learn that children are much happier outdoors and the learning that takes place is much deeper and memorable than the learning that was happening inside at a desk.
Remember, Nelson Mandela said, “It always seems impossible until it is done.”
*Photo credit: New York Times 2020