School administrators are planning how to bring students back onto campus safely. Though these plans vary across the county, outdoor learning spaces are gaining a lot of attention for the equity and health benefits they provide. 

Outdoor spaces can be used for all types of classes and for all ages of students. You might find students analyzing a sonnet under a canopy of trees, conducting hands-on science classes in a grassy area, painting in the shade between buildings, or coding under solar panels in the parking lot. Outdoor learning may look very different from campus to campus and include a variety of shading and seating options. 

Creating outdoor spaces for learning allows schools to increase their capacity and options for physical distancing when students return to school. Classes were moved successfully outdoors during previous pandemics, and are increasingly being seen in the United States as well as many other countries. Outdoor learning spaces can be cost-effective and quick to create, especially when using existing shade and seating materials or temporary structures. They also allow for hands-on learning and improve students’ and staffs’ mental and physical health.

The San Mateo County Office of Education held a webinar on July 21st to introduce San Mateo County schools to outdoor learning spaces. More than 80 people joined the call, which provided an overview of how to begin the process of creating outdoor learning spacings as well as guidance and examples from schools and community-based partner organizations that have been teaching students outdoors.

The County Office of Education is partnering with Green Schoolyards America, the Lawrence Hall of Science, and Ten Strands through the National COVID-19 Outdoor Learning Initiative to create several tools, including a self-assessment, local vendors list, and cost calculator.

As part of this work, the County Office of Education is providing technical assistance to schools and districts interested in exploring outdoor learning. Learn more through the resources below.

Resources for Creating Outdoor Learning Spaces