Students, parents, and teachers have been creating outdoor classrooms at local schools. These mobile outdoor classroom kits are an innovative and affordable solution to help students maintain distance and learn outside, where there is less risk of COVID spread. In the spring of 2021, this project enabled outdoor learning at 50 schools.
Thanks to a Gray Family Foundation grant and business sponsorships, the kits were offered for free to Title 1 schools in the following school districts: Portland, Beaverton, North Clackamas, West-Linn Wilsonville, Reynolds, David Douglas and Centennial. The Eco-School Network developed, funded and coordinated the cost-effective kits (created for just $300 each), after studying approaches to outdoor learning from around the country and world.
Each kit contains clipboards and student sit-upon pads, a whiteboard, teacher’s stool, first aid kit, and cones to define the outdoor classroom. Teachers pull the kits outside in a wagon to transform a space in the schoolyard into an instant classroom. Kits were lovingly assembled by volunteers who cut 4 acres worth of used vinyl billboards and collected hundreds of upcycled padded mailers and yoga pads to create 1500 waterproof sit-pads for students.
At 20 schools, elementary students led the project! Through a student leadership program, students mapped the best sites on school grounds, met with the principal, advocated at staff meetings, ordered supplies, and delivered kits. Some also restored school gardens that had been neglected, vandalized, and used as sites for camping during school closures, littered with hypodermic needles, beer bottles, and more. We were so impressed with our student change agents who overcame barriers to lead a project that made teachers and families feel safer going back to school. This resource will make possible thousands of outdoor learning experiences for years to come.