The Dirtbag’s Guide to Outdoor Educational Activities with Children During COVID19 Quarantine & Isolation: Part 1 Introduction
Before the major 2020 COVID19 pandemic quarantine went into effect, Boldly Went posted an update to the Coronavirus for Dirtbags book answering the question, Is it OK for my Kids to Go Hiking with their Grandma? That led to the receipt of many questions from parents asking us for tips and ideas about educational activities to do with children outdoors. As governments around the world got busy implementing complete shutdowns to stop the spread of COVID19, we got busy finding an answer to your question.
Full disclosure: Here at Boldly Went, we are not parents. We do not know the real struggles that you parents face. I (Angel Mathis) am a family nurse practitioner and Tim is a children's nurse with a specialty in mental health. Even though we're good at helping you and your children through physical and mental health disruptions, we are not skilled 1:1 caregivers or educators. We do know quite a lot about outdoors, but when it comes to facilitating children's education in the outdoors, we are about as good as an electrician trying to solve a plumbing problem, and if I’m honest, that’s probably an overestimation of our abilities on this front.
Saying that, another strength we have is the wider Boldly Went outdoor community. So we asked around and found a real expert who can help us answer your question in this guide! Meet Jessica C. Levine!
Jessica Levine is a National Board Certified Teacher and a recipient of the Amgen Award for Science Teaching Excellence and The Patsy Collins Award for Excellence in Environment, Education and Community. With a background in biology, chemistry and environmental studies Jessica is passionate about the environment and systems/interdisciplinary thinking and learning. As a naturalist, above all else, she is a place-based educator. Jessica has worked in classrooms with a wide range of grade levels and subjects--from preschool to high school; from photography to science. She has also worked with young people in a variety of outdoor educational and wilderness leadership settings from the deciduous hardwood forests of New England, the sagebrush high deserts and muddy rivers of the American Southwest, the glaciers and mountain meadows of the North Cascades, to the tundra and permafrost of the Canadian Arctic. For the last 15 years Jessica has taught 6th grade science in Seattle Public Schools. Ironically, while the COVID closure of schools has torn down the walls of a traditional classroom, it’s also thrown the doors wide open. Go outside. The environment is an incredible context for learning.
If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement, and mystery of the world we live in.
Introduction to this series
What you'll find in this multi-part guide is not Boldly Went original content. It's borrowed from our network and from writers and experts, including Jessica herself. I hope it's useful. I hope you stay sane! And if not, that's when you can really call on our expertise as clinicians to help you out! Here's a good article to start.
Children and COVID19: A Public Health Nurse Practitioner’s Perspective
Safety for children during COVID 19 means staying close to home, social distancing, avoiding interaction with other children and people who your children don’t live with. This includes cancelling and not scheduling any in-person play dates, group hangouts and group gathering locations such as playgrounds, pools, parks, schools, trampoline jumping places, birthday parties...you get the point.
Thankfully, children are known not to be getting as severe infections as adults, which means children are experiencing a much lower rate of death than adults. However, I’m sure it won’t come as a surprise to anybody anywhere to learn that children are little disease vectors just waiting to come up in grandma’s face to give her cuddles and a deadly disease.
I know...they do not do that on purpose! In all seriousness, I do want to clearly point out that children are getting sick or carrying the COVID19 virus just as much, or maybe more, than other age groups. So stemming COVID19 disease spread and progression means that it is essential to follow all social distancing advice outlined by the CDC and know how to take care of yourself, which does include wearing a cloth face mask for anyone who is old enough to leave it on, which brings us to tip #1 - a crafting project creating your own masks with things around the house. I promise, we’ll keep the other recommendations focused on outdoor activities.
Education in the Outdoors: An Expert Teacher’s Perspective
Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.
Don’t let school get in the way of your education.
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Educational outdoor activities to do with your children during this shutdown that are low social interaction, safe, and high engagement
Gary Paul Nabhan and Stephen Trimble begin their influential book The Geography of Childhood: Why Children Need Wild Places claiming that many naturalists start their journey in any open space just beyond the backyard fence. It’s this sense of home and the subsequent heightened awareness of place that is key to developing future caretakers of this planet. Thus, we’ve organized these activities with increasing activity away from where you stand. As an added benefit to the environment, we’ve been asked to stay put. Sing the old REM song if you have to “Stand in the place that you live.” So bloom where you are planted; then explore some more; and then venture further afield, but not too far.
We have pages and pages (and pages) of tips that are are excited to share with you in the next posts.
Ready. Set. Go!
Follow Jessica Levine:
Instagram: @msgreenlevine and @112Collaboratory
Tim and Angel
The goat in the picture lives in Silverton, CO, and tried to kill us. We survived to bring you this dirtbag wisdom for the ages.