As schools scramble to figure out how to hold classes during the pandemic this fall, a Montgomery County private school has decided to move all instruction outside.
Alicia Davis Enright, head of school at Mater Amoris Montessori School in Ashton, Maryland, said that after brainstorming all of the possible options for the fall, her school decided to transition students outside, using their 13-acre campus.
“Every class will have its own outdoor classroom area set up with a tent and tables as well as ground space that children can work on,” said Enright.
The school serves children ages two-and-a-half to 12-years-old.
Since the campus includes a stream and a wooded trail, Enright said that they are planning on using nature more in their sessions.
“We’re working on developing an enhanced outdoor education program that lets us take advantage, at a deeper level, some of the features of our campus,” she said.
When it comes to weather, Enright said they have fans for hot days and heaters for colder days. And she said that they are prepared to switch all learning online if teaching outside is not possible.
She believes the new model will help children continue learning in person while taking precautions due to the coronavirus.
“In a Montessori model, a Montessori philosophy, children have some choice in where they work and what they work on so this allows them to continue to have that,” Enright said.
During their staff week in June, Enright and her staff set up tents and a model outdoor classroom with tables and ground work spaces. They used some of their own children as the models for the class and what it would look like.
She said they had them bring materials out and test out what learning would entail in those spaces.
“We worked with them in that setting to see how that was going to function and it was great,” Enright said. “After that, we just buckled down and said this is what we’re going to do.”
Since the announcement, she said she’s had dozens of calls asking about the new model from parents deciding on what to do about school when the new year starts, as many schools are starting with online education for the fall.