The Courtyard: A Severely Underutilized Space at J-DHS

Photo shows the courtyard at J-DHS. Photo Credit: David Scibilia ('22)

The courtyard is a place nearly every J-DHS student has seen out of the windows in the red hall, but few have been in. As an outdoor space with a connection to the Wi-Fi network, the courtyard is one of the most underutilized areas of our school. As winter fades and spring strengthens, teachers should consider teaching their classes outdoors in this great space.

Students are stuck inside for at minimum six hours a day. Due to Syracuse winters, going outside during lunch periods has not been possible for the past few months. Students just go from white room to white room with two to four minutes to pass between classes. A break from monotony is necessary. If the environment in which students were to learn changed, it could lead to a “rejuvenation” of the learning spirit in students by the later periods of the day.

Although it is believed by many that holding class outdoors would lead to less engagement and learning, it’s actually quite the opposite. According to a study approved and reviewed by the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign Institutional Review Board, when teaching outside, students were able to pay attention up to two times longer than peers inside. In addition to this, students outside were more likely to actively participate and contribute to discussions.

In addition to all of the learning benefits of learning outside, there are COVID benefits as well. As the mask mandate in schools was just lifted, it is important classrooms are still getting adequate ventilation. How better to ventilate a room than not be in one at all? Ever since the beginning of the pandemic, studies have shown that outside air dispersal can prevent the spread of COVID-19.

If this were to be used as a place for teachers to hold classes, there would have to be some sort of system to ensure only one class would be there at a time. Luckily, there is already a system used to book Chromebook carts that seems to be working well. This system could be cloned and slightly altered to fit the needs of the courtyard instead of Chromebook carts and this issue would be solved.

We have this great space at J-DHS, and it seems as though no one is taking advantage of it. As the weather gets warmer, teachers should consider teaching outdoors if their lesson plan allows for it. As a school that constantly preaches about the importance of mental health, let’s take a step forward and take a step outside.

Correction: Students have between two and four minutes to pass between classes. The original article said two minutes.

David Scibilia is a Senior at JDHS. He is the lead editor of the Opinion section as well as the Public Editor for Rampage. He hopes to study Political Science and Journalism at college after he graduates. When not writing, David works at Trader Joe’s.