Choosing Clothing for Outdoor Learning in the Spring and Summer

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The spring and summer weather is here and it’s the perfect time to get outside with your students. There is no better time to get outside and thrive! The pleasant, warm weather days invite us to come outside and linger in the sunshine. However, despite the beautiful conditions, there are some precautions we need to take to be prepared for the warm weather and prevent heat-related illness and injury. Choosing proper clothing for outdoor learning during the warmer months can make a huge difference in how much everyone enjoys their outdoor learning time.

Hats, sunscreen, and proper clothing for summer outdoor education are key to helping your students enjoy their time outdoors. We will look at some of the ways that you and your students can be prepared for outdoor adventures in warm weather and ensure that all your students stay safe, healthy, and sunburn-free.

If you are looking for checklists and posters that you can share with students and families, why not check out our, “Get Outside Tool Kit.” In this toolkit you will find tools, teacher worksheets and templates, and information that you can share with your school community and administration. It is a great place to start if you are new to outdoor learning!

Choosing Clothing for Warm Weather Outdoor Learning

Dressing in layers isn’t just for the winter. During the spring and summer, dressing in layers is just as important as when the weather is colder. In the summer you want your students to be able to dress more warmly in the cooler mornings and be able to take layers off as the weather warms up throughout the day. A lightweight, long sleeve layer can also help to protect arms and shoulders from sunburn.

Depending on your location and situation, you may have some extra clothing considerations to take into account. For example, if you are in a location where mosquitoes or other biting insects are a problem, students may be required to wear lightweight long-sleeved shirts and long pants all the time.

Another example might be areas where there is little shade and a high UV index. In this case, students may be required to wear shirts with sleeves to protect their shoulders from painful sunburn. It is important to know your area and know the precautions you need to take in order to guarantee your student’s safety during warm weather. 

Layering Suggestions for Warm Weather

  •  High UV Index: Students wear light-colored, lightweight long-sleeved shirts and shorts. Hats are a must
  • Lots of Insects: Students wear lightweight, long-sleeved shirts and long pants. If ticks are a problem have the students tuck their pants into their socks.
  • Cool Mornings/Warm Afternoons: Students dress in layers. The base layer could be a T-shirt or a tank top and shorts. Students may wear a jacket or hoody as a warm layer on top. 
Children playing outside in the sun wearing sun protective hats


A hat is an invaluable piece of clothing for summer outdoor education. It keeps the sun off of your face to help keep you cool and prevent sunburn. A hat with a brim all the way around it, such as a “bucket” hat or a “Tilley” style hat can even protect your ears from getting sunburned. (Sunburned ears are the worst!)

Depending on your students you may get a lot of resistance towards hats (and some might actually celebrate that they get to wear them) so it may take some time to normalize hat-wearing at your school. If your school has strict dress codes about hats you will have to remind your students to take off their hats before heading indoors.

Warm Weather Footwear

When we think summer, we often think flip flops or sandals. However, what your students wear on their feet depends on what activities you will be doing. If you will be doing a lot of hiking, walking, or running, students should be wearing proper “closed-toed” footwear and socks to prevent injuries. This is especially true if you are in an area with a lot of rocks or cacti that can hurt your toes and feet. Closed-toed shoes could be anything from running or tennis shoes to hiking boots. If students are wearing shoes then socks are necessary to prevent blisters. (Also their shoes will start to smell really (really, really) bad if they don’t wear socks!)

If your activities don’t require your students to have sturdy footwear feel free to allow them to wear whatever makes them comfortable. 

Sun Protection

Depending on your location and the UV index there, sunscreen can be vitally important in protecting your students. As an expert sunburner I can attest to pain of a good sunburn (and the embarrassment of having to apologize to everyone for your gross, peely, lizard skin once it starts to heal.) Depending on the age of your students you can have them come with sunscreen already applied. If you have older students you may have students apply sunscreen before they head outside. With my kindergarten students I will help students apply sunscreen if their parents send it with them each day. My preference is for a mineral based sunscreen. However, each family will have their own preferences. 

Here is some info on sunscreen from

Sunscreen laying in the sand

Getting Your Students to Come With Proper Clothing for Outdoor Learning…

Clothing for summer outdoor education is slightly less complicated than it is for colder weather. However, students and families may need some time to prepare. Some of the suggestions above might not be very popular with your students. For example, wearing hats and close-toed shoes might be super uncool with your middle years students. However, most of these suggestions are for your students own safety.

If you feel it is necessary, you may want to make it mandatory for your students to come prepared with these items. (I have taken students on outdoor field trips where students are not allowed to come unless they are wearing closed-toed shoes. This was the rule of the field trip organizer, not me!) Here are some suggestions for getting students to come dressed for the warm weather and ready to be outdoors.

Set the Example…

You can’t expect your students to comply with something that you don’t follow. Set a good example for how to dress and how to be safe during your time outdoors. Wear your hat and sunscreen and dress appropriately for the weather. Students learning more from your example, than from what you teach them, so it is best to be prepared!

Inform Families Ahead of Time…

Ensure that families are aware of what clothing their students need for the weather and be prepared for outdoor learning ahead of time. Send home a letter, email, or put a blurb in your school newsletter about what dressing for the weather looks like. Give families plenty of time to prepare so that they have time to gather what they need. Posters, family letters, and clothing checklists are available in our “Get Outside Tool Kit.” 

Normalize it…

Create a school/ classroom culture where dressing for the weather is the norm. Give students the opportunity to take ownership over their own safety through allowing them to research why they are doing/wearing certain things. Ensure that all students feel safe and comfortable in wearing what they need to wear. Older students can even become ambassadors or leaders for younger students through teaching them about sun safety and setting a good example. 

Have Extras…

Things happen, people forget, and backpacks get left on the bus. Have extra sunscreen available for students to use if they forget to come dressed for the weather. Choose a sunscreen that is safe for most students to use. Similar to have extra winter clothing, you might also want to have extra hats or other clothing available. Some students might not have the ability to bring these things due to their families circumstances.

Two girls wearing sun hats outside.

Now Get Outside and Thrive…

Get your hat, get your sunscreen, and get ready to go outside. Enjoy the beautiful spring and summer weather and safely soak up some sun. Your students will love the opportunity to get outside and enjoy the warm, beautiful weather. Your students will enjoy the weather that much more when they feel safe and comfortable. 

The spring and summer months are the perfect time to get outside and enjoy the benefits of outdoor learning. Spend some time teaching your students and families about proper clothing for outdoor learning in all conditions. It will help everyone get outside, experience the benefits of outdoor learning, and thrive.

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