Updated: May 6, 2021
Staff Photo - Tyler Hughes
Tents are pictured outside WHS on Thursday, May 6. The tents are empty underneath, with folding chairs available for students and teachers to bring to the tents for use.
As summertime inches closer and the temperatures get warmer, many students find themselves in class staring out the window, wishing they were outside in the sunshine. However, thanks to a series of outdoor classroom tents installed earlier this year, some classes are being held outside in that sunshine.
According to Principal William McGowan, the tents were made available to all teachers and club advisers for use starting on April 1. Three tents are located behind Winnacunnet, near the athletic fields. A fourth tent is located outside the cafeteria with tables, affording students the opportunity to eat lunch outside.
“The goal is that teachers can take their classes outside to use the space,” McGowan said. “Right now, the weather hasn’t been too conducive to taking classes outside, but I can see that that could be a potential concern, a potential conflict with a lot of teachers wanting to go outside.”
Student Activities Administrative Assistant Debbie Krapf is responsible for handling the sign-up process for teachers and assigning tents. She said she noticed that, as the weather has continued to warm up, there has been more interest in staff reserving tents for classes and club events.
“Each tent is labeled, and all [faculty] have to do is send me an email with the date and the block that they need the space,” Krapf said. “Once that weather changes, classes will start going out … a number of our clubs are also using them after school.”
A recent glance at the daily announcements found that Interact Club and Sustainability Club were among the extracurricular organizations using the tents for meetings after school. According to McGowan, the outdoor tents are made possible through funds from grants such as the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) act.
“We are renting them,” McGowan said. “Through a lot of the funding that we receive through the COVID[-19] funding, we are using the grant money to pay for the tents.
World Language teacher Kelley Richards is among some of the teachers using the tents. Richards said she has taken her French 2 classes outside for instruction.
“The challenge is constructing a lesson that lends itself to an outside environment, like discussing a book, or doing something physical like charades, because it doesn't make sense to go outside to work on one's computer,” Richards said. “The gratitude from students makes it worthwhile to go outside for even part of the class.”
Social Studies teacher Ross Phillips also said that he has taken students outside for his Crime and Punishment classes. He said that since he started using the outdoor tents, students now ask him if they can go outside for class most days.
“Utilizing the outdoor classroom made it easier for students to work in groups than in the classroom,” Phillips said. “One drawback is glaire on the monitors. I haven't figured out a good way to utilize the outdoor class for anything other than independent work but I'm working on it.”
According to McGowan, administration is securing two additional 30’ x 100’ tents to place behind the football field for end-of-year events, such as Senior Banquet, Chem Free, and senior scholarship night, among others.