Shadley: Expand Outdoor Education This Fall – The Daily Utah Chronicle – Daily Utah Chronicle


Gwen Christopherson

A fifth-grade science class joins FRIENDS of Great Salt Lake on a field trip to learn about the lake’s ecosystem at Antelope Island State Park on June 24, 2020. (Photo by Gwen Christopherson | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

Low vaccination rates and the emerging Delta variant have caused COVID-19 cases to rise in Salt Lake City. As in-person schooling resumes, Salt Lake City’s school district must once again utilize COVID-19 mitigation practices to ensure the safety of students, teachers, staff and families.

Another semester of remote learning is unfavorable as no one wants the online school “learning loss” to continue. However, Salt Lake City decided to only “strongly encourage” mask-wearing among students and staff for the schools in the district.

Masks, like all pandemic guidelines, lower the risk of contracting the virus. If Salt Lake City officials are unwilling to enforce a mask mandate, they have an alternate, more politically palatable, way to mitigate the spread. The pandemic offers Salt Lake City an opportunity to expand outdoor environmental education.

Doing so would allow teachers to teach students in a more pandemic safe setting, offer students a different style of learning and prepare students to succeed in the changing climate they’ve inherited.

The Benefits of Environmental Education

Throughout the pandemic, any activity or gathering has generally been considered safer if it was held outdoors. Moving classes outside will reduce the