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Taking Education Outdoors: Operations

Students learning outdoors wearing masks


School and district leaders have a profound influence on taking learning outdoors. Review district- and school-level policies and procedures that support or hinder this instructional practice. Consider guidance related to walking versus bussed off-site field trips. Do teachers need permission slips each time they take students outdoors or can more flexible permission be granted?

School Operations

Learn about the concerns and questions relative to learning outside and assess where additional capacity and support may be needed from external partners for learning outdoors. Develop a communication plan to engage families and stakeholders in the conversation about taking learning outdoors. Consider needs for translation and interpretation. Review and update budgets to reflect needs for outdoor learning.

The North American Association for Environmental Education has a 2-part recorded webinar on "How to Start an Outdoor Classroom at Any School" available for viewing: 

Part 1 covers the 'inside' work that needs to be done before heading outside with your students, including: finding your WHY, building alliances with administration and families, and how to find your space and place in nature.
Register to watch the recording

Part 2 covers the "outside" work that happens once you've laid the groundwork for a successful nature-based learning program. Topics include: safety, schedules and academic time, and good gear. Watch the recording


Consider what mobile technology tools would support taking learning outdoors in the various instructional models. Do teachers need to be streaming synchronously or recording for asynchronous learning while teaching? Are mobile video devices with data, such as a cell phone or a tablet connected to a hotspot, available for use? Develop a plan to train staff in the use of the devices and applications to take learning outside. 

School Story: With teaching to students both in person and at home simultaneously, teachers at High Marq Environmental Charter School had "student liaisons" posting photos to Google Hangouts during their outdoor learning time and the at-home field teams were posting their own photos as well to create a shared experience. Another tool they have used is posting to a shared iNaturalist account at the same time for a BioBlitz. All students used anonymous, shared accounts to avoid sharing personally identifiable information.

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