We asked educators involved in outdoor instruction amid the COVID-19 pandemic what other school districts can learn from them, no matter how much space is available. Here’s what they suggested:
Get everyone on board. In many schools with gardens, there are often one or two teachers who champion outdoor learning. That can make other educators feel left out, said OSPI’s Elizabeth Schmitz. She recommends working as a team to share any available space to “help everybody have a sense of belonging.”
Find inspiration everywhere, from ant holes to dirt, said South Whidbey teacher Jay Freundlich. Nature is vast, and small things can yield big learning.
Bring it full cycle. “Have students grow things that can be successful at home,” Freundlich said, and “give them a recipe unlike anything they’ve experienced before.” At South Whidbey, he has students preparing gnocchi using farm-grown potatoes and homegrown microgreens.
Engage community partners. Farm and food-related organizations in your community can help carry the load, says Susie Richards, South Whidbey Elementary K-4 principal.
Flip the classroom. Find projects students can do at home and their home neighborhoods, said Chuck Hubbard, K-12 science/STEM instructional specialist for Wahluke School District. For the district’s online students, he finds projects like having students examine the waste their household produces, or lessons that tie into walks they can take in their neighborhoods — and the animals and plants students see there.
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