Some U.S. school districts have naturally gravitated toward outdoor learning and dining while others say they’re doing so out of necessity as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.
Science students at Prichard Elementary School in West Virginia will dabble in outdoor learning with a newly completed high tunnel, where children in pre-K to fifth grade will be able to explore the wonders of agriculture.
Construction on the high tunnel began in 2018 before the novel coronavirus took hold of the U.S., though will open during a time when social distancing and masks are commonplace for health and safety.
Embracing the outdoors is becoming more common in school districts throughout the country. Some have naturally gravitated toward outdoor learning and dining while others are doing so out of necessity as the COVID-19 pandemic shows no sign of stopping. (iStock)
Prichard’s principal, Kelly Bonar, told Fox News the Wayne County school district recommends mask wear for unvaccinated individuals, which includes almost all of the student body since there is no COVID-19 vaccine available for children under 12 at this time.
Besides the high tunnel, Bonar said the school has a number of outdoor activities to keep students busy when they’re not attending classes indoors, including recess and a bicycle club.
There are also picnic areas where kids can eat and a “Popsicle Program” where kids raise funds selling ice pops as a way to care for the chickens that live on school property.
“We’re just very unique in the sense that we try different things based on the needs of the kiddos,” Bonar said. “[We] encourage open windows and fresh air and getting outside as much as possible.”
Over in Tennessee, the Nature Kin Farm and Forest School had its first day of class on Thursday, Aug. 12.
The fully outdoor school is conducting nearly all of its classes outside – rain or shine – on a 50-acre family farm at Lookout Lake. This includes academic classes such as math, science, business, history and language arts and a nature-focused curriculum such as gardening and animal husbandry.
“In my teaching experiences over my 50-year career, I know that children are more focused, more responsive and joyful when they learn in nature,” Dr. Jean Lomino, the school’s director previously told Fox News. “I believe that occurs because there are no walls around them and no ceiling above.”
While some schools are planning to reopen for in-person or distance learning, the Nature Kin Farm and Forest School has its sights on outdoor learning. The school’s director, Jean Lomino, tells Fox News all classes will be conducted outside at a family farm in Chattanooga, Tenn. (Nature Kin Farm and Forest School)
While COVID-19 didn’t play a direct factor in the creation of the Nature Kin Farm and Forest School, Lomino said she believes schools are opening up to outdoor learning more due to the pandemic.
“Being inside a classroom was not a safe place to be, but taking children outside was a safer place to be,” she said. “As teachers, parents and administrators began to see the many benefits of this kind of learning experience for children, more and more schools adopted an outdoor education model.”
The Urbana School District in Illinois, is prepping for a September reopening with an outdoor dining plan, according to a Board of Education Meeting that took place on Tuesday, Aug. 3, and aired on UPTV6 – The City of Urbana’s Public, Education, and Government Access TV station.
Middle school and high school students will dine outside at picnic tables, courtyards and concrete areas in response to COVID-19.
Aside from outdoor dining, the Urbana School District will have a “universal indoor masking policy,” according to the school board’s president, Paul Poulosky.
Other coronavirus protocols include social distancing by at least three or six feet depending on vaccination status, enhanced cleaning, contact tracing and testing for COVID-19.
Representatives for the Urbana School District did not immediately respond to Fox News’ request for comment.
People are less likely to be exposed to COVID-19 during outdoor activities, even without the use of masks, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) wrote on its website, June 29. The CDC also lists safety tips on how to protect yourself both indoors and outdoors.