Outdoor Writing With Primary Students

Nature inspires creativity. It provides an endless source of characters, topics and areas to explore through writing. Through nature writing students can hone their descriptive writing skills or immerse themselves in a magical world of make-believe. Children love to get outside and explore and then share what they have discovered. What better way to share what they have discovered than through writing. In this post you will find a selection of nature writing activities for students in primary school to be used during outdoor education time. 

These activities are designed for students who are in the emergent writer stage and are just beginning to write words and sentences. The big idea at this stage in writing is to get students to share their ideas, both orally and through drawing and then to help them build the skills for recording their ideas through writing. Students in the early writing stages may not be ready to use letters or formal spelling yet. Any attempts that they make to symbolize their thinking should be encouraged. For older or more advanced writers these activities could of course be scaffolded to include sentences or paragraphs.

5 children writing outside

Non-Fiction Outdoor Writing Activities for Primary Students…​

1. Habitat Exploration:​

  • Go to an outdoor learning space
  • Give the children time to explore the space and discover what animals might live in the space
  • Have the students draw the habitat that they are exploring and note what clues they have that animals have lived there. Also have the students explore how the animals meet their needs for food, water, and shelter through the space
  • Once the drawings are complete have the students label their drawings with letters, words, or symbols
  • You may alsossist students in making sentences to accompany their drawings
  • Older students may write sentences or a paragraph to describe the habitat and who might live there

2. Describe a Tree (or Flower, or Plant):​

  • Give the children time to explore the space and discover what animals might live in the space.
  • Have the students draw the habitat and note what clues they have that animals have lived there. Also have the students explore how the animals meet their needs for food, water, and shelter through the space.
  • Once the drawings are complete have the students label their drawings
  • Assist students in making sentences to accompany their drawings

3. Nature Journaling:​

  • Go to an outdoor learning space and allow them time to explore
  • You may provide your students with prompts to guide their writing or simply provide them with a journal to record their thinking
  • If you are new to outdoor education, ready to use journals make this an easy activity to get your students outdoors and exploring

4. Find My Tree (or any other nature item):​

  • Have children secretly choose a tree or other object that they would like to describe
  • Students will draw and write about their object (or have a teacher scribe for them)
  • Students will then exchange their “writing” with another student and see if that student is able to find their object

5. Our Nature Walk (version 1):​

  • As a class go on a hike, nature, walk, or do an outdoor activity
  • After returning from the activity work as a class to record the adventure everyone just had. You may do this either as a class using chart paper or each student may record their own story if you have enough help to scribe
  • After the story has been written, read it aloud to the students
  • Have each student choose a part of the story that they would like to illustrate

6. Our Nature Walk (version 2):​

  • As a class go on a hike, nature, walk, or do an outdoor activity
  • As you are hiking have the students use an ipad or digital camera to record some of the interesting things that they see 
  • After returning from the walk print off the photographs (this may have to happen the next day)
  • Students will share a sentence or a description for each photo and the teacher will scribe it for them
  • Compile the photos into a book for the students to read

7. Create a Nature Book:​

  • This book may be created as a class or each student may create their own
  • In your outdoor exploration area have your students either sketch or photograph multiple different things that they see. If you would like this activity to be more structured you may give the students a prompt such as “plants” or “beautiful things”
  • Once the students have compiled a collection of photographs or sketches they may write sentences or have a teacher scribe sentences for each image
  • The photographs or sketches will then be compiled into a book for that student
a boy writing in a notebook beside a tree

Fiction Nature Writing Activities for Primary Students…​

Let your younger students explore their creativity and imagination while they explore outdoors. Encourage students to share and build on their crazy ideas and imaginative understandings of the world around them.

1. Nature Stories:​

  • Go to an outdoor learning space.
  • As a class search for interesting items that they think might inspire a story
  •  Place the items out where all of the students can see them
  • Have the students use the items as inspiration for a story. They may begin by illustrating their story or drawing it on a story board
  • Once the illustrations have been completed the teacher may scribe or the students may write their own sentences to accompany their illustrations

2. Story Rocks:​

  • Have your students collect a set of smooth rocks that are big enough for the students (or a teacher) to paint a picture on
  • Have the students choose different items to paint on their rocks. Each rock should have only 1 item on it (examples: a bird, a bear, a house, the sun)
  •  Students can choose different rocks and put them in an order that tells a story
  • Students may share their stories out loud, draw them, or have a teacher scribe them

3. Story Circle:​

  • Go to your outdoor learning space and have the students sit in a circle
  • If you like you may choose a “talking stick” or “talking rock” for the students to pass around the circle
  • You may wish to set some story rules before you start, such as you can not tell something scary or tell about someone getting hurt
  • The teacher will start the story and then pass the taking stick on to the next student
  • That student will then add to the story and pass the talking stick on to the next story
  • Once every student has had a chance to share the teacher will finish the story
a boy leaning against a tree reading

Writing is a great way to get your students outside and immerse them in nature. Not only will your students experience the benefits of outdoor learning, but you can also cover your curriculum content as well. You will be amazed at how this time spent in observation and imaginative exploration will help to build your student’s connection to nature. You will also find some amazing ideas that emerge from the time spent outdoors. For more nature writing activities please feel free to check out my teachers pay teachers store

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