Spring is nearly here, and we bet both you and your students are eager to get outside and enjoy the warm weather. What we want to know is…why don’t you? There are plenty of benefits to moving your classroom outside, and it’s certainly not going to hurt to move your lessons outdoors once in a while.
Getting outdoors for your lessons is excellent for a number of reasons, such as:
- Increasing environmental awareness
- Added physical activity
- Decreased stress
- Higher levels of student engagement
- Less time sitting in front of screens
- Kinesthetic learning opportunities
Clearly there are some amazing benefits to outdoor learning (and not just getting to enjoy the warm sunshine). Yet there are many teachers who never venture out of their classroom with students unless it is for lunch or a field trip.
Barriers To Getting Out
Some of the most common reasons teachers say that getting outside to teach their lessons simply won’t work:
- Difficulty of supervising children
- Outdoor hazards
- Daily classroom schedule to maintain
- Not enough time in the school day
- “No nature” to take the students to
- Using nature in lessons not a priority
- No lesson plans for teaching outdoors
While some of these claims are more serious than others, if you want to take your class outdoors there are ways around these problems. Specific nature-based lessons can be planned. You can treat the excursion as you would a field trip to keep track of the class. You don’t need to have a forest on the property; just getting kids outside can make a huge difference.
Get Started Now
If you want to start taking your students outdoors for the occasional lesson, start now! It doesn’t need to take hours of extra preparation and lesson planning, though it certainly can if that’s how you would like to do it.
Make sure when making plans that your outside activity works with the lessons you are teaching inside. Students should still be learning – this isn’t a second recess!
You’ll also want to come up with specific rules that all students must follow when they have a lesson outside. Getting out of the classroom is sure to give students some extra energy and that’s great, but set rules to keep them safe and remind them that if rules aren’t followed, they’ll be heading back inside.
You may also decide to take students outside in the event of good behavior. This works particularly well if you teach a subject that can easily be done outdoors with few modifications. History lectures and book discussions are only two great examples of this type of curriculum.
Rules should also be set for the weather, not just your students. Pick a temperature it must reach before you take students out. Figure out your parameters for how dry the ground must be. This makes it easier to choose the days you take students out.
And don’t rely only on yourself. There’s tons of nature lesson ideas online, so take a look! Other teachers in your building may already be doing this. You can also get in contact with local nature centers who could be interested in teaching classes or coming in for a presentation. You don’t have to do all the work by yourself.
10 Easy Ways To Use The Outdoors In Your Lessons
- Use chalk. This is a very easy way to use the outdoor environment in your lesson plans. Use chalk to write out math equations. Have students use chalk to draw the setting from a history or geography lesson. Write out sentences and have students correct them. There’s tons of ways chalk can be used to engage students outside.
- Organize a service learning project. Clean up your schoolyard or a nearby park. This type of project helps to connect students to the environment they’re living in. It can help teach your students to value nature. Pair this with a lesson about what trash does to the environment.
- Grow a school/class garden. There are so many benefits to this outdoor activity. Not only are gardens additional green space, they allow students to see where their food comes from and students actually grow healthy produce. This works well with science lessons in particular.
- Send your students on a scavenger hunt to find specific nature items. This is another lesson that works really well for science classes. Students can identify different types of trees, plants, insects, and leaves.
- Take a walk around your school’s outdoor space based on the content of a book you read for class. Implementing this will depend on the book, but there are some great outdoor walks you can do that will give students a better context for the story they’ve just read.
- Have students design and monitor a weather station for your school. You can also pair this with a season or weather observation journal. It is a great way to teach basic meteorology, and while taking the class out to make notes on the weather station you can point out different cloud types and discuss season changes.
- You can take students out into nature and teach them basic survival skills. You can work this into a number of lessons. Maybe you’re reading a book such as Hatchet, that involves survival skills, or maybe your history lesson involves someone surviving the great outdoors.
- Take your students outdoors to measure different angles. You can also have them measure the height, length, and circumference of various areas of the school. Having trees around your school can make activities like this even better, but you can also use the school building, shadows, and playground equipment.
- Move your free reading time outdoors! Make sure each student brings a book or borrows a book from you that they would like to read, then take them outside and let them find somewhere to sit and read. This is more relaxing than reading at a desk and requires almost no prep work.
- Give students an open-ended art project that uses nature. Have students collect items outside that they want for their art projects. This could be flowers, sticks, rocks, whatever they think of! Then let that creativity shine as they create a truly unique art piece.
With so many amazing possibilities, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t consider taking your students outdoors for a lesson sometime this spring!