Funding allows administration to invest in outdoor learning

Andrew Dong

Wilson purchased tables, chairs, and tents, in addition to installing outdoor WiFi to be used for outdoor learning. All schools in the District received funding for outdoor learning resources, as part of a $9 million dollar DCPS investment.

According to Interim Principal Bargeman, Wilson received “about $30,000 to spend on furniture for outdoor learning” over the summer. While the furniture was purchased in the summer, all of it has since been delivered. 

Some of the furniture is currently located on the stadium terrace and different parts of the outdoor areas on campus, but other items are being stored on the second floor for safety during weekends and breaks. 

“As a teacher decides to take a class out, students can grab a chair and go outside with it and then put it back when they finish so we don’t lose the furniture,” Bargeman said. In addition to the furniture, outdoor WiFi has been installed.

Director of Strategy and Logistics Brandon Hall thinks that Wilson’s new outdoor learning materials will meet the current demand. “I think for our population, we have the right amount of outdoor equipment for teachers. Also, teachers aren’t required and may opt not to use the outdoor space.” 

Previously, the school had hired a contractor, TeachOUT LLC, to evaluate potential outside learning spaces and create a packet listing possible uses for those spaces. Teachers can view the packet and teach in the spaces listed. “We have a Google Form to sign up for those spaces and [teachers] utilize them as much as they can,” Hall said. Environmental Science teacher Dani Moore uses outdoor learning because of how interactive it is. “What we’re learning about is the environment and since it’s just outside, I feel like we should try to go outside and experience it,” Moore said. 

She appreciates the option that the new outdoor furniture brings, but feels her classes lend themselves better to natural spaces. “I prefer to use the more wild spaces, either Fort Reno or Soapstone Creek, just because of the things we do.” 

Despite the approaching winter, Moore is not concerned about the effect of the cold on her outdoor lesson plans. “It’s DC, and it doesn’t really get that cold. We can spend 20 minutes collecting some data and we’ll be fine.” 

Senior Savannah Spencer is in Moore’s AP Environmental Science class, and also supports outdoor learning, but is worried about having classes outside when it is muggy. “I like outdoor learning, but it would suck if it was humid.” 

English teacher Joseph Zazo, who hasn’t yet taken any classes outside, says the new furniture and WiFi makes the option a little more realistic for him. “If the WiFi is working out, then it definitely makes it a little more feasible to have class outside.” Zazo also sees looser mask restrictions as a plus for students learning outdoors. “It allows you a little more freedom when you’re outside, because there’s more ventilation. It might be good to get outside for students.”

Hall recommends the use of outdoor spaces, but reminds teachers to maintain protocols. “Outdoor learning is an option to mitigate COVID-19. As much as we can, we are encouraging teachers to utilize those spaces. With that said, students and teachers need to maintain 6 feet [to] social distance.” •