Nicholas L Dixon
The COVID-19 shutdown last year disrupted the idea of the school as we know it and forced teachers to think outside the box. For an elementary school principal in North Carolina, thinking outside the box literally got him going.
Nicholas L. Dixon, principal of Fost Elementary School in Greensboro, has long been a supporter of outdoor learning, so when his school won a $13,000 grant from North Carolina’s Outdoor Heritage Advisory Board last year, he knew exactly what he wanted to do with the windfall. : Build an outdoor classroom that will inspire not only students but teachers as well.
Dixon used the money to order needed supplies, and with the support of an enthusiastic school district and maintenance workers who took care of clearing the space needed and installing equipment, Dixon’s dream came true within two weeks. Desks and chairs are designed to look like logs filling the outdoor classroom space, with enough space between them to facilitate social distancing protocols. There’s even a waterproof chalkboard.
The school was able to debut in outer space in December, around the time students were first beginning to return for in-person lessons and were adjusting to the new normal. Dixon told NPR that first graders were among the first to experiment with space and fortunately, it was an instant success — and still is today.
“[The] The kids were so excited when we got out there and quickly realized that learning was still happening, and this isn’t playground equipment [but] “We’re having fun,” Dixon said. Just the fact that they were able to look up at the sky and see the birds and hear the sounds that were familiar to them and be there in that space – I feel as if it tapped into multiple senses and they were really able to focus on learning too.”
Foust Elementary serves students from pre-kindergarten to fifth grade, and students of every level have had opportunities to use the space. It’s no surprise that kids are always excited to be outside during the school day and even parents are fans.
“Last year one of our kindergarten teachers held a model class in a classroom and [the parents] Dixon said:[They wanted to know] How often do we do this, this is something we want, is there more like this? They had a lot of questions about it, about how they support scaling it up, and so it was really good to see the parents interacting with it and really [be able to] Ignite up their passion for creating more spaces throughout the area. “
Nicholas L Dixon
Dixon hopes this is just the beginning
Research has shown that being abroad can positively affect students. Learning abroad can improve children’s performance and behavior and can lead to stronger bonds between families and the community, according to a Report Published by the University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point. Learning outdoors also has benefits for students with learning disorders: A 2009 دراسة study showed that simply being outside and walking in a “green space” significantly reduces symptoms of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children, regardless of age, gender, or income level.
As students return to in-person lessons amid the pandemic, Dixon has seen a potential challenge in helping children adapt and an opportunity to find a creative solution.
“The pandemic has allowed us to reinvent, reimagine and rebuild things,” he explained. “And so we wanted to make sure the kids came back, because it felt like there was [not just] Something new, but something new and exciting for them, something that really nourishes their social and emotional health.”
“There is a lot of research on the painful effects of the pandemic and how we can address those healing needs and the outdoor space… just being there, even if we’re meditating, sitting, listening to music, is just doing something for us and our children.”
Dixon said the school district is a big supporter of outdoor learning spaces and would like to see more schools, from elementary to high schools, equipped with more outdoor spaces. The Fost Primary School is scheduled to be reconstructed in the coming years. It’s about to enter the design phase and Dixon hopes this will be a perfect opportunity to incorporate more hybrid spaces: envision a covered outdoor classroom to protect students from the elements or classrooms that, for example, have a retractable wall or are capable of, Dixon explained. That opening to being partially outdoors, providing flexibility in a traditional classroom setting.
At the moment, teachers are constantly innovating the space at their disposal. Dixon said the outdoor study room at Fust is a great space for students to conduct experiments. Music teachers are even thinking about how to incorporate the natural sounds of singing birds into their lessons. The options are practically endless.
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Earlier this year, he was a kindergarten teacher in Seattle applauded He took to social media after circulating an intimate video of him taking his class on an online field trip to the zoo. else teacher in Iowa She created a series of special greetings to help her students feel excited about coming to school each morning even when they have to stay away from society.
For Dixon, as difficult as this pandemic is, it is an opportunity.
“I think this is the time to innovate … to reimagine,” Dixon said. He later added, “I was pushing every teacher to think about the reality of it [the] The outdoors will always be here for us. There are spaces everywhere that we can turn into a learning environment. Just look at the research that supports learning abroad – it supports our children’s awareness development, both socially and emotionally – and I say make it happen.”
“Even if you have a small budget or one with endless cash, you can make an outdoor space for yourself and your students and teachers will really appreciate it.”