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Gathering outdoors will provide a unique option for face-to-face class meetings in the fall semester. Meeting outdoors can reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission while encouraging students to engage with their environment. It can also provide mental and physical health benefits while meeting course content goals.

University of Wisconsin Oshkosh’s Sustainability Institute for Regional Transformations (SIRT) has suggestions on heading outdoors.

SIRT is purchasing a set of materials—including whiteboards, flip charts, spacing indicators to maintain social distancing—that can be borrowed for free. Requests to reserve materials may be made by sending an email to Additional ideas for useful materials are welcome.

Instructors experienced at teaching outdoors have provided tips posted below. Related information is available on the website dedicated to Sustainability and COVID-19, which includes other useful information. The website is regularly updated.

Suggested locations for outdoor teaching:

  • Outdoor classroom in Shapiro Park, which is specifically designed for outdoor teaching. Reserve a time through Room Scheduling at

  • Sage courtyard

  • Benches between Radford and Clow halls

  • Stand of trees between Swart and Harrington halls

  • Albee terrace

  • Under large trees behind the Arts and Communications building

  • Patio space between the Arts and Communications building and the theater

  • Anywhere that suits your needs and doesn’t interfere with campus operations and is accessible for all

Outdoor teaching tips:

  • Observe social distancing requirements. If students need to be within six feet of one another (for example, to make sure everyone can hear the instructor) they must wear face coverings. If instructors are speaking loudly they should maintain a distance of at least eight feet between themselves and students. If they are closer, they must wear a face covering. When in doubt, wear a face covering!

  • Tell students to bring something to sit on (sweatshirts or plastic bags can do in a pinch), as grass can be an irritant. One instructor is emailing students to ask them to bring camp chairs from home for the semester.

  • Make sure there is adequate shade for everyone, especially if you will be in one place for a long time. If you’ll be in the sun, warn students to bring sunblock, hats and sunglasses.

  • There can be distractions when teaching outside, like insects, noise and other people, so try to choose a quiet spot. If it is very buggy, bring insect repellent.

  • Classes that are largely discussion- or activity-based seem to work best outdoors, although some instructors have successfully lectured. Talk loud and maintain distancing when you do.

  • Electronics-free generally works best because it can be hard to see screens outside. Prepare students for taking notes on paper and gather necessary materials (handouts, etc.) ahead of time.

  • Plan ahead so you don’t need something from your indoor classroom or office during the class, or go somewhere close to the classroom if you want the option to return.

  • If you can, develop activities that incorporate your surroundings and connect to course content. Several instructors described activities they do that are appropriate for the humanities, social sciences and biological sciences. If you’d like to be connected with an experienced instructor to discuss ideas, just email

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