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Take learning outdoors

Before the start of the new school year, it is time to rethink what we thought we knew about learning and schools, to think of new outdoor spaces that not only allow students to learn, but also to interact with each other.

In Mexico, the Secretary of Public Education, Estaban Moctezuma, reported that the start of the new school year will be on August 24, remotely, "in the absence of conditions to do it in person" (Milenio, 2020). The most vulnerable students are excluded from these strategies, since access to technology, the necessary materials and support at home is profoundly unequal (UNICEF, 2020). Similarly, despite the fact that learning in this modality can focus on the acquisition of knowledge, it is limited when it comes to social –and emotional– skills.

In this sense, we are faced with two important problems: 1) those who do not have access to resources will be further excluded from learning, and 2) keeping ourselves at a distance has implications for mental health, stress, depression and anxiety in children. , adolescents and young people (Time, 2020). That is why specialists in mental health and education have focused the conversation on the importance and urgency of creating safe learning spaces that enable learning for all and healthy coexistence to strengthen relationships that have been weakened. (Time, 2020)

What's next now?

We need to conceive parks, squares, and other open spaces as meeting points that have the necessary characteristics to reduce the risk of contagion, and that promote coexistence and comprehensive learning.

Mental health, and students' school and social learning, prompts us to rethink what we believed about school. Just as we have moved classes remotely, it is time to think about moving them outdoors, which would allow face-to-face learning that makes it easier to follow hygiene and safety measures.

It is no longer an option to confine the healthy learning process. The students in Mexico have stayed at home for five months, so it is essential to think, design and create new outdoor spaces. Spaces that focus on school learning, and above all to encourage students to strengthen their social skills and, with it, their mental health.



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