February 22, 2021


Warm and safe outdoor gatherings in store for UMass Amherst students

Imagine sitting beside Campus Pond on a crisp winter day, warmed by hot chocolate and the flames of a fire pit.  You smell the wood smoke, toast marshmallows, and enjoy time outdoors with your friends. This scene will come to life—with proper COVID-19 precautions of course—on February 24 as part of the day’s Wellbeing Wednesday events.

The Office of Campus Life and Wellbeing has purchased 10 fire pits for use around Campus Pond. Students may reserve seats in Adirondack chairs by the pits in groups of five with their pod or sign up to sit fireside with new friends. Dining Services will provide s’mores kits with graham crackers, marshmallows, and chocolate and send food trucks stocked with chili, chowder, and other special cold-weather treats pondside. UMass a cappella groups will roam from fire to fire serenading fellow students.

UMass Amherst will ensure that this special event meets all the requirements of the campus’s elevated COVID-19 status, including adhering to social distancing and mask rules.

Dawn Bond, director of residential life operations, says, “This is a positive thing that we can do for students even in a COVID environment. There’s something magical about a fire.”

“Being outdoors has amazing physical and psychological health benefits,” observes senior Kieto Mahaniah, a member of the Wellbeing Wednesday committee that planned PondFIRE. “It allows you to escape and reflect while the cold forces most of us to put away our phones and interact with the world. We’ve all had the experience of sitting together around a campfire, fireplace, or grill. That feeling of warmth and togetherness fulfills our social and emotional needs. Of course, it’s also super fun.”

Sign up for PondFIRE here.