A win-win-win – outdoor education and the National COVID-19 Outdoor Learning Initiative
Talk of the Bay

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Len Beyea interviews Sharon Danks, CEO of Green Schoolyards and Coordinator of the National COVID-19 Outdoor Learning Initiative, Heather Molloy, director of the Santa Cruz County Outdoor Science School, and Amity Sandage, environmental literacy coordinator for Santa Cruz County Office of Education, about outdoor education as a safer effective alternative to indoor classroom learning during the COVID-19 pandemic, and about the broader benefits of outdoor education and the opportunities presented by the confluence of the pandemic, the start of the school year, and advances in integrating outdoor education into traditional schools.

Websites mentioned during the interview:

  • https://www.greenschoolyards.org
  • https://www.greenschoolyards.org/covid-19-guidance
  • www.childrenandnature.org

Bios of the interviewees:

Amity Sandage serves as environmental literacy coordinator for Santa Cruz County Office of Education, leading a countywide effort to build environmental literacy for all students in our K-12 education system. Amity works to increase student access to experiential, field-based environmental education and to support teachers in using local environmental connections to add engagement and relevance to core instruction. She previously served as a regional coordinator for the California Department of Education’s California Regional Environmental Education Community (CREEC) Network; director of BioSITE (Students Investigating Their Environment), a watershed monitoring and cross-age teaching program serving youth underrepresented in STEM fields and as Program Coordinator for Pitzer College’s Experience in Nepal program. As a graduate of Pitzer College she focused on environmental studies, anthropology, inquiry-based science program development and the integration of school and community-based education programs.

Heather Molloy has worked in outdoor education for 23 years, the last 14 of which have been at her current job as the director of the Santa Cruz County Outdoor Science School. She holds a California Administrative Credential and a Masters in Educational Leadership. She is former chair and current member of the California Outdoor School Association (COSA). During Covid times, Heather is directing an outdoor distance-learning-support and STEAM program called the Science Outside Schoolyard Childcare program for public schools in Santa Cruz County.

Sharon Danks is Founder and CEO of Green Schoolyards America, a nonprofit based in Berkeley, California. Trained as an Environmental city planner, since 1999 her professional work and passion have focused on transforming asphalt-covered school grounds into park-like green spaces that improve children’s well-being, learning, and play while contributing to the ecological health and resilience of our cities. She is working toward a future where all children will have access to the natural world in the places they already visit on a daily basis at school. Sharon is also a co-founder of the International School Grounds Alliance, and the author of the book Asphalt to Ecosystems: Design Ideas for Schoolyard Transformation.

Sharon is the Coordinator of the National COVID-19 Outdoor Learning Initiative that Green Schoolyards America co-founded with Ten Strands, The Lawrence Hall of Science, and San Mateo County Office of Education in May and June of this year.