Take it Outside!

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Never be within doors when you can rightly be without.

Charlotte Mason

Fall is here and everyone wants to be outdoors enjoying the cooler temperatures. It is an excellent time of the year for you and your students to get outside and participate in the many learning opportunities available.

October 10 is No Child Left Inside Day, providing an excellent excuse to spend a day outdoors with your students. This day was created in 2008 to urge young people to get outdoors and explore earth science. Of course, every day is an opportunity to celebrate nature and take advantage of hands-on lessons available in our backyards.

One idea to fully celebrate the day is to collaborate with other classes in your grade level or subject and spend the day outdoors. Create activity centers for students to move through as the day progresses. For example, set up centers for science, social studies, writing, math, and physical education in different areas. Let’s take a look at how that might work:

Science:

  • Collect and compare leaves that have fallen to the ground. Take pictures for use later to create books or classroom displays. Be sure to take pictures of the trees. Then take pictures of the same trees each month to observe the growing cycles.
  • Collaborate with a class in a different climate. Take pictures and share your photos and observations of the changing seasons as you learn about what is happening in their part of the world.
  • Go on a nature scavenger hunt. Try to find as many different items as possible. Suggestions to add to your scavenger hunt include leaves of different colors, a spider web, caterpillars, animal footprints, or rocks. Here is a great list to get you started, modify as needed for the grade level of your students or the area you are using for observations.
  • Design a garden. Ask students to design a garden for your school’s backyard. Take into consideration your growing season, the growth pattern of plants, and amount of care needed. Kids Gardening provides resources and lesson plans to get you started. They also offer grants for classrooms at various times throughout the school year.
  • Make bird feeders. It is almost the time of year that food becomes scarce for birds. Learn about the birds found in your area and make bird feeders to provide food throughout the winter. You can find many ideas here.
  • Observe and record different forms of energy seen outdoors. Look for electric, solar, and radiant energy around you.

Math:

  • Look for geometric shapes formed in nature. Can you find circles, squares, or rectangles?
  • Bring out some sidewalk chalk to practice math facts. Use sidewalk chalk and bean bags to create and practice subtraction with ideas found here. Modify this idea for any math content.
  • See how many triangles students can make using nine sticks of the same length.
  • This site for middle school and older students includes many ideas for outdoor math including measuring the circumference of a tree, practicing ratios, and creating graphs.

Social Studies:

  • Use sidewalk chalk to draw and label maps.
  • Record observations of people you see while outside. Suggestions include different kinds of community helpers and types of jobs.
  • Make a salt dough map with geographic features around you or any geographic location that you are currently studying. This site has many suggestions and directions for making salt dough maps.

Writing:

  • Bring your journals outside to write about your surroundings.
  • Practice spelling words or letter formation using sidewalk chalk.
  • Use this center to provide a snack and allow for a relaxing atmosphere for students. Bring a few pillows and blankets for students to sit on, or lean against a tree and ask students to write a poem or share their thoughts on being outdoors.

Physical Education:

  • Set up an outdoor obstacle course using beams, pool noodles, collapsible tunnels, and other features.
  • Teach students some classic outdoor games. This site shares instructions for 30 favorite outdoor games.
  • Challenge another class to a softball or kickball game.

Be sure to revisit and reflect on your outdoor activities. Use a tool like Flipgrid to have students post a video reflection on their experiences. Share images from your activities on your class blog for parents to enjoy. Create a multimedia book with your pictures, video, and student reflections using Book Creator. You and your students will enjoy sharing these memories with friends and family.

Who knows? You may enjoy celebrating No Child Left Inside Day so much that you will want to make it more than a one-day experience! For more ideas on exploring and learning through outdoor activities, check out my June blog post on Celebrating Great Outdoors Month. What are your suggestions for outdoor learning opportunities?

 

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About the author: Sharon Hall

Sharon Hall was a recipient of the Presidential Award of Excellence in Math teaching. With over 15 years of classroom experience as a National Board Certified teacher, Sharon shares her content knowledge and reflections on ideas for basic classroom technology integration with us.


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