October 14, 2020
By Annie Henegar
I love being outdoors and I know that as a student I feel like I have wasted my day when I do not go outside and do something. Since COVID-19appened I have found myself wanting to do more things outdoors than before. So, when I found out UNC had an outdoor study area, I knew that it would become an important place for me. I thought that it would be interesting to see if other people would feel the same about an outdoor study place that was shaded and had a desk to be able to sit at and be productive. I also wondered if it was going to be in use more so than normal because the libraries and some coffee shops have been closed. Also, kids have had to take online classes which causes them to stay at their homes inside unless they make the conscious effort to leave and be outside.
At the University of North Carolina in front of the Wilson Library on campus near the Old Well and Student Union, there is a grassy area that students will go and sit at to enjoy the day. While there also is a large covered pavilion that has tables, chairs, and shade in the middle of it. Which is an area that students can go to and do work or hang out in a shaded place outdoors on campus. This was created this year in preparation for COVID and was planned on being an area that teachers were going to hold classes and students to use. It ended up becoming an area used as students please and not for school since all classes went online this semester and students were sent off-campus.
Observational Data and Analysis:
To gain insight into my question I went and observed the study area twice and interviewed a freshman girl briefly. I went on Sunday, October 4, and Monday, October 5. I went midday on Sunday and then later on in the day Monday. It was super nice out the two days that I had gone. When I was picking a table, I chose to sit at one of the ones that were on the perimeter of the pavilion so I would be able to better gauge what was going on.
The first things that I noticed were that there were a lot of tables but that most tables were not six feet apart and that people would wear a mask into the pavilion but then take them off as they would sit down. Which I do not find that bad because they are outdoors, and that people should be taking in the fresh air when they go outside. I also noticed that many people were sitting in groups doing work. Since people are able to make bigger areas to work it allows for the study area to be more of a hangout area. It also makes the area used more because even if people are not socializing and at a table with multiple people, I think it is comforting for them to just be surrounded by people and knowing that they can meet people if they want. During COVID people are just not nearly as social or have as much social interaction as they did before. I have this quote from an article I read saying “Whether you choose to speak to the people around you during a study break or while you are working, libraries are still social places that bring people together.” (Henry, Para. 10). I find this very applicable to the topic because this study area has become like an outdoor library in the fact people come to study and be around others when they are working on schoolwork. Also, people sometimes just want to be around other people even if they do not engage it is just a comforting feeling.
I also interviewed a freshman named Katie who lives off-campus in Chapel Hill she had said she came to the study area because one of her friends was going so she thought it would be a good change of scenery and be out of her room. She spoke about how she felt more productive and it was more enjoyable to be outside and walk to a place to study. She also brought up how it was nice to actually be on campus since she never comes because of COVID.
My next observation day was a lot like the first time I had gone. People would wear a mask into the pavilion to their tables and then take them off right away. I noticed that there were a lot more females here than there were males. I think that part of that is because females are more likely to go to places in groups. Also, that males will go somewhere that is closer to where they live, and usually, if they do go outside it will be to do something fun and not schoolwork. There is also a higher percentage of females than males on the UNC campus, and females are usually more studious than males. There were definitely fewer people overall than last time, but I think it is because I went around five which is later in the day. I feel that people go there more in the middle of the day to do work and classes but at this time the sun is going down, it’s closer to dinner time, and classes are enduing so they probably are heading towards home. Most of the people who were there were talking and doing more hanging out than actually doing work but I again bailee that is because it is closer to the end of the day. It seems that the area is more of a social area than a workplace unless you come by yourself.
In conclusion, it seems that the study area has become more of a social area to do some schoolwork but mainly hangout. I think that this is great especially during COVID because students need to be around other people safely and be outside. It definitely helps with the mental health of students to be able to take a break and be outdoors with their friends. The pavilion might not be the most studious place on campus, but it is still doing a great job of getting kids on campus and out of their rooms outdoors.
Farline, R. (2020). The impact of COVID‐19 on small business owners: Evidence from the first 3 months after widespread social‐distancing restrictions. Retrieved September 28, 2020, from https://www-ncbi-nlm-nih-gov.libproxy.lib.unc.edu/pmc/articles/PMC7461311/?tool=pmcentrez
Henry. (2019, October 29). Studying in the Library or at Home – What is Better for You?Retrieved September 23, 2020, from https://www.uopeople.edu/blog/studying-in-the-library-vs-at-home/
Hutchinson, A. (2020, March 04). There’s New Evidence on the Benefits of Sun Exposure. Retrieved September 23, 2020, from https://www.outsideonline.com/2410015/sun-exposure-blood-pressure-research?utm_source=twitter
Polk Place and Wilson Library at UNC-Chapel Hill by Bryan Pollard. (n.d.). Retrieved October 15, 2020, from https://fineartamerica.com/featured/polk-place-and-wilson-library-at-unc-chapel-hill-bryan-pollard.html