It’s no secret that Autumn in Ontario is my favourite time of year. The weather is great and there are no insects. At least once every fall I plan a class outside. I usually take advantage of a time 3-4 weeks into the course, when students are starting to feel the pressure and I sense that the theory they have absorbed is in need of some space for non-judgmental reflection.
Students submit a homework assignment that will be graded for half the mark, and for the other half are sent out of doors in teams with guided questions for discussion. This works best in a class such as Ethics or Critical Thinking, where creative reflection and collaboration can be so valuable.
Some of the deepest conversations are these unscripted moments as I’m wandering around listening to students reflect and apply their learning. It feels less like a class, and although I collect a copy of their notes, it’s low-stakes and getting off topic happens. I learn more about students -what their weekend looks like, where they work, what they’re enjoying, where they’re struggling – in this 2 hour period than I would indoors. It feels fresh and relaxed. Our campus is waterfront and students enjoy the pace of sitting around having a conversation.
I let them go a little early, we debrief the following class, and it’s a lovely way to give students a bit of a respite without compromising learning.