Teachers take their students outside to learn

Dylan Lizza

On a cloudless afternoon in early October, some two dozen maskless students in Aaron Besser’s World History and Geography I class spread around the bleachers of Wilson’s football field, searching for a smooth surface on which to fill in their maps of the Middle East.

With the return of in-person learning, teachers are taking advantage of the pleasant fall weather by using it to escape the monotony of being stuck in rectangle rooms with rows of desks and bland white walls. Many teachers have been taking their classes behind the school or to Fort Reno when they have a chance to.

The nice weather and increased COVID safety may entice teachers to hold more classes outdoors. But while teaching outside can be beneficial, it can also present unique challenges.

One research paper done by UWSP (The University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point), says that uniting learning with the great outdoors can have positive impacts on the mental health and academic skills of students. At Wilson, class time is usually spent indoors, but some of the advantages observed in daily outdoor classes could still apply to the occasional outdoor class period.

You might not call Wilson’s football stadium “nature,” but some students say that getting a change of scenery improves their mindset.

“I think it gave us a bit of a brain break, in the way that we got some fresh air and got to see the sun,” junior Talia Moraru said. 

Freshman Luke Beronio said, “It helps my ability to learn because I’m more relaxed, and it’s nicer outside.”

Better yet, being outdoors means students can remove their masks safely.
Moraru explained, “we were able to properly social distance, but also take our masks off, so it made class in general more comfortable, and more normal feeling.” 

Evan Jannsen, a freshman, expressed a similar sentiment. “I felt like I could take off my mask a little bit more, cause I can’t at all in class, but when I’m outside I can sometimes if I’m not around people.” 

However, being in a space where teachers have little ability to keep an eye on each student may not be conducive to maintaining focus.

“I’ll be a lot more in tune with my work if I’m inside and I’m on a desk with my computer,”  Jannsen said. It may feel freeing to get away from the classroom, but classrooms were made to be spaces where students could focus. Aaron Besser, who teaches World History and Geography I and Activism in the US also says that making class more fun comes with a cost.

“Students are probably more distracted outside, cause it’s different and fun,” Besser said. With indoor class being the norm, challenges on how materials and time are used can also arise from holding classes outside.

Beronio, a student in Besser’s World History and Geography I class said, “walking outside and back takes time, and it makes the work time less.” Aside from taking time, having class outdoors necessitates changes in the way teachers teach. Projectors and smart boards can’t be used outdoors, WiFi can be iffy, and students can have trouble finding a flat surface to work on. 

Most agree that we should make the most of the nice weather before colder days arrive, but everyone seems to have their own opinion on how and when to do that.

Jannsen said that, “if you’re doing something like a lecture, I think it should be outdoors, but if you’re doing work on a computer, it should be indoors.” 

In contrast, Besser argued, “I think that trying to lecture to everybody outside or have everyone together on the same spot would’ve been tricky, but giving people some independent work time, and the freedom to move about in their own space can be really nice.”
Furthermore, Besser said that due to the decreased work output, outdoor classes are best for when “we’re a little bit ahead, or if I can plan to make the workload a little bit less that day and kinda make up for it later on.”

Back outside the rear entrance of Wilson, Ava Clark puts her mask back on as Besser’s class heads inside.

“When you’re outside it can give you time to just breathe and get some fresh air, [and] do your work by yourself like in a corner where nobody else is. I like it a lot,” she remarked. “I feel like it should really be once every one or two days. I feel like it should definitely be something that’s normal.”