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Space and sense of place--outside inside

Simona's picture

As I write this, I am sitting outside on Batten House’s back porch, looking at our “jungle” and a group of about six deer, comically crunching away at these bare-boned sticks of early spring. I heard there’s a three-legged deer who hangs out in these parts, I watch for her.

I find it interesting that in my own time, outside of class and sometimes outside of my academic life all together, I gravitate towards the outdoors to help me think. Every year, I look forward to the spring’s warmth so I am able to sit outside and do homework (like today). It both calms and inspires me, and the fresh air helps me focus. I hadn’t considered this until now, but I’m noticing a pretty stark difference between this freeing place of homework, and the containing boxed-in places of class. I suppose it logistically makes sense to have classes inside a box, where there are chalk boards, chairs, technology, and…nothing to inspire ideas except the class material. Yes, nature can be a distraction (especially for me when I’m doing math or chemistry problem sets), but it also can be an inspiration. As we’ve collectively decided, interconnectedness is important—so why hold class in a location that doesn’t present other concepts with which to connect? Perhaps some middle ground lies in the design and architecture of inside spaces—if outdoor spaces aren’t logistically possible for some classes, what if the inside space was designed to inspire more open and interconnected thoughts? I wonder if there would be a significant difference between holding our Ed classes in the white boxy basement room we use now, versus, say, in the art-covered space of Arncliffe, or the beautifully high-ceilinged wood-worked upstairs music room. Just as John Muir likened the mountains of Yosemite to cathedrals, could we liken our cathedrals of learning to the outdoors?