Photo by Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

North Cascades Institute & Connections on National Public Radio

“The risk of catching the coronavirus is lower outside than inside, and for that reason, a lot of people were hoping that public schools could mitigate risk by shifting instruction to the great outdoors.

In Seattle, despite a push in the summer to make that happen, pilot programs are still not up and running. But in Whatcom County, dozens of kids in three school districts have been learning outside for months.

On an unusually sunny December day, kids soaked up the rays and played on the playground at Kendall Elementary School, nestled in the foothills of Mount Baker.

It would have been an ordinary scene a year ago, but now the kids wear masks and try to stay six feet apart. One of the students is an 11-year-old named Hazel, who loves being outdoors and is an avid mushroom picker. She said she recently found a “really cool mushroom trail” near her new house, where she’s been picking chanterelles.

“They are delicious,” she said.

So she was excited to take part in a once-a-week outdoor education program called Connections. Hazel and about three dozen other sixth-graders were invited by the school district to participate. Hazel said she knows not to take this for granted after spending months stuck at home when schools shut down in the spring.

The program is run in partnership with outdoor-learning nonprofits, including North Cascades Institute.”

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