Let’s Not Re-Open Schools; Let’s Re-think Them

Posted by on Aug 4, 2020 in Unmowed Blog | 1 comment

students outdoorsWhen the pandemic first hit, not even the experts knew what to do. Sanitize the doorknobs? Masks? Six feet apart, ten feet? But now we’re finally getting more of a handle on things. And what have we learned, finally? It’s better outdoors. Dine outdoors, meet outdoors. Stay healthy, outdoors.

Well, we knew that all along, right? Almost everything is better outdoors. So why are we planning to send our children back to school—indoors? Come on, kids, get out of the park and the yard, and come on indoors to a poorly-ventilated box of a classroom.

Let’s not do that. Instead, let’s take a break. Let’s just give everyone a national goof-off year. I’m serious. Let’s forget about standardized tests and math skills and vocabulary building. Let’s take the year off and just mess around outdoors.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has come out in favor of opening schools. And why? Because children are suffering from isolation. And that’s surely, sadly, painfully true. Isolation is deadly. But I think the Academy doctors are prescribing the wrong remedy. As a cure for isolation and depression, kids don’t need school, they need company.

Kids desperately need some form of social life, and overworked parents desperately need a break. Let’s take a lesson from the success of the child care given to children of essential workers in New York City during the terrifying height of the pandemic there this spring. Small groups of kids, with low kid-to-adult ratio, masks and distancing as much as possible, and a lot of outdoor time. Let’s use every park, every nature center, every green space, every urban community garden and vacant lot.students near pond outdoors study nature

Yes, students still need to read books and learn some math and build science skills. But let’s focus on the main issue: keeping children sane and healthy while we wait for this terrible year to pass, keeping our hopes high for the future.

Outdoor classrooms. Small class sizes. One aide for every 8 kids or so. Lots of independent reading time, reading in a tree or on the lawn. Hands-on science lessons, outdoors. Lunch outdoors. Lots and lots of physical exercise, outdoors.

What if this school year turns out to be the one that changed American education forever? What if students look back on this year as the one when they learned the most important lessons of all?


One Comment

  1. OMG. I love it! I know that you have reported kids of all ages and incomes being nervous about “Nature”! Good opportunity to get past that anxiety. Teach them that there are good and bad germs! And dirt is not “dirty”.

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