Outdoor desks replace indoor classes as way of dealing with COVID-19 in schools

Outdoor desks are replacing indoor classes for some schools as way of dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Jovana Lara Image
Friday, August 7, 2020
Schools taking classrooms outdoors
Some schools are trading indoor classrooms for fresh air, sunshine and outdoor teaching in the wake of the covid-19 pandemic.

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- The start of the new school year is just weeks away. Most students will return to distance learning, but some schools are taking their classrooms outdoors.

When students at Suntree Elementary in Melbourne, Florida, return to school this fall, new outdoor classrooms will be waiting for them.

"I just think fresh air offers so much to the children," said Aran Hissam, a parent volunteer. "It does something to them mentally, physically, emotionally. These poor kids, for six months their life has been turned upside down, and children need routine."

SoCal teacher gives kids peek of what outdoor learning could look like

The opening of many Los Angeles County schools is just two weeks away. For most students, the inside of their classrooms will look like the inside of their homes. But one local teacher is giving kids a peek of what an outdoor learning situation might look like.

Suntree is among a growing list of schools, including some in Northern California, trying something new: taking their classrooms outdoors.

"Yes, it's a crazy idea but it's no crazier than the default solution of having kids in remote learning for two to three days a week, which we know was a disaster last spring," said Craig Strang, associate director of learning and teaching at UC Berkeley's Lawrence Hall of Science.

For the last few months, Strang has been trying to convince school districts across the country to consider using outdoor spaces for learning. And it's not a new idea. Students attended classes outdoors during the Spanish flu pandemic in 1918.

"We think that just about anything you can do in a classroom, you can do as well, or better, outdoors," said Strang.

The idea is not to provide outdoor learning for entire classes but only for those students who would be taking remote classes at home - under a hybrid model.

Figures show many students lack computer access amid pandemic

A backpack and school supply giveaway in South Los Angeles included essential items for students. But this year, there is another great need amid the coronavirus pandemic: the tools to learn from home.

"We're seeing this solution as one that is potentially a new 'Plan A,' something that you would think about using when the weather is suitable for you and your school," said Sharon Danks of Green Schoolyards America. "Playgrounds and outdoor space can be easily and inexpensively greened by doing some simple plantings and adding some furniture and even potted plants."

But even outdoors, COVID-19 safety measure should still be in place.

"Of course they're going to be wearing masks, they're going to follow all the social distance guidelines, but I think that versus sitting in front of a computer for up to six hours just was not going to happen," said Hissam.