Easy Ways to Take Learning Outside

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Taking your students outside to learn can change your life. After all, we were created to be outdoor beings, not beings that are stuck in desks all day! The benefits of outdoor learning for both you and your students are amazing, so what is stopping you from experiencing these benefits today. Here are some easy ways that you can take learning outside and experience these benefits for yourself and your students.

Learning outside not only allows your students to experience the many benefits of being outdoors, but it also helps to make learning real and tangible. I will admit, my first attempts at outdoor learning weren’t very pretty. However, I soon came to see that I was making things too complicated. Outdoor learning can (and probably should) be easy.

My first outdoor activities were just games that fit in with our curriculum. I eventually started to build my confidence and move on to slightly more complicated ideas such as nature journals and outdoor writing. Once I got some momentum going, I made a commitment to getting outside every day! My students loved it and I loved it too!

Easy ways to take learning outside/ Children painting outdoors

Let Nature Be Your Muse- Take Art Outside

Nature is the inspiration for so many artists. There are so many cool things to discover in nature, it is little wonder that so many creatives are drawn to natural spaces. Why not let nature inspire your budding artists and take your art lessons outside.

  • Just take your art lesson outside: It can be as easy as that! A low prep, low-maintenance art activity can be easily taken outside. All you need is some clipboards or another hard surface to draw or colour on and you are set.
  • Try nature sketching: If you are studying sketching, why not try doing some nature sketching? Nature sketching allows your students to really get to know and understand the things that they are sketching. Sketching allows students to really see the fine details that make their sketching subject unique. Sketching is a great way to get to know nature.
  • Color exploration: Exploring color in nature is a fun activity for kids of any age. I like to find paint chips (available for free from your local paint or hardware store) and have students see if they can find the colors. You can also have students try mixing colors (use watercolours, chalk pastels, or even pencil crayons) to see if they can match some of the colors that they find in nature.
  • Nature photography: If you have access to cameras, phones, or even tablets you can have your students use photography to study nature. You can choose to give the students specific criteria of what you would like them to photograph, or you can just set them free and see what they discover.
  • For some cool tools to take outside for outdoor learning check out this blog: Teacher Tested Tools for Outdoor Learning
Easy ways to take learning outside/ 3 children using a magnifying glass and laying in the grass

Learn About Nature From Nature- Take Your Science Outside

Science is probably the first subject you think of when it comes to outdoor learning. Nature is probably the best teacher when it comes to learning about the different principles of science. Spending time outdoors allows us to not only spend time observing nature, but also it allows us to build our connections to nature.

  • Go for a nature walk (in your schoolyard!): Why not go for a hike in your schoolyard to see what you can find? You can give your students specific objectives for what you would like them to look for, or you can simply have them share their observations.
  • Find a scavenger hunt: Scavenger hunts are fun, but they also help us to look closely and discover new things in our environment. You can find scavenger hunts online or create your own!
  • Nature journals: Nature journals are a fantastic way to record what you discover while outdoors. You can simply have students use a blank notebook to record their ideas or you can find a ready-made journal or journal prompts.
  • Science-based games: Learn about different scientific principles through playing outdoor games. There are so many games about animal behaviour, ecosystems, or even natural cycles that teach kids and allow them to be active at the same time.
  • Animal studies: Learn about an animal that lives in your schoolyard. See if you can study that animal or figure out a project that can help that animal. For example, you might want to research the birds that are local to your schoolyard. You can make bird feeders or birdhouses to attract and help these birds.
  • Outdoor experiments or STEAM challenges: Why not do some experiments outside? Or maybe you have a STEAM challenge that can easily be accomplished outside. Nature provides some excellent inspiration for engineering and experimenting. Just be sure to set up guidelines for how you expect the students to treat the space. We don’t want our experiments to hurt nature!
  • Environmental testing: Many environmental not-for-profits have water, soil, and air quality testing kits available. Your students will build an understanding of the health of their neighborhood and schoolyard.
  • Citizen science: You and your students can contribute to actual scientific research. There are so many citizen science projects, such as bird counts or insect counts, that allow kids to share their observations with real scientists. Often these citizen science projects provide you with the resources that you need, all you have to do is get outside and follow the instructions. There are some fantastic apps that are available for free such as Marine Debris Tracker that allow students to make a meaningful contribution.
Easy ways to take learning outside/ 5 children and a teacher going for an outdoor walk in the community

Learn About Your Community- Take Social Studies Outside

Getting your students out and into the community has so many amazing benefits. Taking your learning outside can be as easy as just going for a walk. When you get out and into the community your students will start to build their connection to the community and start to understand where they live.

  • Explore your community on foot: Go for walks in and around your school and get to know the services and people in your community. There is no better way to feel comfortable and safe and connected than to get to know your neighborhood.
  • Visit Historical Sites: Depending on where you live, visiting historical sites and understanding how the people in the past interacted with the land can be very powerful for your students. Additionally, students start to understand the events that shaped the community that they live in.
  • Mapping: There are so many different mapping activities that you can do with your students. Your students can either practice using maps or create their own maps. By using maps, your students can start to build an understanding of how different spaces are connected. They can also start to build an understanding of why your community is structured the way it is.
  • Community Service Projects: This one might not be considered easy, but if your students are motivated, it can be an amazing leadership opportunity for them. As you get to know your community better, your students will start to notice ways that they can help. There are many tasks that even your students can participate in, such as writing to your local government about a safety issue or planning a neighborhood cleanup. Your students can feel empowered to make a difference in their own community.
Easy ways to take learning outside/ Children reading together in the grass

Language Arts Outside is Easy

Outdoor learning lends itself to easily integrating multiple subjects. Language arts activities, such as writing, can be easily integrated into many of the activities that you do outdoors. You can also choose to take your language arts lessons outside and let nature inspire some creativity.

  • Silent reading (under a tree!): If your class participates in some form of independent silent reading, why not just take it outside? I invested in some “reading bags” (drawstring bags from the dollar store) so that my students could easily take their books and reading journals outside with them.
  • Storytime in nature: I love to read to my students outside. Read-alouds don’t just have to be for little kids either, older students can enjoy hearing poetry or even children’s books outdoors as well.
  • Nature poetry or creative writing: Give your student a nature-themed prompt and send them outside to create poems or prose. Nature will be sure to inspire some creative ideas.
  • Descriptive writing: Nature provides so many different subjects for students to practice their descriptive writing skills. Descriptive writing can also be incorporated into different sketching or science activities.
Easy ways to take learning outside/ Kids laying together in the grass outside

Why Not Take Math Outside?

Many people don’t think about math when they think about taking learning outside. Most people think about textbooks and practice questions. However, taking math outside can make it both more tangible and more interesting.

  • Just take your math lesson outside: Ok, this is maybe cheating a bit, but taking learning outside can be that easy. Notebooks and textbooks are portable, so take them outside!
  • Geometry is everywhere: Whether you are discussing shapes with kinders or measuring area or volume, geometry is everywhere outside. Get creative!
  • Measurement: This fits in with geometry. There are so many things to measure outside!
  • Counting and estimation: Practice estimating or counting some of the different things that you see in your outdoor learning space. Count trees or estimate the blades of grass in a given space.
Easy ways to take learning outside/ Kids Running Outside

Outdoor Physical Education is Awesome

  • Try some outdoor sports: If you have the space, why not practice them outdoors?
  • Just go for a walk or a run: I remember having to run laps around the gym. It was so boring and usually, I lost count of how many laps I did. Make it interesting and take your running outside.
  • Try outdoor yoga, stretching, or a workout: Why not try your workout outside!
  • Create obstacle courses: I love to make obstacle courses with my younger students. Nature provides so many different obstacles and challenges. Most of the time, I don’t even need to bring out other tools, I just get creative with what I find outside.
  • Play games outside: Take your running or tag games outside. Nature provides so much more space and challenge for these games. Find some Easy ways to add physical activity to your outdoor lessons here

Try One of These Easy Ways to Take Learning Outside…

The amazing benefits of outdoor learning are within reach. With minimal preparation, you and your students can get outside and learn. Simply choose an easy way to take learning outside, and then do it! Once you get the feel for taking learning outside, you can try more complex activities.

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