As students and teachers are preparing to go back to schools amid the pandemic, there are fears among both the students and the teachers that they might get coronavirus. There is a suggestion that chances of the transmission of coronavirus become less likely when people are outdoors as compared to indoors. Therefore, some teachers are thinking that to make it a safe study environment for them and for their students they should conduct outdoor classes.
Many courses will be taught to students in a hybrid of in-person learning and online learning. But David O’Hara, Professor at Augustana University in South Dakota, will be holding outdoor classes as long as possible. This is not the first time for him as two years ago he worked with his students and built the first outdoor classroom of the campus. He relishes the chance and said that he teaches outdoors as often as he can. He gave the example of kids staring outside the window during the class so he decided to bring the classes on the other side of the window.
Following social distancing will be much easier outside, and in the fresh air, as the infected droplets disperse more quickly. Studies have suggested that the wind and the Sun may reduce the presence of viruses on surfaces. As the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) said that in-person classes are necessary for student’s mental health, academic progress, and psychosocial and safety development, some teachers believe that the safest way to achieve that is through outdoor classes. Also, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggested that the schools should consider using their outdoor spaces for teaching.
O’Hara believes that outdoor classes will be impossible to conduct in tornados, thunderstorms, and temperature below -20 degrees F, anything else is bearable according to the professor. He said the students will need proper clothing and also have offered to help students find gloves, hats, and coats which will be needed in winter.
While there is a newfound urgency for outdoor classes many teachers in the US are familiar with its basics. There are estimated to be 15 to 20% schools in the US which have some outdoor space or a garden which can be used for teaching but the problem is they need nearly 25 of these spaces to conduct all classes at once.
The teachers with no outdoor teaching experience will have a transition to make but it’s defined as a ‘conceptual leap’ into something new. At the start of the 20th century, there was a similar scenario as classes were shifted outside in schools and other educational institutions to reduce transmission of tuberculosis, which was also capable of spreading through airborne droplets.
In contrast to virtual classes, outdoor classes provide an equity benefit. That is because in online learning a majority of children lack essential equipment such as digital devices and internet connectivity, outdoor classes can help even the playing field. Also spending time in classrooms could help the students forget the trauma of coronavirus, which has taken a toll on the mental health of both the adults and children. There are also physical benefits for kids as when back in schools they will be able to move around more.