COVID-19 pandemic potentially detrimental for outdoor environmental, science education programs

The COVID-19 pandemic threatens the survival of organizations nationwide that provide critical outdoor environmental and science education to K-12 students, with an alarming 63% of such groups uncertain about their ability to ever reopen their doors, according to a study released this week by the Lawrence Hall of Science at the University of California, Berkeley.

By the end of May, the study’s authors estimated, some 4 million youth had missed the opportunity to engage in these programs. This number could rise to 11 million by December 2020 if these organizations are unable to reopen. The impact in California is usually even higher than nationally.

The loss of outdoor education is a damaging situation with potentially catastrophic impact, said Rena Dorph, director of the Lawrence Hall of Science (LHS), a science center and leader in developing K-12 science curricula. Getting youth outside, connecting with the world around them and learning about nature have many documented academic, health and social benefits, and most of outdoor education is usually conducted by residential outdoor science schools, nature centers, parks and zoos, not in traditional classrooms.

This is happening at a time when public health leaders are promoting the value of outdoor learning as safe, engaging, effective and essential, Dorph said. The outdoors is definitely a resource for learning, engagement and wellness, and it should end up being obtainable to all.

The reduction will be felt disproportionately by historically marginalized groups, particularly students of color and students from low-income families, that are most likely to lose environmental education within their regional school districts.

Years of initiatives to boost gain access to to the advantages of learning and thriving in the outside could end up being undone, regardless if you may not environmental and outdoor research education applications manage to reopen, said Craig Strang, LHS correlate movie director. Resource-strapped agencies inform us they will want to forego endeavours to promote fair and comprehensive places of work, and also probably to stop backed coding, scholarships, charge waivers, transport scholarships and community relationships in favour of having to pay clients, which could business lead, once once again, to the exemption of low-income students and students of color. There are points we can do now to prevent that.