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Outdoor learning spaces: An opportunity to combat the educational gap

Outdoor learning spaces are taking a leading role to continue educational processes and combat the unequal conditions that thousands of children and young people experience today.

With schools closed and a very marked digital divide (almost 55% without a digital device at home) students have not been able to keep up with their educational process. The lag worsens with each additional minute that schools remain closed and with the lack of access to the resources, support or technology necessary to stay current in terms of the educational journey.

In the case of Mexico, it is estimated that 10 million basic education students (up to the upper secondary level) could not regularly follow their classes online, which is why they are now in a situation of educational lag (Xaber, 2020). In the absence of a specific strategy to address this problem, it is estimated that this year at least 20% of them are in danger of leaving formal education forever (México Evalúa, 2020).

Given this panorama, and taking into account that the social distancing measures will remain in force, it is essential to define and implement alternatives that support the recovery of the learning process of children and young people. Let's think of strategies that combine the necessary elements to combat the lag at this time and that open safe and attractive paths to continue their training trajectories with success.

In this sense, the best bet to achieve it, -taking into consideration the current conditions-, are without a doubt the outdoor learning spaces.

The alternative that has gained strength in the world: outdoor learning spaces

When they maintain adequate sanitary conditions and the space for interaction between people is regulated, outdoor spaces reduce the risk of transmission of diseases such as Covid-19 and promote healthier social interaction.

That is why countries like Denmark and New Zealand have begun to integrate them as part of the strategy for a safer return to school. Following in his footsteps, the National Association for Education in Nature has designed a strategy to adapt educational practices to the crisis, which has already been endorsed by epidemiologists and educators and is beginning to be put into practice in some parts of Spain.

This consists of recovering some collaborative dynamics between students-teachers, based on the formation of "bubble groups", which propose bringing together a maximum of 10 students in places such as schoolyards or public parks, for sessions of one hour to 90 minutes. The idea is that both the groups and their assigned teachers avoid living with other students and thus maintain safety conditions.

The strategy has allowed the students to once again share the space with their classmates, thus the smaller size of the group gives the teacher the opportunity to play a tutor role and provide more personalized attention to each student, better serving your needs.

In addition to this, recent studies indicate that staying outdoors for a significant part of the school day has helped students reduce their stress levels and improve their emotional well-being by just over 40% (prior to going back to school). classes).

This translates into a higher quality of educational performance, greater openness to the development of new skills and creative freedom. With this, it is estimated that it is possible to overcome up to four months of lag in a period of one year.

Safety and educational quality for all

Outdoor learning spaces are an excellent option to guarantee equitable access to quality learning experiences for all students, thereby responding to the learning inequality caused by the digital divide.

An example of this is the case of the Urban Thinkspace, which, integrating low-cost structures, was installed in one of the most vulnerable neighborhoods in the city of Philadelphia, which has allowed its users to effectively combine formal education with learning experiences at outdoors, based on play and experimentation.

Spaces of similar dimensions can become places that offer their users the opportunity to explore high-impact collaborative learning dynamics, while maintaining safety and health measures. But the most important thing is that they promote a much more accessible educational environment for all children and young people.


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