Outdoor classes are safer. How can teachers make it happen?
By Jen Rose Smith, CNN
Updated 9:26 AM ET, Tue August 18, 2020
A teacher at the Bay Area's Golestan School in El Cerrito, California, conducts an open-air class.
(CNN)When students return to Augustana University in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, this month, they'll find a campus transformed by Covid-19. Masks are required outside of dorm rooms; fall sports are delayed.
Many courses will be a hybrid of virtual offerings and in-classroom time. But one professor will be holding class outdoors as long as possible.
"I will be teaching my environmental studies class outside whenever the weather is non-lethal," said David O'Hara, a professor who is also the university's director of sustainability.
Augustana University in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, built an outdoor classroom two years ago.
This isn't just pandemic thinking on his part. Two years ago, O'Hara worked with students to build the campus' first outdoor classroom from locally sourced slate, granite and quartzite.He relishes the chance to use it. "I teach outdoors as often as I can," he said, pointing to a long tradition of outside learning that includes open-air lectures by Aristotle and other ancient philosophers.
"You remember when you were a student, sitting in a classroom and staring out the window?" O'Hara asked. "I just figured, Let's go to the other side of the window."
Now, as educators return to work amid the pandemic, that decision seems prescient.
That's because scientists believe that transmission of Covid-19 is far less likely outdoors than indoors. Maintaining physical distance can be easier outside, and infected droplets dispel more quickly in fresh air. The sun and wind, studies have suggested, may help reduce the presence of viable viruses on surfaces.