As COVID-19 continued to affect the Kansas City area, the staff of Bishop Miege started to get creative when it came to all of their students returning for the 2020-2021 school year. They decided to implement an outdoor space for students so not as many students would go into the overflow rooms.
Teachers school-wide are using the new outdoor space to expand their curriculum and to make it easier for students to learn together without using Zoom.
“Things are a little bit different out there in terms of social distancing because it’s much easier and it’s just nice to get the fresh air,” social studies teacher Amy Lukert said.
Spanish teacher Jennifer Dessert has figured out an inventive and engaging philosophy to her 2020 teaching.
“I think that we learn a language a lot like when we learned languages as children, through song and play and movement,” Dessert said. “Just like people did in preschool and with their parents when they were little and if they learned through playing it tends to stick a little bit better.”
Innovative teachers, like Dessert, have also created their own spin of outdoor learning including games and other interactive activities.
“We usually circle up and we play language games so they can practice their numbers and new vocabulary and they always really like to play Spanish kickball,” Dessert said. “They have to ask questions in order to kick, and if they answer correctly then they can play.”
Due to its popularity amongst teachers, the classroom has implemented a basic system for seating and arrangements for learning outside.
“You can sit on the ground if you want but there’s a rack of chairs in the office,” Lukert said. “The first hour of the day takes them out and the last hour of the day brings them in.”
However, outdooring learning had difficulties anticipated, Wi-Fi being one of them.
“Every once in a while it will cut out and we’ll have to scoot a little bit closer,” Lukert said. “A few days we had to rely on paper.”
Teachers also said that there are new distractions with learning outside.
“They get easily distracted out there,” Lukert said. “It’s hard being out there during the last period of the day, near the end because cars start to pull up and everybody just has fun waving at who’s coming by.”
As teachers adapted to outdoor learning, they are really optimistic about how these classrooms will help students learn their curriculum.
“I have one class with overflow and that would be nice to start taking them outside more regularly because then we can stay together and there’s room to spread out,” Lukert said.
Students have also been affected by the outdoor learning space. Based on an online survey of 140 students conducted by the Miegian staff, a majority of students enjoy using the outdoor space instead of the typical classroom. Sophomore Emilio Ojeda and Junior Jack Noblitt agreed that the outdoor space is a great change of scenery and that getting active outside is a great break from sitting in the classroom.
“Being outside is just so calming and it relaxes you, and any time it is beautiful out, I just want to sit out there all day,” senior Margaret Lisac said.
Based on the same survey, other students prefer to learn indoors. Freshmen Ben Frey and Jacob Drone agreed that the outdoors is not suitable for learning and that they prefer the classroom setting.
“I feel as though it is difficult to be close with your friends and make connections with teachers,” senior Emerson Burris said.
The outdoor space has made a large impact on the way Miege teaches and has teachers excited about future school years.
“I’m really glad that we’re moving in that direction,” Dessert said. “I think we should always have outdoor classrooms because it’s nice for students to have a change of pace.”