In the ever-changing COVID-19 landscape that is 2020, school administrators and educators are working unceasingly to ensure students, and the communities in which they live, stay healthy throughout the next school year. Knowing that they are already receiving guidance from numerous organizations and governing bodies--and also knowing how many benefits there could be to expanding outdoor education this fall--the North American Association for Environmental Education has just released eeGuidance for Reopening Schools, a new publication that offers support for schools and districts as they find ways to safely and equitably reopen for students this fall.
The guide includes strategies for adhering to physical distancing guidelines (such as using school grounds for outdoor classroom spaces) as well as advice for how school districts can engage community environmental and outdoor education programs as alternative resources for learning. It also shares ways administrators and teachers can tap into the expertise of environmental educators to support teaching and learning, whether in the classroom or at home.
To shape the guide’s recommendations, NAAEE Affiliate organizations (like KAEE) conducted more than 65 community feedback calls with hundreds of environmental and outdoors learning providers located around the country. Numerous members of the Affiliate Network contributed the guide, which offers dozens of specific recommendations for schools and districts to leverage the opportunities inherent in environmental and outdoor education programs and staff.
The guide stresses the many ways environmental and outdoor education programs can help schools reopen not only safely but equitably as well. “The outdoors is a resource for learning, engagement, and health, and it should be available to all, not just a privileged few,” the guide’s authors write. They spell out the growing inequities and increasing achievement gap caused by COVID-19 school closures and at-home learning, demonstrating why school districts should see this fall as an ideal time to embrace outdoor education.
“Experiences in nature and greater access to the outdoors is associated with reduced stress, greater mental and physical health, and well-being,” the guide says, and there “are many community resources that can help provide support. These recommendations can help school districts, teachers, and parents explore new ways of tackling these challenges and thinking about how and where students learn, and what sorts of partnerships that can best support a return to school that is not only safe, but contributes to a vastly more healthy and meaningful education.”
NAAEE’s eeGuidance for Reopening Schools is available online and delves into topics including
● Extending and Expanding Learning Spaces into the Community
● Using the School Grounds for Learning
● Supporting Teaching and Learning
● Creating Healthier Learning Environments
● Virtual Teaching and Learning
● Supporting At-Home Learning
You can access the complete eeGuidance for Reopening Schoolshere.