Nick Drye, a member of Troop 33 Boy Scouts in La Crescent, the La Crescent Rotary Club and the Houston County Master Gardeners helped GROW build the new school garden adjacent to the La Crescent Food Shelf this summer.
“It’s just been amazing to watch the community come together for this build,” said Linda Vale, GROW operations director. “Every time we needed anything, someone new showed up to help. This new learning space is going to offer a fantastic option for classes to learn while staying socially distant and taking in the health benefits of being outside.”
Studies have shown that spending time outdoors is one effective way to avoid COVID spread. GROW believes in the health benefits of teaching students in outdoor learning spaces at all times, though it is believed that during this season it will be even more valuable for schools to have flexible outdoor learning spaces. This new garden space will provide just that.
Jeff Copp, La Crescent-Hokah Elementary School principal said, “During this pandemic, our first goal is to keep our students safe and learning while at school. One of the ways to do this is to use outdoor learning spaces to socially distance. Our GROW School Garden provides an excellent outdoor opportunity to enhance student learning, while keeping kids safe!”
Using outdoor spaces has been used historically during the tuberculosis and Spanish flu pandemics. A recent story in The New York Times shows the open-air school rooms in cities around the country. This was shown to help lower the spread of disease and kept kids connected to important learning opportunities and services.
In Minnesota and Wisconsin, many people may think it’s too cold for outdoor education for parts of the year. Yet, kids have bundled up in “Eskimo sitting bags” during the bitter New England winter of 1907, the Times reports.
Children attended classes in industrial buildings with wide-open windows, on New York City rooftops, even on an abandoned ferry boat. This technique was so successful it was replicated in 65 fresh-air classrooms around the country.
Teaching in outdoor spaces has benefits beyond germ control. Proponents hope that a positive result from this pandemic would be prompting more parents, teachers and school officials to embrace the movement to get kids outside.
A huge body of research that shows being outside reduces stress, increases positive emotions and reduces negative emotions. Therefore, if we get the hang of it now, these techniques could be used to benefit students even after the pandemic.
GROW is a non-profit organization formed by enthusiastic parents and community members to connect children to healthy food and nature through school gardens and farm experiences.
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