This month, Berkeley public schools, like many school districts across the country, announced they will not start the year with full-time, in-person school. Soon after, J Li, a business-innovation strategist who lives in the area, noticed moms in the local Facebook groups turn, like starlings at dusk, to one topic in particular: homeschool pods.

Reluctant to face more months supervising Zoom classes, wealthy parents are grouping together in families of three or four and hiring someone to privately teach their children, at a cost of thousands of dollars a month.

“So what are poor parents going to do?” I asked Li.

“I mean, get fucked,” she said, frustrated that the government hasn’t come up with a solution for everyone.

As the first day of school rapidly approaches, people across the United States who can’t afford this system of private governesses are desperate for alternatives to in-person schooling or all-day Zoom. Both these options, after all, raise thorny objections. Teachers, and many parents, are reluctant to resume in-person schooling in the fall, fearful that children could contract the virus and spread it in their classrooms or at home. Meanwhile, virtual learning appears to be a giant failure. Not all students have internet access, so poor kids are falling behind. Even if they can get online, having a 7-year-old stare at a computer all day is generally not seen as advisable by child-development experts.

Given this dearth of good options, the best one appears to be moving the classroom outside. A small group of activists across the country are pushing for schools to consider teaching children in person, but outdoors in a park or even a parking lot. Outdoor time has always been healthy for kids, but that’s especially the case now: One study found that the odds of catching the coronavirus are nearly 20 times higher indoors than outdoors. Though it isn’t free of problems, learning outside might be the only way to provide parents with a break, kids with an adequate education, and teachers with protection from the coronavirus.

Read: The school reopeners think America is forgetting about the kids

But while some schools are considering outdoor classes as at least a partial option for this fall, outdoor learning will likely be limited to tentative experiments in pockets of the country. More widespread adoption of outdoor learning has been stymied by a lack of funds, cautious local leaders, and logistical hurdles. The result is that millions of kids, even those living in temperate climates, will probably not be going to school this fall in what may be the safest way possible.

It might sound crazy, but kids learn outside all the time, and did so even before the pandemic. About 250 “forest schools” exist in the U.S., in which younger kids spend much of their time in nature, and some have stayed open during the pandemic. In Denmark and Italy, some schools have reopened in recent months because students are spending as much of their day outdoors as possible. Outdoor school has even been tried during past epidemics: In the early 1900s, during a tuberculosis outbreak in Rhode Island, kids attended a school with the windows always open, even in the winter. They sat in sleeping-bag-like blankets and had heated soapstones placed at their feet, The New York Times reported. Eventually, there were 65 such “open air” schools around the country.

And many places in less-developed countries have rudimentary classrooms that are functionally outdoors. “There are people in countries throughout the world who learn outdoors every day,” said Scott Goldstein, the director of EmpowerEd, a teacher-advocacy organization that has been working on getting schools to hold classes outside. “They use good, old-fashioned chalkboards.”

Sharon Danks, the CEO of Green Schoolyards America, an outdoor-education advocacy group, told me that representatives from about 25 different cities, schools, and districts have been in touch with the group and are considering outdoor schooling, though none have said yet that they will definitely do school all outdoors, all the time.

Outdoor school would look like an extremely low-tech, mildly uncomfortable version of a regular school day, though perhaps with more sunscreen. Kids would be at a soccer field, in a park, or on another patch of green, advocates told me, or even in the middle of a closed road, if the school lacks green space. They’d sit under a tree or portable shade structure or simply wear sun hats. Some schools are hoping that events companies, which currently aren’t planning as many weddings or conferences, might lend them some tents. Teachers would probably retool their curriculum to be more nature-focused, and kids would get a break from the masks they’d be wearing indoors

Some of the logistical challenges to this vision are still being ironed out. The idea is that kids would wear jackets or head for the gym or cafeteria on rainy or cold days—and schools would transition to online learning in mid-November, before the weather turned truly frosty in much of the country. In Seattle, which is hoping to do outdoor learning for part of some younger kids’ school day this year, Liza Rankin, the school-board director of the city’s northernmost district, told me that they are “used to dealing with a little rain” but nevertheless hope to get some extra jackets donated. Outdoor schooling in August or September would be harder to pull off in hotter states, where even in the shade, temperatures can be too scorching to withstand for an entire school day.

Perhaps the biggest hurdle is transportation, because even if kids are able to sit in a field all day, they still have to get there somehow. Some of the outdoor-ed advocates suggested staggered shifts of buses that would shuttle a smaller-than-normal number of kids. Nancy Striniste, the founder of EarlySpace, another outdoor-education advocacy group, suggested “biking buses” and “walking buses,” in which parents would walk or bike groups of kids to school, though of course not all students live near their school or have parents with the time to do this. “We’re working on,” the transportation issue, says Lisa Luceno, the senior director of early-childhood strategy at Briya Public Charter School in Washington, D.C., which plans to educate its 65 preschoolers outdoors for a few days a week this fall.

Read: I can’t keep doing this. Please open the schools.

Some of these challenges wouldn’t be impossible to overcome in temperate states such as California. In fact, if outdoor education does happen on a broad scale, it opens up the possibility that only the states with the best weather would be able to educate children in person year-round. This might give way to yet another coronavirus-induced educational disparity: between kids who live in blustery climates and kids who don’t.

But it might not even come to that. Both the San Diego and Los Angeles school districts have already announced they will start school online in the fall. People who oversee large school districts—even in sunny areas—seemed unfamiliar with the concept of outdoor school when I asked about it. “There was no proposal for outdoor learning that I recall. It was not part of the conversation in board meetings,” Maureen Magee, the communications director for the San Diego Unified School District, told me.

The same is true at a national level. When I asked Dan Domenech, the executive director of the School Superintendents Association, about outdoor education, he said, “I am not aware of any districts that are planning to do that.”

Original Article: https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2020/07/outdoor-schools-coronavirus/614680/



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Official Contest Rules



  1. SPONSOR: The 2021 Outdoor Classroom Contest (the “Contest”) is sponsored by Bienenstock Natural Playgrounds, Inc., 1452 Concession Rd 4 W, Hamilton, Ontario, L0R 2B0, Canada (the “Sponsor”). Not sponsored, endorsed, administered by or associated with LinkedIN, Twitter, Google, Facebook or Instagram.
  2. ELIGIBILITY: This Contest is open to child care directors (as defined below) or School Principals who are legal residents of Canada, excluding Quebec or the United States who have reached the age of majority in their province, territory or state of residence at the time of entry, with the exception of employees of the Sponsor, its parent, related and affiliated companies, subsidiaries, departments or agencies, franchisees, suppliers, advertising and promotional agencies, contest administrators, and any other parties engaged in the development, production or distribution of Contest materials and those living in the same household.  By participating in this Contest, entrants acknowledge compliance with, and agree to be bound by, these Contest Rules.  Entrants who do not comply with any of these Contest Rules are subject to disqualification by the Sponsor, in the Sponsor’s sole discretion.

 Child care directors: Child care directors for the purposes of this Contest are pre-school and childcare centre directors that supervise and lead staff in relation to the caring and teaching of children and are responsible for all aspects of their centre’s programs, which may be for either private or public school child care centres.

School Principals: Principals for the purposes of this Contest are Principals of Elementary, Middle or High Schools.

3. CONTEST DATES AND TIMES: The Contest begins on February 10th, 2021 at 1:00 a.m. ET and ends on May 15th, 2021 at 11:59 p.m. ET (the “Contest End Date”) after which time the Contest will be closed and no further entries shall be accepted.

  1. HOW TO ENTER: You can enter by visiting https://www.outdoorclassrooms.com/contest and entering your name (first and last name), facility name & address, phone number, e-mail address, digital signature, the number of children at your facility and whether or not you are part of a chain with more than one location. For this Contest, receipt of an Internet entry occurs when the Sponsor’s servers record the entry information. All entries must be complete and are subject to verification by the Sponsor, in its sole discretion.  Limit one (1) entry per childcare facility and limit one (1) entry per school.

Any attempt or suspected attempt to use robotic, automatic, programmed, or otherwise, illicit means to enter this Contest, or any other methods not authorized by these Contest Rules, for example, but not limited to, creating multiple accounts, identities, or registrations, all in the Sponsor’s sole discretion, shall be deemed as tampering and may disqualify you from entering, participating and/or winning a prize.  Entries that contain false or incomplete information are void.  Entries that are late, lost, stolen, illegible, contain false information, are damaged, misdirected, mutilated, garbled or incomplete, altered or otherwise irregular or that do not conform with or satisfy any or all of the conditions of the Contest Rules are void.  Entrants grant Sponsor a non-exclusive license to use all entries for any purpose.  No correspondence will be entered into except with selected entrants.  Proof of transmission (screenshots or captures, etc.) does not constitute proof of entry or receipt of an entry.

  1. CONTEST PRIZES:There is a (1) prize available to be won consisting of an outdoor classroom that includes; one (1) teacher station, twenty (20) student stations, one (1) outdoor double-sided chalkboard. (approximate retail value $15,000).

All winners assume any and all liability for any injury or damage caused, or claimed to be caused, by entering, participating in this promotion or use or redemption of a prize.  Prizes must be accepted as awarded and have no cash value.  Prizes or any portion thereof cannot be combined with other discounts, promotions or special offers.  Sponsor reserves the right to substitute an alternate prize of equal or greater value if an advertised prize is unavailable at time of award.

  1. ODDSOF WINNING: The odds of winning depend on the number of eligible entries received before the Contest End Date.
  2. SKILL TESTING QUESTION: Selected Entrants will be required, as a condition to winning a Prize, to correctly answer, without assistance of any kind, the Sponsor’s mathematical skill-testing question.
  3. WINNER SELECTION AND CONFIRMATION: On May 16th, 2021 at 3:00 p.m.ET(“Draw Date”) the Sponsor, or an employee, agent or other representative of the Sponsor, will conduct a random draw from all eligible entries (the “Selected Entrants”).  A Selected Entrant will be deemed a winner if they meet all of the eligibility criteria set out in these Contest Rules. If a Selected Entrant (or Selected Entrants) does not meet any eligibility criteria, he/she will be disqualified and will not receive a prize and another entrant may be selected by way of a random draw from the remaining eligible entries by the Sponsor. Before being declared a winner, a Selected Entrant will be required to: (i) correctly answer the Sponsor’s mathematical skill-testing question; (ii) sign and return the Sponsor’s Declaration of Eligibility and Liability/Publicity Release form (the “Release”); and (iii) comply with all other Contest Rules, all in the sole discretion of Sponsor.

Selected Entrants will be notified on May 17th, 2021 and will be contacted using the e-mail address provided at the time of entry into this Contest, in Sponsor’s sole discretion, and up to three attempts will be made to contact each Selected Entrant.  A Selected Entrant that does not or cannot accept a prize may be forfeited and a new Selected Entrant selected by random draw, in the Sponsor’s sole discretion.  A signed copy of the Sponsor’s Release must be received by the Sponsor no later than 11:59 PM on May 20th, 2021.  Sponsor is not responsible for the failure for any reason whatsoever of a Selected Entrant to receive notification or for the Sponsor to receive a Selected Entrant’s response.

Disputes regarding identity of entrant: If the identity of a Selected Entrant is disputed, the entry will be deemed to have been submitted by the Authorized Account Holder (the individual assigned to the e-mail address or, if applicable for entry, social media handle associated with the entry). Each Selected Entrant may be required to provide proof that he/she is the Authorized Account Holder associated with the selected entry.

  1. RELEASE AND INDEMNIFICATION: All potential winners must sign the Sponsor’s Release to: (i) confirm compliance with all Contest Rules; (ii) agree to accept the prize as awarded; (iii) release, discharge and hold harmless the Sponsor, its departments and agencies, parent, related and affiliated companies, subsidiaries, franchisees, advertising and promotional agencies, counsel, marketing partners, Facebook and Instagram and each of their respective directors, officers, employees, shareholders, successors, sponsors, partners, licensees, subsidiaries, agents, artists, advisors, assignees, and all others associated with the administration, development and execution of the Contest (the “Released Parties”) from and against any and all manner of action, cause of action, claim or demand, loss or injury, use or misuse of a prize or any travel related thereto, and the use of the Entry by the Sponsor, suit, debt, covenant, contract, including legal fees and expenses, whatsoever, including but not limited to, claims based on negligence, breach of contract and fundamental breach, failure of any third party contractor or supplier used in connection with any aspect of the Contest to perform or deliver any goods or services, any act of God or any other event beyond the Released Parties’ control, any dissatisfaction of any kind by a winner with any aspect of the Contest or any prize, liability for physical injury, death, or property damage which the entrants, guests, their heirs, successors or assigns have, might have or could have suffered, by reason of or arising out of the entrant’s participation in the Contest and/or in connection with the acceptance and/or exercise by the entrant of the Prize as awarded; and (iv) indemnify the Released Parties against any loss, damage or expense, including legal fees, that any of the Released Parties may suffer or incur as a result of any non-compliance by an entrant with any of the Contest Rules or participation in the Contest and/or in connection with the acceptance and/or exercise by an entrant of a prize and the use of the Entry by Sponsor.

The Sponsor is not responsible for:(i) incorrect or inaccurate entry information which may affect a person’s ability to participate in the Contest or be awarded a prize, including but not limited to human error, technical malfunctions, lost or delayed entries for any reason, mail failures, omission, or any combination thereof, and entries which fail to fully comply with these Contest Rules; (ii) technical failures of any kind, including, but not limited to malfunctions, interruptions, or disconnections in phone lines or network hardware or software; (iii) lost, incomplete, delayed, mutilated or misdirected entries or Declaration and Release forms; (iv) injury or damage to the entrant’s computer or to any other individual’s computer related to or resulting from participating in, or downloading any material regarding the Contest or accepting a prize; (v) any injury or damage to persons or property which may be caused, directly or indirectly, in whole or in part, from entrant’s participation in the Contest or receipt or use or misuse of any prize, including any travel related thereto and the use of the Entry by Sponsor;(vi) the security or privacy of information transmitted via computer networks or for breaches of privacy due to interference by third party computer “hackers” or otherwise; or (vii) late, lost, misdirected or unsuccessful efforts to notify a potential winner.

  1. OTHER CONDITIONS: The Sponsor reserves the right to terminate or amend this Contest at anytime and in any way, without prior notice. Without limiting the foregoing, if, for any reason, the Contest is not capable of running as originally planned for any reason, the Sponsor reserves the right to cancel the Contest and conduct a random draw from all previously received eligible entries received by the Contest End Date.

Publicity and entrant information: By participating in the Contest, entrants consent to the use of their name, address, postal code/zip code, telephone number, social media handles, comments and image, whether on videotape, photograph or any other means, as may be edited, translated or modified in any way by the Sponsor in its sole discretion, for the administration of this Contest or any publicity carried out by the Sponsor, without further notice or compensation. Entrant information may be used for marketing.

Law: The Contest is void where prohibited by law and is subject to all applicable Canadian federal, provincial, territorial, municipal and local laws. This Contest shall be governed exclusively by the laws of the province of Ontario, Canada including all issues and questions concerning the construction, validity, interpretation and enforceability of these Contest Rules, rights and obligations between entrants and the Sponsor, and procedural provisions, without giving effect to any choice of law or conflict of law rules.  Any dispute shall be adjudicated by the courts sitting in Hamilton, Ontario.

Rule amendments: The Sponsor reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to amend or modify these Contest Rules, or modify, cancel or suspend this Contest, without prior notice for any reason whatsoever, including without limitation in the event that any cause beyond the reasonable control of the Sponsor corrupts, or threatens to corrupt, the security or proper administration of the Contest.

Intellectual Property: All intellectual property, including but not limited to trademarks, logos, designs, promotional materials, web pages, source codes, images, drawings, illustrations, slogans and representations are owned by the Sponsor.  All rights are reserved.  Unauthorized copying or use of any copyrighted material or other intellectual property without the express written consent of the Sponsor is strictly prohibited. The Sponsor’s marketing or other partners, if any, shall also have access to and rights to reproduce, copy or otherwise use any materials generated by this Contest or any submissions or materials generated by entrants.

© Bienenstock Natural Playgrounds, Inc. 2021.  All Rights Reserved.