Outdoor Learning: The Freshman Experience

Get freshmen’s perspective on what it’s like to learn in the tents and come to a totally transformed campus


*Editor’s Note: These are two separate articles, so feel free to scroll!*


The outdoor tent experience at Poly this year has some great advantages compared to other high schools but also many challenges. Poly students have an enormous campus that has allowed for the option of attending classes in tents on the school’s large fields. Some schools don’t have these same opportunities, leaving them with no option other than going fully virtual. Poly students are lucky to be able to attend school four days a week. 

Although this has been an amazing experience, there are some downsides to outdoor learning. One concern given this new environment is the changing weather conditions. The cold, harsh winds can cause whiteboards and papers to fly away. Without proper desks, it is even more difficult. The inclement weather also presents the issue of not knowing what clothing will be appropriate for the day. Wind can cause a perfectly sunny day to feel quite cold, leading to other problems. Cold weather means cold hands, making writing more difficult, and it’s pretty hard to focus when you are shivering. 

Also, there is a problem of hearing other sounds that we normally wouldn’t in classrooms or back at home doing online school. Loud trucks passing by or airplanes flying across campus are only a few of the distractions that students face.

There are environmental problems as well, with insects pestering students in every class. Having bees buzzing throughout the field is nothing near an ideal situation. It is much easier to zone out during class when there is so much to look at. 

Although there are many problematic parts of outdoor learning, we have found that the social aspect is not one of them. One of the defining aspects of high school is the unforgettable friendships developed during those four years. Compared to students in other schools, who have to be all virtual, we are actually able to make friends in person. It’s difficult to maintain friendships and even harder to establish new ones when you can only see each other through a computer screen; being on campus has made it much easier for incoming students to adapt to school and make new friends. 

The only issue in making friends has been lunch. Ideally, lunch would be the time where you would meet new people. Having lunch during a class takes away an essential time to socialize, especially for incoming students.

Students aren’t the only ones who have been grappling with this new way of learning. It has also been a huge change for our teachers. 

History teacher Dr. Reid said, “The best part of the tent experience is seeing everybody again and being together as a community after so many Zoom classes.” However, he also states, “It’s just hard to hear each other or collaborate on work the same way you can in the classroom. It’s also hard to remember to keep the proper six feet distance — let’s face it, as a school we need to do a lot better on this.” 

Both teachers and students can agree that in-person learning has had its ups and downs, but we are all trying as hard as we can to make this experience the best it can possibly be. As a school, we can make this work.



When Poly first announced its hybrid learning plan that would implement both online and outdoor learning, many questions about the typical freshman experience, both socially and academically, went unanswered. Starting high school is a big deal. With new teachers, subjects, and classmates, in addition to a  global pandemic, it can get quite overwhelming. 

When we first heard about the outdoor learning system, we weren’t sure how to feel about it. The  outdoor setting comes with a lot of complications such as weather, noise, and bugs. We questioned how Poly was going to maintain both safety protocol and educational standards while dealing with these obstacles. 

However, all our worries and concerns were put to rest when we finally set foot on campus in early September. The tents lined up on the tennis courts, the oval, and the backfields gave Poly a completely different look. The entrance process, including finding our designated chair, went relatively smoothly, as did finding our first period tents. Moving between tents, however, is where the day got a little messy. 

Freshman Janelle Bobb, now in  her fifth year at Poly, said, “I don’t enjoy the transition from one tent to another.”

The tent numbers don’t seem to follow a very specific order and finding our next class  was a bit flustering. Luckily, the faculty members around the fields were extremely helpful in helping us locate our tents. As students are beginning to adapt and familiarize themselves with the new system, the tent transitions have improved. 

New students at Poly this year, especially freshmen, are new not only to the Poly community but to outdoor learning as well. It is our responsibility, as returning students, to help them feel welcome at  our school. When asked about their perspective on the Poly campus, all the new freshmen gave positive feedback. 

“I didn’t realize that the campus was going to be this big; I was very impressed by that,” said Ava Rosario, a new student to Poly. “The tents are really big and I think everyone can social distance in them.” 

Another new freshman, Alba Niccolai, said, “It seems like a nice community in general, and the teachers are doing really great with outdoor learning.” 

New freshmen are seemingly satisfied with the outdoor learning environment, but many  also wish to explore the inside of Poly’s campus as well. 

“The tents are fun and I like being outside especially since the weather has been so nice, but I would also like to see the inside of the school since I don’t really know what it looks like yet,” said Freshman Lorenza Jaramillo. 

As we quickly approach Thanksgiving break, we hope that we can get more comfortable outdoors, especially with colder weather right around the corner. New freshmen seem to be enjoying the spacious campus and new teachers, but they have yet to see the entirety of Poly yet. We hope that the Poly administration can effectively overcome challenges in the near future regarding in-person learning so that we can have a smooth transition back into virtual learning throughout  the wintertime.