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Outdoors Innovation

2020-07-31 10:51:53
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Aspire Scholar Academy is a once-a-week school in Provo, Utah, for students ages 12 to 18 who are otherwise home-schooled. It usually operates out of a church, but the school’s leaders were not persuaded that indoor classes would be safe this fall, even if everybody were wearing masks.

So a school vice president traveled to local Costcos and bought 33 canopies. Students will attend classes under them, on the church grounds. Teachers will use a public-address system.

“The kids don’t want Zoom,” Vanessa Stanfill, a member of the school’s board, says. “They want to be together.” The school has told parents that students will need sunblock and (eventually) snow pants, and it plans to incorporate the surrounding nature into lessons.

A small, once-a-week school obviously has an easier task moving classes outside than a large public school. But before you dismiss Aspire as irrelevant, remember that many New York City schools moved classes outdoors during the tuberculosis outbreak of the early 1900s. (A recent column, by The Times’s Ginia Bellafante, has some wonderful old photos.)

Among the other innovative ideas we heard from readers:

  • A ceremony for new American citizens held outside a federal courthouse in Boise, Idaho.

  • A cabaret troupe in Grand Rapids, Mich., that drives to people’s homes and puts on performances in driveways and yards.

  • A California psychotherapist seeing clients in a forest, with chairs eight feet apart.

  • A Pennsylvania company that sells gazebos and that now holds staff meetings outdoors in — where else? — a gazebo.

We’ve posted a longer list, with photos, here.

A new study suggests that children can carry at least as much of the coronavirus in their noses and throats as adults — suggesting they are likely to spread the virus, as well.


Lunches during the pandemic have a repetitive quality. By now, you may have eaten your go-to sandwich or salad a few dozen times. As a change of pace, my family looks forward to occasional orders of flash-frozen pizzas shipped all the way from Naples, Italy.

Made by Talia di Napoli, they have a delicious, chewy crust and are available in several flavors. A typical pizza costs about $14, shipping included.

To accompany it, try what some people consider the world’s greatest salad: the insalata verde from Via Carota, in New York’s West Village, as modified by the food writer Samin Nosrat.


Our weekly suggestion from Gilbert Cruz, The Times’s Culture editor:

In a small New Mexico town in the 1950s, two young people hear a mysterious noise one night. It might be coming from the sky.

There are some movies that succeed on pure mood, and it’s that somewhat ineffable thing that overshadows everything else. “The Vast of Night,” an Amazon original film, is a low-budget debut feature that is ostensibly a sci-fi story. But it would be very easy, if you went in expecting fireworks or action or special effects — all staples of sci-fi today — to end this movie feeling dissatisfied. It’s very dialogue-heavy. Not much happens.

But I’ve seen “The Vast of Night” twice and very well might watch it again. Because of that mood. It’s intimate and hushed and hypnotizing. It has a feel, as Manohla Dargis wrote, “for the spookiness of long nights.”


Today brings the release of “Black Is King,” a new visual album by Beyoncé. Streaming on Disney+, the album has a cast that includes the actress Lupita Nyong’o, the musician Pharrell Williams and the supermodel Naomi Campbell.

The goal was to shift “the global perception of the word ‘Black,’” Beyoncé said on “Good Morning America.” “‘Black Is King’ means Black is regal and rich in history, in purpose and in lineage.”



Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Descriptor for potato chips and autumn air (five letters).


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