It is important to establish practice procedures for outdoor lessons at the beginning of the school year like you do for everything else. Work with the students to create a chart outlining the guidelines that will make outdoor learning successful for everyone involved. Here are a few to to get you started.
- We focus our senses on learning.
- We move our bodies safely.
- Nature stays in nature. (Unless we borrow it for our science discovery center.)
- We take care of our tools.
Quick Tips for Successful Outdoor Lessons
- Always review rules for learning outdoors and lesson instructions before going outside.
- Build in a written or oral activity for each lesson. Charts, lists, graphic organizers, illustrations, and round robin reflections are a great way to assess whether students are making connections to the lesson outside.
- Anticipate distractions and plan accordingly. Students may not be able to stay focused on the lesson when the pre-schooler are having their track and field day.
- Recruit a Volunteer (parent, school mentor, local university students, or friend) to come in one day a week/month to assist with outdoor lessons.
- Team Teaching - Some teachers temporarily reduce class size by making reciprocal arrangements with other teachers to take half of their class for a different lesson. (Be sure to repeat the project, this time permitting the other half of the class to participate.)
- Buddy Classes - An interesting variation on team teaching that also includes aspects of cooperative learning, is a “buddy class” system that teams a lower grade class with an upper grade, matching students one-on-one for projects. Each teacher works with half of both classes at once.
- Centers - Set up centers for small groups of students to rotate through.
- Provide tools – Rulers, string for measuring, magnifying glasses, cups for collections, and bug catchers are a great way for student to hold on to an object that can help them focus on the objective.
- Make a base - Find an area to designate as base. Tell students by the time you count back from 10-0 they should all be back on base ready to listen to the next set of instructions.
- Bring blankets – Students often need somewhere to sit while writing and making observations and will be more comfortable if they are not in the grass or dirt. (Blankets also make great bases.)
- Start simple - The first lesson of the year should be something simple like a scavenger hunt to get them familiar with their surrounds and help them to learn the rules and boundaries.
- Be flexible, and use teachable moments. The students may get distracted from the lesson you intend to teach. They are making discoveries of their own. When it is something the whole class might benefit from, take a moment to discuss it with the group and then refocus.
- Give the students a warning that there are insects outdoors. Some fly. Some crawl. They should respect them and not fear them. (Make sure you know if any of your kids are allergic to bees, ants, or wasps.)
- When talking with a group, align them so the sun is in your eyes, not theirs.
Topic and Lesson Ideas from Teachers
Health and Social Emotional
Art, Music, PE