Frequently Asked Questions

This sounds lovely, but we live in Ithaca. Isn't it going to be too wet/cold to be outside soon?

Outdoor learning can happen in all seasons as long as students are dressed properly! Just as classrooms need Chromebooks or iPads to engage students in virtual learning, they need sets of ponchos/rain jackets, insulated boots, and other cold-weather gear to stay dry and warm outside. We are working with school principals to identify each school's specific outdoor learning priorities and needs.

My kid's class rarely goes outside/my kid isn't learning in-person this year. Why should I support this project?

To keep students, teachers, and staff safer and to slow the spread of COVID-19, principals are encouraging classes to be outside as much as possible. We want our schools—an essential resource—to stay open safely and we want to slow 'community spread' of COVID-19. This benefits all of us, whether our child attends school in person or virtually.

All of our teachers are getting used to new modes of teaching, from teaching virtually, to teaching in-person in an environment that requires physical distancing, to teaching outdoors. Embracing new teaching methods requires time, patience, and support.

The school district also views this as an opportunity to develop and strengthen its long-term commitment to outdoor education. ICSD’s Inclusion Officer Mary Grover considers outdoor learning to be a natural progression of the district’s place-based and project-based learning. This initiative builds on the district’s case study curriculum culture and its commitment to supporting all learners.

My child already has boots. Why are you outfitting everyone?

This project is organized by parents. We know first-hand how hectic the mornings are: sometimes kids forget to bring rain boots to school, or we don’t have time to check the weather forecast before we send them out the door. When a student doesn't have appropriate outerwear, teachers can’t take the entire class outside. By having classroom sets that belong to the school, with boots (for example) designated for each kid for the year, teachers can more reliably and consistently teach a class outside. Providing school-issued gear to all students also removes the stigma of needing to wear school gear.

How is the Ithaca Elementary Outdoor Gear Project prioritizing gear purchases?

The Project is working closely with school principals to determine what gear is most needed. Phase 1 of fundraising is focused on supporting in-person learners so they can be outside as much as possible during the second half of the 2020-21 school year. Phase 2 will be focused on supporting all learners when we (hopefully) welcome students back in-person next year.

Will individual students own the gear that is provided?

No, the gear that is being purchased through this initiative will become the property of the school. Like a Chromebook or iPad, a teacher may choose to assign particular gear to a particular student, but the expectation is that it will be returned at the end of the school year.

Why did the Ithaca Elementary Outdoor Gear Project partner with IPEI?

The Project is extremely grateful to IPEI’s Board for agreeing to serve as our fiscal sponsor. IPEI’s mission, vision, and values are in perfect alignment with the Project’s mission to mobilize community resources to equitably meet the outdoor learning needs for ICSD elementary school classrooms.

How can our PTA help?

All 8 ICSD Elementary PTAs have already contributed to the project. (Thank you PTAs!) PTAs can continue to help by sharing the Ithaca Elementary Outdoor Gear Project fundraising message to their communities. PTAs can also help support of the integration of outdoor learning into the curriculum and teaching practices at their schools.

I have some ideas, contacts, and/or would like to be on the project committee!

Awesome! Please contact committee co-chairs Megan Turnbull and Jennifer Lyons at

Want to help or have questions? Contact us at