Outdoor Learning Webinar Series
In 2021, as the COVID Delta variant was in full swing, Big Green launched its first Jumpstart grant program, aimed at getting more kids learning outside in school garden spaces. We recognized a need for more funding to be allocated to schools to support outdoor learning, particularly because many students had just gotten back to the classroom from at-home learning when the Delta variant hit. As a result of this initiative, Big Green learned more about what federal funding opportunities were available for schools to utilize in order to get kids learning outside; federal ESSER Funds made available through the American Rescue Plan Act offered a great opportunity to invest in quality outdoor education infrastructure, training, staff and other resources. Through conversations with the Department of Education we also learned that many states had not yet tapped into the utilization of these funds.
Big Green saw an opportunity to bring together a consortium of organizations supporting outdoor learning and garden education to host a webinar series for education leaders that offered clear and direct guidance for why and how their district could better invest in outdoor learning. The consortium included EcoRise, FRESHFARM, Green Schoolyards America, and Out Teach. In each session, a panel of expert speakers and school, district, and state-level practitioners presented data and case study experiences from places around the country to support leaders in taking action, alongside guest appearances from the Department of Education.
The webinar series consisted of four sessions on different topics: the physical and mental health benefits of outdoor learning, best practices in teaching and learning outside, the infrastructure of living schoolyards, and equity in outdoor education and environmental justice. The series garnered great interest across the country, with over 500 registrants signed up to attend.
As a result of this collaboration, Big Green built stronger relationships with the other organizations within the consortium, which led to partnership opportunities on other projects. We were able to provide important resources to schools and districts around the country and spread awareness of how federal dollars could be utilized to support outdoor learning. An important takeaway from this initiative was the effective ways that the consortium developed to work together to create and deliver high quality content that could be replicated within future opportunities to engage a national audience.