Outdoor Learning: Generating Public Value for Safer Classrooms in Response to Crisis
Chambers, Steven A.
MetadataShow full item record
CitationChambers, Steven A. 2021. Outdoor Learning: Generating Public Value for Safer Classrooms in Response to Crisis. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University Graduate School of Education.
Abstract“A child is a child of everyone.”
- Sudanese Proverb
The United States Constitution asserts that every child in this country has the right to a free and equal public education. As a result, public school districts in the United States have the power and platform to directly impact all children, and their families, in this country. However, students, parents, and school level staff are not often invited to engage in strategic planning initiatives that are developed to address their needs. Additionally, public school districts do not always have the resources to adequately meet the needs of diverse student populations, especially in times of crisis.
This capstone highlights the work of engaging and investing in students, families, school staff, community representatives, and the local agencies of New York City in the development and implementation of an outdoor classroom initiative in response to the COVID-19 global pandemic. A strategic partnership model was used to ensure the initiative met the direct needs of these constituencies and received the necessary public support to fund and operate the effort. The Outdoor Learning Initiative (OLI) was established with the goal of creating teaching and learning spaces across the city that would meet the needs of students, parents and school staff by mitigating the risk of spreading the COVID-19 virus. By leveraging the resources of city agency partners, temporary classrooms were established in public parks, city streets and existing schoolyards to enhance the in-person learning experience for the 2020–2021 school year.
By implementing a consistent communication process, teaming strategies with agency partners, and crafting an evidence-based project plan, I was able to lead the New York City Department of Education’s (NYC DOE) effort in creating a policy initiative, which directly responded to the expressed needs of students, families, and school staff. From this initiative I learned a few lessons: how to keep equity central to the policy-writing stage, what role urgency plays in developing thorough policy-based initiatives, and how leveraging individual sources of power impacts leadership effectiveness. Based on these findings and reflections, I propose the NYC DOE (1) establish a formal process for intentionally engaging students, parents, and school level staff as it develops large-scale initiatives, (2) implement district capacity assessments to gauge organizational aptitude, and (3) develop an internal policy for operationalizing external agency partnerships.
Citable link to this pagehttps://nrs.harvard.edu/URN-3:HUL.INSTREPOS:37370277