COVID-19: British Columbia’s outdoor education or drafty classrooms ready for debate

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“Outdoor classes are not a substitute for adequate ventilation or the lack of physical distance due to the size of the classes,” she said.

“We have teachers and specialists delivering a program outside, but it takes planning and training to get teachers to spend more time teaching outside,” she said.

Taking lessons outdoors could also be a challenge for children with disabilities and mobility issues, says Michelle Stack, a professor in the Department of Educational Studies at UBC.

“I’d like to know what kinds of plans they have in place to make sure the activities are inclusive, so these kids don’t become an afterthought,” she says.

“To go from teaching in a classroom with all these resources to teaching outdoors, well, these teachers will need some extra support.”

Teri Mooring, President of the BC Teachers’ Federation. Photo by Jason Payne /PNG files

On the positive side, being outdoors is associated with lower rates of viral transmission and the natural environment offers opportunities to explore different ways of learning, says Hartley Banak, Outdoor Education Lecturer at UBC.

Outdoor learning is widely practiced in Scandinavia and Britain throughout the year, “including learners as young as three,” he said.

“We know from research that being outside reduces anxiety, that reduced stress improves our mental health and well-being,” making it a great practice during a pandemic, said he declared.

However, some children and teachers may have health issues that make these solutions unfeasible, says Marina Milner-Bolotin, science education professor at UBC.

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