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Studious spring: making the most of working outside


Being a college student during Minnesota winters means learning the best routes on campus to minimize time outside. But when the snow melts and the air finally warms up, outdoor studying becomes a wonderful opportunity to simultaneously learn and appreciate nature. 


Spring is the perfect time for hammocking around St. Olaf, although I find myself often taking over 15 minutes to find the best spot. I try to avoid areas directly under intense sunlight and will stand between trees for several seconds to gauge the level of heat. If it is uncomfortable for just a few seconds, then it will definitely be too hot for however long I spend hammocking. Trees with thicker canopies are obviously going to have more shade. However, it is important to remember that depending on the time of day, the sun’s movement across the sky will cause shadows to shift and contort and sometimes disappear altogether. This means that certain areas will vary in the amount of shade throughout the day. 


Spending time outdoors does not have to be done exclusively outside of class hours. Why can’t teaching occur where there is a fresh breeze and natural sunlight instead of inside a stuffy room with artificial light? The array of natural colors like blues and greens as well as sounds of wind and rustling leaves are all very soothing which brightens students’ moods, especially when it is literally bright outside. 


One of the downsides to studying or having class outside is the distractions. This could be noisy cars in the distance or other groups of people. Additionally, bugs are unfortunately an unavoidable part of the outdoors. Although unseen, the ground is crawling with them. Leaving items such as bags or jackets in the grass for too long is an open invitation for ants to make their homes in them.


Like anything, outdoor studying has its pros and cons and will always be a different experience than indoor learning. After a long cold winter, it’s always great to have a change of scenery, and it is a shame that Minnesota tricked us all with warm weather just to snatch it away from us and bring back the snow.

Jack Butler is from Duluth, Minn.His major is sociology/anthropology.