As COVID-19 continues on, schools are looking to creative classroom solutions--including outdoor learning opportunities--as they reopen

How outdoor learning spaces lead to STEM engagement


As COVID-19 continues on, schools are looking to creative classroom solutions--including outdoor learning opportunities--as they reopen

A new sustainable outdoor learning space is giving students in California an engaging opportunity for STEM learning during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In late April, Thousand Oaks High School in the Conejo Valley Unified School District (CVUSD) and Schneider Electric, a global energy and sustainability company, unveiled a first-of-its-kind Sustainable Outdoor Learning Environment (SOLE)–a solar-powered, state-of-the-art interactive learning space for boosting STEM education and providing a safe outdoor classroom.

As school districts of all sizes across the country look for innovative ways to meet health advisories to safely open and remain open, implementing a SOLE can provide districts with a safe alternative to traditional classrooms while providing a bespoke, sustainable and dynamic learning experience for their students.

What’s more, as more federal and state stimulus funding becomes available to schools, this is an example of an innovative solution districts can invest in through strategic application of such funding.

“We cannot wait to have our students take advantage of this phenomenal, new outdoor learning space,” said Thousand Oaks High School Principal Eric Bergmann. “Innovation sparks innovation, and this state-of-the-art classroom is sure to ignite our students’ creativity and joy for learning. Schneider Electric has been an invaluable partner through many of our school upgrade and modernization projects – and we are incredibly proud to be the home of the first ever SOLE.”

The Thousand Oaks SOLE is a structured facility providing a hands-on STEM experience,
including the ability for students to see sustainable technology in action.

The technologies that will both power the facility and integrate further sustainable elements into the campus include:
Solar Rooftop: The SOLE will continuously produce energy throughout the day by
harnessing solar power.
Battery Storage: This provides the school with renewable power that is not connected
to the utility power grid and can be optimized during hours of activity.
Energy Efficient Outdoor Circulating Fans: These will enable better air circulation and can be reversed on hot days to pull the warm air out of the learning zone.
LED Lighting: The battery storage enables LED lighting to run during both day and
night, making the space usable after dark.
Durable Outdoor Classroom Furniture: Specially designed furniture that is mobile and
stackable for ease of set-up and storage.
Touchscreen: An 86” Activ Panel Touchscreen Monitor in the SOLE will support handson learning.

While the Thousand Oaks SOLE will primarily be used for STEM-related classes, the interactive and modular setup supports other activities like specialized program instruction and group collaboration. In addition, teachers and students across the district will be able to reserve the space for other purposes.

“We are excited to officially unveil the Thousand Oaks SOLE to give area students and teachers a comfortable, safe and sustainable outdoor learning environment,” said Marc Starkey, a Business Development Executive with Schneider Electric. “Our partnership with Thousand Oaks High School and the Conejo Valley Unified School District on this project is a great example of how the public and private sectors can successfully collaborate to bring innovation and sustainability to education while meeting unique needs of each school. As schools nationwide look to safely and cost-effectively bring back in-person learning, we hope other school districts will look to the Thousand Oaks SOLE as a blueprint for the classroom of the future.”

Schneider Electric conceived of the SOLE and worked with high school and district leaders to design it to meet the specific needs of Thousand Oaks High School. To make the SOLE a bestin-class learning environment, Schneider Electric brought together a consortium of industryleading businesses, including California-based MBarC Construction, Baker Electric, and STS Education, along with Flexground, Meteor Education and Rexel USA.

Material from a press release was used in this report.

Laura Ascione

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