Teaching: The Great Outdoors

My students spend pretty much every day from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm with their butts glued in a chair. Some even spend the evening hours sitting in the same (uncomfortable) chairs, at the same (sometimes broken) desks to do their homework. As much as possible, I try to get them up and moving around the classroom. This can be difficult in a classroom (literally) filled with rows of desks and chairs bolted to the ground. Now that the weather is nice, i’ve found a convenient solution: hold class outdoors!

I remember at UVA when the TA or professor would spontaneously announce at the beginning of class that we were going outside. A huge burst of excitement would spread around the class as we gathered up our stuff to go. I remember sitting on the lawn, ripping out blades of grass, and thinking, This is awesome. I’m learning stuff and I’m outside in this beautiful weather. The two things do not have to be mutually exclusive.

So I’ve made it my goal to try and give my students this same experience. So far I’ve been able to take over half of my classes outside at least once. It’s been a huge hit. The students seem to enjoy the change of routine, but they’re still able to get their work done. I like encouraging them to get out and breathe the (somewhat fresh) air.

Jacob and Zero (literally...that's his name) doing a job interview activity. The "employers" got to stand on the step, while the "employees" were required to stand on the ground.

My electrical engineering class has a pretty even split of guys and girls. Most of my other classes have at least three guys for every girl.

This is some of my writing class peer editing their essays. There isn't any grass to sit on, but these steps do just fine.

I guess it’s also appropriate in this blog to mention that I recently wrote an article for the DUT student newspaper entitled “Savoring Spring.” A student in my writing class asked me and I was happy to oblige. It was published on a full color page, along with a picture of spring at UVA (of course, featuring the Rotunda).

春天来了!Spring is here! My article is in the top right hand corner.

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