Grosse Pointe Woods school embraces unique outdoor learning model amid pandemic

School put up tents for outdoor learning last year

School using "party tent" learning model during pandemic
School using "party tent" learning model during pandemic

GROSSE POINTE WOODS, Mich. – Metro Detroit schools are struggling and scrambling to keep everyone safe after spring break.

Many districts are going virtual again. However, one private school is going in a different direction. It’s returning to the “party tent” learning model.

It is an approach that seems to be gaining popularity among students. Many hope it protects students from the coronavirus.

“It starts with physical distance in the classroom,” said Bart Bronk, head of University Liggett School in Grosse Pointe Woods, adding that there is a focus on keeping students as far apart from each other as possible.

At the school you will find decals on the floors, temperature checks at the door and 95 percent of teachers fully inoculated.

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With this strategy other than the brief mandated state shutdown just before Christmas the school has been able to remain open for in-person learning five days a week for the majority of its students.

Last fall the school even put up tents for outdoor learning.

“We wired the tents for Wifi so they had all the technology to bring in remote learners,” said Bronk.

Then it eventually got too cold for the tents once Thanksgiving arrived.

When students return from two weeks of spring break Tuesday they will see that the tents have returned.

What Liggett has realized is that the tents not only provided a working COVID mitigation strategy, but also an engagement strategy.

Turns out the students love learning in tents. The school’s highest bar was just to maintain student engagement and instead found the adventure of outdoor learning in a tent actually increased student engagement.

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About the Authors:

Paula Tutman is an Emmy award-winning journalist who came to Local 4 in 1992. She's a Peace Corps alum who spent her early childhood living in Sierra Leone, West Africa and Tanzania and East Africa.

Natasha Dado is a digital content producer for ClickOnDetroit.