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To increase student safety Education experts call for outdoor classes amid COVID-19 pandemic

Posted in Canada, Featured

Published on July 30, 2020 with No Comments

Toronto used ‘forest schools’ to teach children during tuberculosis outbreaks.

As politicians and school boards grapple with the challenge of how to safely reopen schools in the fall, some education experts are suggesting a simple solution — hold class outside. 

The idea was recently suggested in a report released by Toronto’s Hospital for sick kids.

But according to freelance journalist Monika Warzecha, it’s not a new notion.

Warzecha said that while working on a series of stories about Toronto’s history, she stumbled across a photo depicting the now-closed High Park Forest School. 

“It’s this photo of all these kids, they’re kind of formally dressed, sitting at these desks that are wooden and solid with wrought iron in front of a chalkboard and teacher. But they’re in a forest,” she said.

Opened in the early 1900s, the High Park Forest School was initially built as a place to teach children with tuberculosis, but through the years it became a summer school for underprivileged children. The prevailing medical understanding at the time was that one of the ways to fight the bacterial infection was through exposure to sunlight and fresh air.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford showed support for resurrecting outside teaching, saying on Wednesday that “no idea is a ridiculous idea” when it comes to allowing children to return to school. That includes the use of outdoor learning “as much as possible,” he said.

Hilary Inwood, head of the Environmental and Sustainability Education Initiative at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, said besides helping reduce the spread of COVID-19, there are “numerous benefits” in getting students out of the classroom.

But she said it’s unreasonable to expect inner-city schools to be able to hold class outdoors all day because of the limited size of some school yards. A rotation-based approach would work best, Inwood said

“Some of their learning is also taken back indoors, but it happened throughout the year, both in the fall but also in the winter,” Kaluraq said.

Inwood said that if student’s in Canada’s North can learn in “heart of winter,” then city kids can “absolutely” do it, too.

“The same advantages that Kaviq outline of hands on experiential learning can absolutely be played out here. So finding ways to do it here in the city is just as likely even in the winter,” she said.


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