Take it outside: A case for outdoor classrooms to address COVID-19 and the myopia epidemic

I was honored recently to share my opinion on virtual learning and eye health with Education Dive, a leading news publication for K-12 and higher education. The move to virtual learning due to the pandemic has had negative consequences for kids, parents, educators, employers, and communities. What is not being discussed, and needs attention, is the impact on children’s vision and eye health from spending too much time indoors and on screens.

My article, titled “Take it outside: Advocating for outdoor classrooms to address COVID-19 and the myopia epidemic” shares ideas for educators to consider to change the paradigm for school, especially younger kids. There are examples around the country of schools designing outdoor learning areas to reduce the potential spread of COVID-19 which will also help kids’ vision and eye health. Many countries around the world, even in cold weather climates, provide great examples for us to consider as well.

It is proven that more time outdoors for kids is important to delay or even prevent the onset of myopia, a disease where the eye grows too long. The symptom of myopia, blurry distance vision, is easily correctable with standard glasses. However, glasses only treat the symptom and do not stop the eye from continuing to grow too long. As a practicing eye doctor for years, I know that when myopia starts in children it almost always gets worse. The result is not just poor vision, but higher myopia is proven to significantly increase the lifetime risks of serious eye diseases like glaucoma and retinal diseases.

As the leading provider of myopia treatment for children in the country, Treehouse Eyes doctors can slow or even stop the progression of myopia in children with recent advances in contact lens and prescription medicine solutions. A better solution, however, is to ensure children do not become myopic at all whenever possible by ensuring they get enough time outdoors at a young age when the eye is still developing. Beyond the positive impacts on vision and eye health, getting outdoors is beneficial for children physically, emotionally, and developmentally. I hope my article can inspire a discussion about thinking differently about childhood education and the environment kids spend so much time in.

Ready to speak to a doctor regarding myopia? Find a doctor and make an appointment here.

Dr. Gary Gerber, O.D.
Chief Myopia Eradication Officer
Treehouse Eyes