More Teachers Should Hold Class Outside

Outdoor classes and short breaks increase student productivity and focus


Photo/ twitter

Toby Moses, Staff Writer

Last year, as a result of the pandemic and longer class periods, many teachers went on walks or held classes outside where students could safely remove their masks. These outdoor breaks were a highlight of a difficult school year for many students, as adaptations to COVID-19 altered normal practices. As the pandemic slows down in 2022 and school precautions ease, fewer teachers take breaks in classes. Although there is no need for mask breaks currently, as the mask mandate has been lifted in Massachusetts, the breaks may have been more beneficial to students than many teachers realized.

Incorporating breaks into lectures can help students stay focused on the task at hand while also retaining information better. In a 2011 study from the University of Illinois, students were assigned a break to perform a simple task during a 50-minute lesson while others worked non-stop. The group with a break remained on-task and sharp while the group that worked continuously declined progressively throughout the lesson. The study shows that students benefit from taking short breaks, learning straight through long lessons is ineffective. Short breaks are also easy to incorporate into a class, making their inclusion less taxing for teachers. Students enjoyed the mask breaks that they took last year, without fully realizing the benefits that breaks have regarding retaining information.

The high school has kept certain pandemic practices like allowing students to eat outside, so taking breaks from class should be kept as well. Teachers can allocate just five or ten minutes a class to taking a short break, and the positive effects will still be seen. Many teachers did this last year, and students enjoyed these short breaks as a bright spot in a tough year.

Although holding classes outside is no longer needed for disease prevention, as it was during the height of COVID-19, it has its own set of mental health benefits for students. When the weather permits, having classes outdoors is a great option that keeps school more exciting and lets students get fresh air throughout the day. Last year, many teachers brought their classes outside, but this can be seen far less in 2022. What teachers may not realize, however, are the many benefits of outdoor learning. Research suggests that students behave better outdoors, with teachers reporting fewer disciplinary issues. Additionally, outdoor learning improves academic performance for many and can benefit the mental health of students. Although bringing more classes outdoors may pose a challenge due to limited viable space, teachers at Walpole should consider doing so. To resolve the issue of limited space, the elementary schools in Walpole did a great job of setting up new areas where teachers could effectively move their classes outside. Due to the success of holding classes outdoors, the elementary schools have continued this practice into the school year. If Walpole High were to follow suit, more teachers would feel comfortable holding classes outside and not feel that losing the focus of students would be an issue.

While the pandemic has declined over recent months and should hopefully continue to do so, changes that teachers made for school last year should continue in the future. Students require breaks from learning to stay productive and taking classes outdoors when the weather permits is enjoyable for many. Hopefully, as the weather improves this spring, teachers will consider bringing back breaks and using the outdoor spaces at Walpole High to do class activities. Students undoubtedly enjoyed the pandemic practices of mask breaks and outdoor classes, so teachers should consider bringing them back for the end of this year.