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  • Jennifer Wrightson

Outdoor Play Saves the Day

It may be an understatement to say that we are all a little worried about what we may face with the reopening of schools. We are wondering what is safe for our families and how can we move forward without feeling like we are forced to choose the better of inadequate options.


I have read many posts that eloquently convey the pickle we are in, and the feelings of many parents regarding the options we will likely choose from as we prepare to begin a new school year. It's all foreign. Keeping children six feet apart, continual cleaning and sanitizing, wearing masks...is this the new norm?


Do you remember when this first began? Schools closed and teachers and families adapted their days and the ways in which they taught and learned. It was difficult at first, because it was new. Do you remember the beautiful rainbows hanging in windows? Do you remember going for walks with your family after enjoying a meal together?


What if we choose to see the good that can come from all of these unusual practices we are negatively anticipating with the return to school? Are you poo-pooing my eternal optimism? No, my name is not Pollyanna. C'mon, be a sport! Maybe our children will learn empathy and compassion, understanding that they are not the only creatures in the universe and their impact has a lasting effect on those around them. Maybe our children will discover new and different ways of interacting, both with their peers and with their environment. If we cannot follow the path we have come to know, let us blaze a trail.


What if in-person education didn't have to feel quite as restricted and virtual learning felt less daunting? Let's take it outside. Most schools have ample grounds with tons of space for moving about. Can teaching and learning happen outdoors? What about getting your kiddo off that iPad and into the backyard for some hands-on learning? Connecting with nature can be therapeutic, fun, educational and healthy. Think of all the ways learning can take place outdoors - whether it is just sitting outside during a lesson or engaging the environment as part of the lesson. There are many more options out there that may help us prevent the spread of this virus without causing us to feel like we are giving up life as we have come to know it. What are they? I'm not sure...but we are all intelligent people (especially those little people we call children) and if we put our heads together we will come up with some great solutions!


Check out this article put out by the North American Association for Environmental Education (naaee.org) that explores the possibilities that outdoor education offers, especially with regards o reopening our public schools. It's a worthwhile read! https://cdn.naaee.org/sites/default/files/eepro/resource/files/eeguidance_final_06302020.pdf?fbclid=IwAR3eRYEhAad_QatGyuW8SKpnykMVD-oCkbMeS3L3mXG9g4UuprQXsmYXBWE


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