“To combat the coronavirus, schools across America moved students outdoors. Here’s a look at four new learning environments.” A. Nierenberg, The New York Times, Oct. 27, 2020
ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key
Excerpt: Classrooms Without Walls, and Hopefully Covid — By Amelia Nierenberg, The New York Times, Oct. 27, 2020
“First graders sit crisscross applesauce on tree stumps, hands sky-high to ask a question. Third graders peer closely at the plants growing in class gardens, or spread themselves out in a sunflower-filled space to read.When the sun beats down, students take shelter under shades made from boat sails.
That’s what a school day is like this year in one community on Cape Cod, where every student now spends at least part of the day learning outdoors — at least when the rain holds off.
Seeking ways to teach safely during the pandemic, schools across the United States have embraced the idea of classes in the open air, as Americans did during disease outbreaks a century ago.
The efforts to throw tents over playgrounds and arrange desks in parks and parking lots have brought new life to an outdoor education movement, inspired in part by Scandinavian ‘forest schools’where children bundle up against frigid temperatures for long romps in the snow.
‘The outside provides much more flexibility,’ said Sharon Danks, the chief executive of Green Schoolyards America and the coordinator of the National Covid-19 Outdoor Learning Initiative, which formed in May.
‘You can have a six-foot-apart seating chart, and have enough space to move around.’
‘Covid has hastened the pace of a shift toward trying to take better advantage of the outdoors,’ said Maria Libby, the superintendent of the Five Town Community School District in Rockport, Maine, who bought tents and Adirondack chairs for outdoor classrooms.
Here is a look at four American schools where students are learning in the open air, and where at least some parents and teachers hope that the temporary measures might become permanent, for as long as the weather cooperates.
Six feet is hard for kindergarten students to picture, so to help teach children in Falmouth, Mass., to maintain social distance, their teachers tied knots in a long rope for walks.
In one Cape Cod community, students learn outside almost every day. “It lets them think on a more fundamental level than sitting in a classroom with a desk,” the president of the local Rotary chapter said…’It’s a living classroom,’ Mrs. Moran said of the school’s outdoor garden. ‘And not just for science. It could be anything.’
First-grade students complete sentence-structure lessons outside. “We should have been doing this all along,” said Lori Duerr, the superintendent. ‘This is doable, especially in our community, where numbers are very low.’
Lori Duerr, the Falmouth Public Schools superintendent, said the district didn’t have to spend money on the project because the community stepped up. ‘These are not just parents,’ she said. ‘These are just community people who are jumping in to also help.’
Chris Barley teaches an interdisciplinary class of ninth and 10th grade students. Multiple classes can meet at the same time on the expansive roof…The school hosted events under the sky. After classes, children played soccer on a rubber field and shot hoops on the basketball court. Now, the roof doubles as a classroom space.
‘We didn’t really have to modify anything, because it’s technically a schoolyard,’ said Wallace Simpson, the school’s principal. ‘It’s designed to be used.’..Samaiya Bailey, 17, a senior, said she loves the breaks she takes on the roof between classes. There, she can see her friends, at a safe distance...At the start of each school day, Dana Hotho’s students ask: ‘Where are we learning today?’
It’s a fair question. On Tuesday and Thursday mornings, Ms. Hotho takes her class from Lakeside Intermediate School to Garvan Woodland Gardens at the University of Arkansas. The program in the botanical garden, developed over the summer by Bruce Orr, an assistant superintendent, serves students across the district with special needs…As they work, she plays quiet classical music from a Bluetooth speaker. A peacock named George might wander through class…Often, though, she uses the outdoor space for activities that would be impossible in a classroom. She weaves counting lessons into socially distanced dance parties or sends children on scavenger hunts through the gardens.
At the Prairie Hill Waldorf School outside of Milwaukee, students do not use technology in the classroom until middle school. And even then, they use it sparingly, under an educational philosophy developed a century ago in Germany and followed at some private and charter schools in the United States. “Virtual learning definitely isn’t a strong option for us, so we wanted to come back to school in a safe way,” said Lindsey Earle, a fourth-grade teacher at the Prairie Hill school, which has about 125 students in pre-K to eighth grade.
Her idea for how to do that: Build a 12-sided outdoor classroom. Ms. Earle spent the summer months working alongside parent volunteers to create the space, and the outdoors easily become part of her lessons on Wisconsin history and geography… Ms. Earle installed a wood-burning clay stove in her classroom, which she hopes will heat the space through the snowy winter months. She is still trying to raise donations for a roof, but a tarp works for now.”
REMEMBERING DR. KING:
~Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. ~
January 15, 1929 – April 4, 1968
NOTE: Lessons can also be used with native English speakers.
Level: Intermediate – Advanced
Language Skills: Reading, writing, and speaking. Vocabulary and grammar activities are included.
Time: Approximately 60 minutes.
Materials: Student handout (from this lesson) and access to news article.
Objective: Students will read and discuss the article with a focus on improving reading comprehension and improving oral skills. At the end of the lesson students will express their personal views on the topic through group work and writing.
I. Pre-Reading Activities : Predictions: Analyzing headings and photos
Directions: Examine the titles of the post and the actual article. Examine any photos, then create a list of words and ideas that you and your group members think might be related to this article.
II. While Reading Activities: Word Inference
Directions: Try to infer the meanings of the words in bold taken from the article. You use a dictionary, thesaurus, and Word Chart for assistance.
- Third graders peer closely at the plants growing.
- When the sun beats down, students take shelter under shades made from boat sails.
- Schools across the United States have embraced the idea of classes in the open air.
- The outdoor education movement was inspired in part by Scandinavian ‘forest schools.’
- Children bundle up against frigid temperatures for long romps in the snow.
- Teachers are learning carpentry to build their own outdoor classrooms.
- Covid has hastened the pace of toward outdoor education.
- Some parents and teachers hope that the temporary measures might become permanent.
- Holding outdoor classes in public schools has been kind of prohibitive.
- Some teachers think that having students learn outside lets them think on a more fundamental level.
Grammar Focus: Structure and Usage
Directions: The following groups of sentences are from the article. One of the sentences in each group contains a grammatical error. Identify the sentence (1, 2, or 3 ) from each group that contains the grammatical error.
- First graders sit crisscross on tree stumps.
- Third graders peer closely at the plants growing outside.
- Some students takes shelter under shades made from boat sails.
- The outside provides much more flexibility.
- You can has a six-foot-apart seating chart.
- Some teachers learned carpentry to build their own outdoor classrooms.
- Six feet is hard for kindergarten students too picture.
- Local lumber companies donated stumps for seats.
- Families pitched in old outdoor gear.
Reading Comprehension: Identify TheSpeakers
Directions: Read the following quotes from speakers in the article. Then identify the speakers.
- “The outside provides much more flexibility…You can have a six-foot-apart seating chart, and have enough space to move around.”
- “Covid has hastened the pace of a shift toward trying to take better advantage of the outdoors,”
- “Montessori-style, or Waldorf, they’ve been doing this kind of thing for a long time…But to do it in the public school system has been kind of prohibitive.”
- “The students are excellent…They have been remarkable coming back. They get it. They want to be here.”
- “These are not just parents…These are just community people who are jumping in to also help.”
- “Now, the roof doubles as a classroom space.
- We didn’t really have to modify anything, because it’s technically a schoolyard.”
- “Virtual learning definitely isn’t a strong option for us, so we wanted to come back to school in a safe way.”
III. Post Reading Activities: WH-How Questions
Directions: Have students use the WH-question format to discuss or to write the main points from the article.
Who or What is the article about?
Where does the action/event take place?
When does the action/event take place?
Why did the action/event occur?
How did the action/event occur?
Discussion Questions for Comprehension
Directions: Have students discuss the following questions/statements. Afterwards, students share their thoughts as a class.
- Why are teachers holding class outdoors?
- What are Scandinavian “forest schools”?
- According to Sharon Danks, what does outside classrooms provide?
- In order to help build additional outdoor classrooms, what are teachers and parents doing?
- How do most teachers and parents feel about teaching outdoors?
- According to Ms. Loenardi which schools have already been holding outdoor classes?
- In your opinion, is it better to teach outdoors or inside classrooms?
- What new information have you learned from this article?
Directions: Allow students 5 minutes to write down three new ideas they’ve learned about the topic from the reading, two things they did not understand in the reading, and one thing they would like to know that the article did not mention. Review the responses as a class.