Pewaukee school takes classes outdoors to limit COVID-19 risk

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to surge across Wisconsin, many schools are heavily focused on virtual learning and technology this school year. That's not the case at one Waukesha County school, though.

At the Prairie Hill Waldorf School in Pewaukee, students are spending more time outdoors and one classroom is standing out.

Just past the chicken coop and through the golden prairie stands a sturdy, hand-built classroom made of wood.

"The children really seem to be thriving," said fourth-grade teacher Lindsey Earle.

Over the summer, Earle had help from friends and parents to assemble the outdoor classroom option amid the pandemic. Thirteen students, socially distant, are part of the outdoor class.

Prairie Hill Waldorf School in Pewaukee moves classes outside

"So that we would have fresh air and circulation that we needed to be as safe as possible," Earle said.

On a crisp fall morning, Oct. 28, the kids dressed in layers. The tarp-covered classroom is heated with a clay chiminea.

Every grade at the school has an outdoor classroom. The third-grade class is partially built from straw.

Prairie Hill Waldorf School in Pewaukee moves classes outside

Even before the pandemic, students spent tons of time outside. Now that that time has increased, the school is less focused on technology and more on the outdoors and play-based learning in younger grades.

"Many teachers would agree we feel like we’re camping most days," said Earle.

Back in Earle's classroom, students are advancing and appreciating the ingenuity. 

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The school is raising money to help build a roof for the classroom and other outdoor structures. Each grade has an inside classroom if the weather gets bad.

The school says there have been no coronavirus cases this school year.

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