Outdoor Learning Opportunities and Environments
Sometimes, all kids need to get outside more often is access to green spaces and outdoor learning opportunities in schools. Green schoolyards, increased outdoor learning opportunities, and incorporating the outdoors into holistic school wellness programs all hold the potential to improve kid's overall well-being.
- Increase funding and access to high quality green school grounds, gardens and nature-based play areas, both during the school day and out of school time, with a priority on schools serving low-income families and communities of color.
- Support shared use policies so that school grounds can ensure the whole community can benefit from those spaces out of school time.
- Include nature connection as part of programs and policies geared towards improving physical activity, access to healthy food and other programs supporting positive social determinants of health.
Wisconsin law affords liability protection for school grounds open to community recreational use. When schools welcome the broader community to enjoy green schoolyards, liability becomes an important consideration. In 2012, Wisconsin passed a law providing liability protection for schools that permit community recreational use of school property during non-school hours. In general, state public health advocates see open access and joint use agreements as a strategy for increasing physical activity; however, liability fears sometimes squelch these efforts from becoming a reality in most states. This law in Wisconsin provides a unique platform for addressing those liability concerns and can support the development and community use of green schoolyards throughout the state.Access Resource Here
This bill established a school gardens program to expand the number of educational gardens and garden salad bars in California public schools by offering startup or expansion grants, implementing garden-enhanced nutrition education and training and resources to the grantees. The bill also required the State Department of Education to develop, research and coordinate the best available practices regarding appropriate curriculum for school garden programs in kindergarten and grades 1 to 12, inclusive, in consultation with education, nutrition, and agricultural experts, and to incorporate nutrition education curriculum content into the health curriculum framework. School gardens are often a component of a green schoolyard.Access Bill Language Here
Outdoor Learning Opportunities
- Increase funding and access to high quality outdoor recreation and education programs for all students from pre-K through 12th grade
- Increase support for service-learning opportunities that link schools, parks and nature centers, and other non-formal institutions.
Oregon’s Outdoor School program provides every fifth or sixth grade student with the opportunity to attend up to a week of residential outdoor school. State lottery funds were directed by the legislature to the Oregon State University Extension Service, which in turn administers a grant program to directly support school district expenses. The funding also includes establishing model curriculum consistent with statewide education requirements.Access Resource Here
In spring, 2017 the Washington Legislature passed SB 5357 “Establishing a pilot project to license outdoor early learning and child care programs”, otherwise known as outdoor preschool.Access Resource Here
School Wellness Supports Outdoor Engagement
School based health includes consideration of children’s need for access to outdoors as part of their comprehensive approach to physical and mental health.
School gardens and other green schoolyard components that promote student health are codified in the D.C Healthy Schools Act passed in 2010 by the D.C. City Council and pertaining to all D.C. public schools. The Act addresses school meals, locally-grown food (i.e. farm to school, school gardens, etc.), local wellness policies, healthy vending, physical activity and physical education, health education, fundraising, and prizes. D.C. also provides funding to enact this law. In addition to the legislation, a fact sheet, infographics, and annual state reports are available.Access Resource Here