Outdoor Education Aces the Test – WVTF

For many children, COVID has meant educational setbacks as they struggled to absorb lessons online, but for others the pandemic has underscored the value of learning outside.  At a school near Charlottesville,  students spent 90% of their time in fields, forests and tents.

Once upon a time, children did not sit in classrooms listening to lectures.  Instead, they were outside with elders, studying nature and how to survive.  Today, some schools in Europe and the United States are returning to forests and fields, lakes, creeks and beaches to learn.

“They are surrounded by so many interesting things that they want to explore and learn more about so there’s an intrinsic level of motivation that exists” says Eric Anderson,  head of the Free Union Country School — a private primary school in rural Albemarle County with about seventy students.

“I think there’s also a lot of research that shows  how being outside is good for kids’ cognitive and social well-being, how it helps to steady them, helps with attention issues.”

Free Union was already committed to outdoor education, but it doubled down when COVID hit — convening a panel of medical experts to advise teachers and administrators, building four large tents on the seven-acre campus, buying lap desks and portable seats for students and limiting the size of each class.

“The Commonwealth was still in stage one of the pandemic where you could only have gatherings of no more than 10 people,  so we limited every class to nine students and