Welcome to the Nature Based Education Consortium Outdoor Learning resource page! This page is an information hub, built to support school districts and community partners interested in Outdoor Learning this fall as a Covid-19 strategy. See this page for ideas on outdoor classrooms, funding, scheduling, guidance for schools and many opportunities for teachers to find training on how to do outdoor learning this year! Read and share the Outdoor Learning Quick Reference Guide for an easy entry into outdoor learning this fall.

This page is continuously changing - if you have a resource that you think should be listed here, please send it to Nathan Broaddus, NBEC Manager. Bookmark this page and check back often for new information and opportunities. NBEC is proud to be host to this true community effort, which is based on participation of partners statewide, including Maine Summer Camps, the Maine Environmental Education Association, and numerous school district partners.

Outdoor Learning Guide cover
Walk in the Wild

Guidance & Resources

Seedlings

Training Opportunities

Handshakes

Funding

Webinars

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School Stories

Open Books
Newspaper

In the News

School Stories of Outdoor Learning

Managing an outdoor learning pod

How do I manage safe bathroom use in my pod when I am teaching outside?


Establishing a pass system for using indoor classrooms allows for educators to remain outside while students use the indoor facilities. Make sure students know the rules of the road for how many students can be inside a bathroom at any given time. If possible, consider two portable toilet to serve your outdoor pod.




How should our outdoor classrooms be cleaned?


Like any classroom, high touch items should be cleaned frequently and if possible between uses. Being in the sunlight may provide some natural disinfection!




How should we organize safe travel to community partner sites, camps, or parks?


At this time, field trips to indoor locations that require travel are not recommended. Guidance for the safe travel of students is evolving, but travel by walking remains safer than travel with groups of students inside a vehicle.




Can students within my pod share any equipment or materials when we're outside?


Yes, students can share equipment with focus on hand sanitizing before and after touching or using shared equipment. It is important to remember that COVID-19 is primarily spread by respiratory droplets and potentially spread by touching an infected item with your hands and then touching your nose, mouth or eyes. Good hand hygiene can prevent the spread of viruses.




Are there types of common outdoor activities that I should avoid with my class?


It is important to realized that singing, shouting or vigorous exercise can increase dispersal of respiratory droplets up to 14 feet! It would be best to move further apart when students do these activities or avoid these activities altogether if unable to distance.





General questions

How do I manage transportation to community partner sites?


One scenario: split bus routes in half with two runs each morning and afternoon bringing half the students to a local community partner site, and half to the school. School dropoff at 8 a.m. and pick up at 2 p.m. Partner sites drop off at 9 a.m. and pick up at 3 p.m. Color code bus seats for each run with odd rows on the driver’s side used for the school run and even rows on the passenger side for the partner site run Additional vehicles (and drivers) available from the community partner can further reduce the transportation bottleneck. Family transportation or local walking or bicycle riding could further reduce the demands on bus capacity, depending on availability.




What about sun, rain, and snow?


As we say often in Maine, “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only inadequate clothing.” When cold weather is a safety concern, schools can gather extra donated boots and clothing and assign gear to individual students for the season so it is always on hand for outdoor learning. For early childhood centers, consider purchasing classroom sets of waterproof suits that can cover the outer layer of clothing to protect students from getting wet. Community partners like thrift stores or community closets could support a whole school effort to help students be ready for inclement weather. Tents, yurts, and shelters can be used to protect students from both sun and rain, and some offer protection from the snow and cold as well. Creating a rotating warm up schedule and doing shorter blocks of time outside in winter are also options to keep outdoor learning incorporated into the daily schedule.




How can I pay for outdoor learning at my school?


CARES Act funding to schools is intended for Covid-related needs - and learning outdoors reduces transmission risk, so some schools are using CARES to pay for larger outdoor classroom infrastructure needs. There are also numerous grants available to teachers from Maine-based and national foundations and agencies that fund small and large projects. Of course, every school’s greatest resource is its community. Many educators have been able to build outdoor classrooms, easels, picnic tables, benches, school gardens and more on a shoestring by reaching out to local businesses and school families for materials and construction. This fall, many community members are looking for ways to contribute and support their local schools and are eager to respond to requests for support.




How can outdoor learning address equity issues?


Outdoor learning can be as diverse as Maine’s student body. Partnering with local organizations that have deep experience serving the community that makes up the student body can tailor outdoor learning to meet the needs of the cultural experiences of all students. Outdoor learning can also support successful learning for youth who may struggle with the traditional classroom. All schools in Maine can successfully implement outdoor learning, especially if collaborating with community partners, for additional outdoor space, curriculum, or safety support. Contact the Nature Based Education Consortium or the Maine Environmental Education Association for assistance in connecting with community partners.





Share your school or district story by filling out the form below

Guidance & Resources for Outdoor Learning

Outdoor Spaces

Outdoor Spaces as Essential Assets

National School Ground Greening Resources

 

How to Conduct an Outdoor Space Inventory

Teens to Trails

Outdoor Classroom Design and More

Green Schoolyards of America

Outdoor Infrastructure Cost Estimate Tool

Green Schoolyards of America

Outdoor Classroom Procurement Checklist

Portland Public Schools Outdoor Learning

Materials Options for Outdoor Classroom Infrastructure

Reid Anderson, Outdoor Consultant

How to Build an Easel

Portland Public Schools Outdoor Learning

Guide to Advocating for Outdoor Classrooms in Coronavirus-Era School Reopening

NAAEE

How to Create an Outdoor Classroom in the Era of COVID-19

Laura Blaisdell, MD/MPH

What Summer Camps Have to Offer

Summer Camp Resource List

Maine Summer Camps membership

Maine Summer Camps

Additional Resources

National Environmental Education Guidance to Schools

Maine Environmental Education Association

Draft Maine Back to School Framework

Department of Education

WinterKids Guide to Active Outdoor Learning

WinterKids

WinterKids Resources for Educators

WinterKids

Diverse Resources for Outdoor Learning

Includes vast array of Articles (why do this), Activities (how do this), Strategies, etc.

Learning for Nature by ME

From Anecdotes to Evidence: Demonstrating the power of environmental education

eeWorks, North American Association for Environmental Education

Outdoor Learning: A Solution for Schools During COVID 19

Natural Start Alliance

A recording of a panel of experts (outdoor educator, administrators, and a pediatrician) who share the hows and whys around outdoor learning as a response to reopening in this uncertain time.

Models, etc.

Draft Outdoor School Model Schedules

Green Schoolyards of America

Draft Learn Outside Instructional Model

Green Schoolyards of America

Example Schedule and Curriculum Ideas

Inside-Outside New England

Frequently Asked Questions

Managing an outdoor learning pod

How do I manage safe bathroom use in my pod when I am teaching outside?


Establishing a pass system for using indoor classrooms allows for educators to remain outside while students use the indoor facilities. Make sure students know the rules of the road for how many students can be inside a bathroom at any given time. If possible, consider two portable toilet to serve your outdoor pod.




How should our outdoor classrooms be cleaned?


Like any classroom, high touch items should be cleaned frequently and if possible between uses. Being in the sunlight may provide some natural disinfection!




How should we organize safe travel to community partner sites, camps, or parks?


At this time, field trips to indoor locations that require travel are not recommended. Guidance for the safe travel of students is evolving, but travel by walking remains safer than travel with groups of students inside a vehicle.




Can students within my pod share any equipment or materials when we're outside?


Yes, students can share equipment with focus on hand sanitizing before and after touching or using shared equipment. It is important to remember that COVID-19 is primarily spread by respiratory droplets and potentially spread by touching an infected item with your hands and then touching your nose, mouth or eyes. Good hand hygiene can prevent the spread of viruses.




Are there types of common outdoor activities that I should avoid with my class?


It is important to realized that singing, shouting or vigorous exercise can increase dispersal of respiratory droplets up to 14 feet! It would be best to move further apart when students do these activities or avoid these activities altogether if unable to distance.





General questions

How do I manage transportation to community partner sites?


One scenario: split bus routes in half with two runs each morning and afternoon bringing half the students to a local community partner site, and half to the school. School dropoff at 8 a.m. and pick up at 2 p.m. Partner sites drop off at 9 a.m. and pick up at 3 p.m. Color code bus seats for each run with odd rows on the driver’s side used for the school run and even rows on the passenger side for the partner site run Additional vehicles (and drivers) available from the community partner can further reduce the transportation bottleneck. Family transportation or local walking or bicycle riding could further reduce the demands on bus capacity, depending on availability.




What about sun, rain, and snow?


As we say often in Maine, “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only inadequate clothing.” When cold weather is a safety concern, schools can gather extra donated boots and clothing and assign gear to individual students for the season so it is always on hand for outdoor learning. For early childhood centers, consider purchasing classroom sets of waterproof suits that can cover the outer layer of clothing to protect students from getting wet. Community partners like thrift stores or community closets could support a whole school effort to help students be ready for inclement weather. Tents, yurts, and shelters can be used to protect students from both sun and rain, and some offer protection from the snow and cold as well. Creating a rotating warm up schedule and doing shorter blocks of time outside in winter are also options to keep outdoor learning incorporated into the daily schedule.




How can I pay for outdoor learning at my school?


CARES Act funding to schools is intended for Covid-related needs - and learning outdoors reduces transmission risk, so some schools are using CARES to pay for larger outdoor classroom infrastructure needs. There are also numerous grants available to teachers from Maine-based and national foundations and agencies that fund small and large projects. Of course, every school’s greatest resource is its community. Many educators have been able to build outdoor classrooms, easels, picnic tables, benches, school gardens and more on a shoestring by reaching out to local businesses and school families for materials and construction. This fall, many community members are looking for ways to contribute and support their local schools and are eager to respond to requests for support.




How can outdoor learning address equity issues?


Outdoor learning can be as diverse as Maine’s student body. Partnering with local organizations that have deep experience serving the community that makes up the student body can tailor outdoor learning to meet the needs of the cultural experiences of all students. Outdoor learning can also support successful learning for youth who may struggle with the traditional classroom. All schools in Maine can successfully implement outdoor learning, especially if collaborating with community partners, for additional outdoor space, curriculum, or safety support. Contact the Nature Based Education Consortium or the Maine Environmental Education Association for assistance in connecting with community partners.





Training Opportunities

September 21

Building Community through Outdoor Activities: Teenagers During Physical Distancing

New England Public Health Training Center & Teens to Trails

Outdoor activities are a great way to address the five core competencies of social and emotional learning while increasing self-esteem, improving mood and reducing anxiety. This session highlights the benefits of spending time outdoors and offers a series of physically distanced activities that build Self-Management, Self-Awareness, Social Awareness, Relationship Skills and Responsible Decision Making.

For more information and to register

Funding Opportunities

CARES Act funding to schools is intended for COVID-related needs - and learning outdoors reduces transmission risk, so some schools are using CARES to pay for larger outdoor classroom infrastructure needs. There are also numerous grants available to teachers from Maine-based and national foundations and agencies that fund small and large projects.


Of course, every school’s greatest resource is its community. Many educators have been able to build outdoor classrooms, easels, picnic tables, benches, school gardens and more on a shoestring by reaching out to local businesses and school families for materials and construction. This fall, many community members are looking for ways to contribute and support their local schools and are eager to respond to requests for support.

In the News

Watch the Statewide Forum

The Nature Based Education Consortium and the Maine Summer Camps hosted this statewide forum on How Outdoor Learning Can Support Reopening Public Education. The forum featured sharing information and guidance documents, and gathering feedback from the broader field on the concepts of how outdoor learning could support public education in the Fall in response to the COVID crisis. This interactive event was the start of an ongoing conversation, working together to support schools, teachers, and students in meeting diverse new needs this year.

View the Slideshow

Contact the Panelists

Nathan Broaddus, Manager: Nature-Based Education Consortium

 

Olivia Griset, Executive Director: Maine Environmental Education Association

 

Erica Beck Spencer, Curriculum Specialist, Lawrence Hall of Science, University of California, Berkeley

 

Matt Pines, co-Director: Maine Teen Camp. Board VP: Maine Summer Camps. Ph.D. Student: USM.

 

Patti Bailie, Associate Professor of Early Childhood Education, University of Maine at Farmington

Jessica Decke, Director: UMaine 4-H Learning Center at Tanglewood

 

Reid Anderson, Logistics and Risk Management Consultant

Laura Newman, Consultant, Learning by Nature for ME & School Ground Greening Coalition

Beth Lambert, Director of Innovative Teaching and Learning, Maine Department of Education

More Webinars & Trainings

Outdoor Learning: A Solution for Schools During Covid-19

NAAEE

Outdoor Learning 101: Professional Development from Portland Public Schools

Portland Public Schools

How to Start an Outdoor Classroom at any School, Part 1

NAAEE

Teach the Indoor Curriculum Outside

from the 1 Plan 3 Falls Conference hosted by Community Learning for ME - presented by Erica Beck Spencer and Anne Stires

How to Start an Outdoor Classroom at any School, Part 2

NAAEE

Thinking Outside: How Nature-based Education Can Help Schools Reopen Safely

NAAEE