In today’s world, not only is the outdoors better for your mental health, but it’s safer too. According to a recent study, only one in every thousand cases of COVID-19 are transmitted outside. Fresh air allows the virus to disperse, rather than build up in an enclosed area.

Schools have already started to recognise that the outdoors has a much lower risk than indoors during a pandemic and are taking their classrooms outside:

“Since the pandemic, on the days I’m onsite, I keep the kids outside most of the day. We go into the garden and read stories, complete writing tasks, art and maths games – using the gardens as stimulus.”  – Primary teacher in New South Wales

This is not a new idea; to reduce transmission in the tuberculosis outbreak of the 1990s, schools taught their students outside, even in the midst of winter. (With the right clothing, and laminated resources, you can teach in any weather!)

For many years, research has shown the positive impact being outside has on students. It can improve performance and behaviour, reduce stress, strengthen whanaungatanga and kaitiakitanga, and greatly benefit those with learning difficulties.

An outdoor classroom is something New Zealand schools should seriously consider. Students can have difficulties readjusting to a classroom environment after being in lockdown. Taking the classroom outside and engaging students in hands-on, practical learning can help them re-adjust to school. Education Outside The Classroom (EOTC) during the time of a pandemic is something that should be prioritised, not put off.

Although camps cannot run at level 3, POET encourages schools to continue to run camps at level 2, as this is a safer place for students to be than in the classroom and greatly benefits the students’ mental health and engagement in education. See our alert level guidelines for how we continue to operate safely at the different alert levels.

There are a huge number of resources out there about how to take classroom learning outdoors and what the benefits are for students. Check out the references below for more information.

“The best classroom and the richest cupboard is roofed only by the sky” – Margaret McMillan


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