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Taking Education Outdoors: Health and Safety

Students learning outdoors wearing masks

Health and Safety 

This section offers resources to understand the relationship between the outdoors and infection control and mitigation, mental health, and outdoor safety. 

Infection Control and Mitigation

On September 1, 2020, the National COVID-19 Outdoor Learning Initiative hosted an online Q&A session with Dr. Caesar Djavaherian, Co-founder and Medical Director at Carbon Health, and Dr. Nooshin Razani, Associate Adjunct Professor at UCSF, to discuss how to use outdoor spaces on school grounds as an asset to control viral transmission and vastly improve equitable access to meaningful and engaging learning experiences for students. Watch the recording 

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine’s "Reopening K-12 Schools during COVID-19 Pandemic" plan recommends using the outdoors:

  • "moving instruction outdoors" (p 39) is one of the mitigation measures listed that can be used to improve air quality for classes. 
  • "Stakeholders may also want to consider local variability in seasons as they make plans to support fresh air exchange in classrooms, or even consider whether outdoor learning is a realistic possibility" (p 47).
  • "Ventilation systems should be operating properly and, when possible, circulation of outside air should be increased, for example by opening windows and doors" (p 63).
  • "Add outdoor classrooms if possible" (p 67) is a recommendation that is listed in the cost estimate chart .

The CDC provides guidance on cleaning and disinfection needs for outdoor spaces here

Mental and Physical Health 

Time spent in nature can support social-emotional learning and our physical state. 

What is social-emotional learning (SEL)? CASEL defines SEL as "the process through which children and adults understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions" ( CASEL provides an interactive SEL framework and PDF downloads  about the five domains of SEL: Self-Awareness, Self-Management, Social Awareness, Relationship Skills, Responsible Decision-Making.

School Story"Nature Kindergarten brings back normalcy for students."

Watch the webinar recording of Outdoor SEL with Kelly Koller,, Byron McClure,, and Alexis Foley and access the webinar resources:

Safety Outdoors

Good preparation is one of the best ways to stay safe outdoors. Do teachers have access to radios or cell phones and first aid kits to take outside? Are there protocols for communication when heading outdoors?


For questions about this information, contact Victoria Rydberg-Nania (608) 266-0419