ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — While many colleges and universities continue to choose between putting classes online or holding them in lecture halls, Eckerd College in St. Petersburg is taking the classroom outside. 

Two Eckerd professors, Beth Forys and Noelle Boucquey, spearheaded the idea. When they realized that a typical school year wasn’t going to be an option, they started polling faculty members to see if they would be interested in having an open-air concept for their classes. 

What You Need To Know

  • Eckerd College in St. Petersburg taking classrooms outside

  • 2 professors polled other faculty members, about 85 percent agreed

  • College ID'd about 50 areas on campus to hold classes

Roughly 85 percent of the faculty at Eckerd said they were in favor of teaching outside for at least part of the time. 

“It’s a really nice option just to come outside and have that airflow and that comfort level,” Boucquey said. 

The college identified more than 50 areas on the campus that could be used for outdoor classrooms. That included patios, breezeways, and shaded areas in the grass. They then used computer software to calculate the shade and wind levels and logged the information for each outdoor classroom site. 

“We tested the wind levels, the shade levels, the wifi levels so every site has a ton of information about what’s there and what the conditions are like,” Boucquey said. 

The school is getting tents for some of the areas that are only partially shaded. Forys and Boucquey also calculated how many students could fit in each outdoor classroom when spaced 12 feet apart. 

Now as they prepare for the school year, professors will be able to access all of that information and pick which outdoor spot works best for each of their classes. 

So in a few weeks, Eckerd College students likely won’t be reporting to the classroom, but instead to a class patio or breezeway.

In the event of rain, professors can either move the class indoors or Zoom with their students. 

“We’ll just have to be flexible,” Boucquey said. 

Students will still be required to wear masks outdoors unless they can remain 12 feet apart. Not all classes will be held outdoors, as it remains up to the professor. 

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