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California districts attempt to revive outdoor education programs slashed during the pandemic

EDsource, Johnson, 2020

Many outdoor education programs in California have shut down in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, potentially eliminating science instruction based on exposure to natural environments for some students in the coming school year. At the same time, a growing body of research has shown evidence of uneven access to distance learning, especially among English learners and low-income students. Now, some districts are discussing how to take lessons outside to mitigate the loss of hands-on science experiences while opening the classroom beyond four walls where students can keep at least six feet apart while learning outdoors.

Environmental and outdoor education: key to equitably reopening schools

North American Association for Environmental Education

COVID-related school closures nationwide have exacerbated great inequities in public education. Schools with more resources have been better able to keep students on track, while those serving families who lack computer or internet access have struggled. Achievement gaps are expected to widen due to a so-called “COVID slide”1; families relying on schools to provide childcare and meals face challenges as schools prepare to reopen with possible staggered start times, hybrid in-person and virtual learning structures, and the potential for rolling closures during peak illness.

A Field at Risk: The Impact of COVID-19 on Environmental and Outdoor Science Education

Melissa Collins, Rena Dorph, Jedda Foreman, Aparajita Pande, Craig Strang, Aujanee Young, 2020

During April 2020, the Lawrence Hall of Science at the University of California, Berkeley, conducted a survey to learn about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the environmental and outdoor science education field nationwide. This policy brief describes the importance of this field, the findings of our survey, and recommendations for mitigating the potentially devastating threats facing this field.

California Snapshot: Estimated losses are worse

Melissa Collins, Rena Dorph, Jedda Foreman, Aparajita Pande, Craig Strang, Aujanee Young, 2020

Extracting the data from California organizations, we found that outdoor science and environmental education organizations in the state are facing greater losses and are even less likely to be able to re-open than their national peers.

COVID-19 and student learning in the United States: The hurt could last a lifetime

Emma Dorn, Bryan Hancock, Jimmy Sarakatsannis, and Ellen Viruleg, 2020 

New evidence shows that the shutdowns caused by COVID-19 could exacerbate existing achievement gaps. Learning loss will probably be greatest among low-income, Black, and Hispanic students. We estimate that this would exacerbate existing achievement gaps by 15 to 20 percent. We estimate that an additional 2 to 9 percent of high-school students could drop out as a result of the coronavirus and associated school closures. Beyond the pandemic, cuts to K–12 education are likely to hit low-income and racial- and ethnic-minority students disproportionately, and that could further widen the achievement gap.

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