Today: May 22, 2024

Smiling faces to be seen in outdoor classrooms

Madeline S. ScharfNews Editor

I do not go outside much. Between my heavy class schedule, the newspaper, and trying to maintain a social life with mostly introverted friends, my time out in the sun is minimal.  

This, however, changed when my professor proposed an outdoor class. We would be discussing the same content, taking the same notes, but this time sitting out in the sun instead of a classroom.  

At first, I was skeptical. I had never had a class held outdoors before. I could only figure I would spend the discussions distracted by something or other. Maybe the wind would be too harsh. I was not sure about the whole ordeal, but it would not hurt to try it out. 

There are a few issues with an outdoor class. No conventional table and chair setups mean we drag folding chairs from the English department outside and use our laps to write on. And there was a bug in my notebook.  

But those minor details are completely swept away with the benefits of outdoor classes. 

First off, the pandemic has been harsh on a lot of aspects of life, but one thing I never really thought about was the fact I was unable to see half of my peers and instructors faces. When we had outdoor classes, though, we were all able to remove our masks if we remained a safe distance from one another. 

Getting to see the faces of the people you are talking to was something I suppose pre-COVID me took advantage of. A lot of people also look completely different without half their face covered for everyone’s protection. It was nice to be able to have intelligent discussions with people and being able to see their whole reactions. It can tell you a lot. 

That was not the only reason I found outdoor class so great, it was just being able to relax in the sun while doing work. 

I looked it up. According to the Journal of Affective Disorders, “Seasonal increases in sun time [was] associated with decreased mental health distress.” I would be inclined to agree, simply from how much more relaxed I was while having class outdoors.  

Normally, I am a bit uncomfortable in classrooms, despite my more outspoken, responsive output. In reality? I am desperately trying not to fidget and worried I will say the wrong thing. But with the sun shining down, I felt far more relaxed. I was able to freely speak my mind without so much worry, and I did not feel the need to move around so much. Without the stuffiness of an indoor setting, I really felt my overall demeanor shift.  

Fresh air is also something which is nice. While indoors, the air often feels different. A bit stuffier, perhaps? Not to mention the masks. They are not too bad, but sometimes it gets just a tad annoying to wear. Being outside means fresher air, which I find far more comfortable than being indoors.  

Despite my high praise, I completely understand those who do not find an outdoor learning environment effective. Once, a bird gave such a loud caw above me that it stole my entire train of thought mid-sentence. But for this, the entire class understood. Distractions are more likely to occur in a natural setting, so one must be prepared.  

But I will take being distracted momentarily by a monarch butterfly over a classroom any day. 

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