It’s Spring! The days are longer, the sun may be shining, and the view outside your classroom window may start to become more and more inviting to your students as they try to stay focused on their lessons indoors. Who says learning can only be done within the confines of your classroom walls? Why not take it outside? I think any activity that you can plan for taking place inside your classroom can also successfully happen in the great outdoors. So get started – teach outside!
Maybe you’re lucky enough to have an official outdoor classroom already, and will need to sign up for a chance to use it. If so, plan to sign up for as many dates and times as possible. once you have signed up, then write that into your lesson plans before you even decide what learning activities you plan to incorporate. Ideas will come to you as you mesh curriculum standards with delivery methods in your planning.
If you don’t have an official outdoor space that is unique to school, take yourself on a little exploratory outdoor field trip to scout out some spots that you can plan to use for outdoor learning. Station activities work well if you can find several spots, enlist some parents or upper grade “buddy” volunteers to supervise, and then rotate groups through the various station activities.
Some of my favorite activities to take outside:
Take your messiest painting projects outside, and cleanup is a breeze! You may have to anchor drop cloths, roll paper, old sheets, and even the painting papers with rocks, but they should be easy to find outdoors!
This is a great way to use up some paints that might not make it into the next school year. Collaboratively paint on large sheets of roll paper or let kids work on their own individual projects. The roll paper can be dried and cut into smaller pieces to use later in journals, for poetry backgrounds, Mothers Day or Fathers Day cards, and many more products.
Try taking some colored sidewalk chalk and even some pastels if you have them outside to draw some huge and colorful Georgia O’Keefe flowers. It will make your schoolyard look amazing until the next rainstorm!
For a more permanent outdoor decoration, gather some small rocks and have students paint them with acrylics and then cover in glaze. They could make a beautiful scene along the walkway to your school!
SCIENCE AND MATH
Science is a given for nature walks, animal observations, and people watching. Kids can take notebooks, phones, or iPods or iPads out to capture photos and record their observations. The same process can be used for math observations: finding geometry in nature, counting flowers, birds, squirrels, etc., or finding the perimeter and area of various parts of your outdoor space. Take some rulers, yardsticks, or tape measures for the math activities!
Take chalk outside and trace shadows. Try having students place their feet in the same spot at different times of the day, and notice how the rotations of the earth and the position of the sun in the sky affects the movement of the shadows that are drawn.
Try decorating one of the shadows for each student to include clothing and accessories and enjoy that outdoor fashion show until the next rainstorm!
Kite making and flying and a bubble mixtures station are other science-based fun ideas to try outside.
Thoughts flow more freely in the fresh air outside. Why not take those writer’s notebooks out on a nice day, and see what shows up on the pages? The outdoors is also a perfect setting for kids to share their writing aloud, and give each other stars and wishes!
A favorite rock, bench, or tree stump also makes a perfect place for PBL groups to brainstorm their project ideas!
Try poetry writing about nature and gather a few natural materials to use in displaying your poems.
Try a read-aloud or read-alone under the shade of a tree or in the shadows of the slides and swings. Let kids bring beach towels and blankets outside to sit on and to just lean back and daydream after the reading is done.
A yoga obstacle course is another idea that you don’t want to miss this Spring. Assign class helpers to place mats or towels at various locations around your outdoor area. Between mats? Yoga straps, jump ropes, yoga blocks, or rocks to use as stepping stones. Place a Yoga Card or Yoga Poster at each mat. Students can practices poses, breaths, or just meditate as they work their way around the course. Back inside your classroom, you should notice a new-found inner peace and a calmer atmosphere to complete the day.
I hope that I’ve given you few ideas that will lead you to teach outside with your class this Spring. I’m sure once you get out there and try a few new ideas, you will think of at least ten more that you want to try!