Professors should teach class outdoors on sunny days

The spring semester has been marked by harsh winter in D.C. But last Wednesday, I walked out of my residence hall to find clear skies and 75 degree warmth instead of the bitter cold and biting winds I was becoming accustomed to.

When I arrived in class that afternoon, my classmates and I all shared the same wish: can’t we have class outside? We had all been enjoying the excellent weather during the day, but we each had to preempt our enjoyment and report to class. We asked our professor, who agreed that it was a nice idea, but unfortunately he had a PowerPoint presentation planned for class, and we were unable to leave the cozy confines of Bell Hall. I couldn’t help but think about how wasteful it was to sit in an artificially lit classroom when the sun was shining so brightly on our beautiful city. As the cold begins to recede, GW students should not take the little warmth we get for granted.

Although winter isn’t going to be behind us for a few more weeks, professors should consider taking their students outside for a class or two this semester when we are fortunate enough to have warm weather. After all, the reason many students chose to attend GW is for its unique metropolitan location. Professors should enable students to take advantage of our great campus by conducting one or more classes this semester on warm, sunny days out in the fresh air rather than waste the nice days we have stuck inside.

Not only will outdoor classes provide an opportunity for students to enjoy fresh air and sunshine, it will also give students a chance to safely and comfortably remove their masks, so that we have a truly face-to-face class for the first time since March 2020. For nearly two years we’ve been in either a virtual learning format or in a classroom but fully masked. Some of my professors have made an effort to emphasize collaborative learning, but it is certainly more difficult to get to know your classmates without getting to see their faces. While it seems that mask requirements are being scaled back in the District and around the world, holding the occasional class outside in the future will benefit voluntary mask-wearers by giving everyone an opportunity to breathe easy.

Spaces like University Yard, Kogan Plaza and grassy spots like those near the entrance to Rome Hall would be perfect for an outdoor class session. Students can break their tired routines by swapping their laptops for a good old-fashioned notebook and pen and sitting in the grass or at a picnic table instead of a tiny, cramped desk. One can imagine how nice it would be: the smell of freshly cut grass, the sun on our maskless faces. We can focus on our studies and enjoy some Vitamin D at the same time.

In the future, GW should create one or two outdoor classrooms, perhaps equipped with the same technology as our indoor classrooms. It would be a great resource for professors to be able to show slideshows and other class material as well as record lectures in an outdoor setting. Professors could book these spaces out once or twice a semester in the same way that students book out study spaces in Gelman Library or the University Student Center. It would be a small but meaningful piece of infrastructure that students could really benefit from directly.

Like all good things, the nice weather we’ve gotten a glimpse of recently is not going to last forever. So rather than skipping class to enjoy a sunny day, we should take class out into the light. We should do ourselves a favor and take advantage of our spectacular campus and enjoy the outdoors of GW whenever we can.

Zachary Bestwick, a sophomore majoring in political science, is an opinions writer.

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