07 Feb Incorporating Outdoor Instruction into Curriculum Planning
By Anna Murphy, Rubicon International
In the northern hemisphere, winter is settling in around us. If you are anything like me, you and your students are looking forward to the slowly approaching warmer days of spring. Celebrating the changing seasons is something students and teachers alike can enjoy and revel in together, and curricular activities are a prime opportunity to do so.
Investigating ways to bring students outside for lessons can be harrowing when weighing finances and time. However, journeying outdoors does not require long, expensive field trips; instead, you can do activities such as leading a twenty-minute walk on school grounds or in a local neighborhood.
Outdoor instruction can include learning activities and assessments, or serve as a focal point for overarching essential questions or enduring understandings. Whether larger or small, incorporating outdoors instruction is a way to engage students in curriculum by adding innovation, creativity, and fun to learning. At the same time, teachers can appreciate the opportunity to step outside the classroom and interact with students in new environments. For more information on why outdoor learning is important click here.
So, as you prepare to write your Spring curriculum and consider units to develop, let us offer you some ideas on how to incorporate the outdoors into your maps at a minimal monetary and time commitment.
Incorporating Outdoor Instruction into YOUR Classroom:
English Language Arts:
At the end of a unit on poetry or literature, set aside a class period to host a descriptive writing session in a park or other green space. Wander outside with students with pen and notebook in hand. Encourage students to use their five senses to shape a composition, and foster a discussion on the importance of nature in literature. Feel free to prompt students with a theme, or let the ideas flow freely!
Visit a community garden to teach students about the effect of climate on living organisms. Investigate the reactions of plants to different soil types, or study the process of mitosis or meiosis. You can even return a few times throughout the unit to track plat response to weather changes. For more information on outdoor science instruction, check out this post about how a biology teacher incorporated outdoor learning in to their lesson plan.
One way to incorporate outdoor instruction into the math classroom is by having students gather sticks and other natural items in order to teach a unit on angles, symmetry, or shapes. Instruct students to represent different angle types or polygons, or to use sticks to illustrate reflective or rotational symmetry. Allowing students participate in these kinds of activities offers them a tangible, hands-on way to experience math.
Go to a local park and introduce students to its unique history. Use this trip to host a discussion on the role and importance of green spaces in community planning (this could be a good place to bring up Fredrick Olmsted!), or how natural areas can serve as monuments.
Journey around the school campus or local neighborhood and collect pinecones, leaves, and flowers. Use these items to create a natural art piece, or paint a still life from them. Through this, students grasp that nature can serve not only as an inspiration for art but also a medium for creating it. You can also make art out of recycled materials at your school, which is a great way to engage students with sustainability issues in the art classroom!
Venture outside the gym for a nature walk, and introduce students to creative ways to be active. Set up a ropes course in a local forest or park for your students. This is a great way to really engage students in their surroundings and encourage team building.
The outdoors present ample opportunities to enhance student learning across multiple subject areas. Incorporating outdoor activity into curriculum allows students to engage in hands-on activity in new environments. As the long winter months are upon us, we can look forward to the chance to return outside and enjoy nature with our students. Hopefully these ideas can help you incorporate outdoor instruction into your Spring curriculum.