Strategies for Taking Your Curriculum Outside

We all know that there are so many amazing benefits to getting outside with our students. However, teachers are faced with so many barriers to outdoor learning that it makes it difficult to even begin thinking about getting outdoors. One of the biggest reasons why people don’t take their students outside is that they are already overwhelmed with curricular expectations. There are so many outcomes, or core standards, (or whatever terminology your curriculum uses.) You are expected to meet them, assess your students on them, and report them. With these high standards and expectations, you might wonder how you are going to get your students outside. However, with some creativity and advanced planning you can take almost anything outdoors. In this post, you will find three different strategies for taking your curriculum outside. You and your students can enjoy outdoor education and still meet all of your learning outcomes. 

Strategy 1 for Taking Your Curriculum Outside: Reverse Engineer your Unit Planning​

One of the easiest strategies for taking your curriculum outside is to reverse plan or reverse engineer your lessons or units. It is one of the best ways to get your kids outside as you are able to plan something interesting, exciting, or based on your student’s own interests. You can then work backwards to see where it fits with the curriculum. You can plan a theme-based unit or have a particular skill in mind. After your main planning is done you can work backwards and figure out how it fits in with the curriculum. You can then design specific lessons to fit with specific curricular outcomes. This is great if you teach multiple subjects or multiple grades as you can cross off outcomes from many different areas with one unit.


  • You can use one unit to cover many different subjects
  • You are able to incorporate outcomes from multiple grade levels
  • Since you are designing the entire unit you can plan activities that meet your students needs
  • You can base your unit around your students interests for increased student engagement
  •  You can be creative and design your own lessons


  •  It requires a lot of planning and creativity
  • Sometimes things don’t always align with your curriculum as well as you had hoped and you need to be creative and stretch to make them fit the curriculum
  • It can be difficult to assess student progress towards your outcomes since the lessons were designed based on your theme rather than the specific outcome
A young child using a magnifying glass

Strategy 2 for Taking Your Curriculum Outside: Comb the Curriculum for Outdoor Activities​

This second strategy to take your curriculum outside requires spending some time with your curriculum documents. This may not seem like your idea of a fun time…and it can be quite tedious and boring. However, it can be very beneficial in discovering some of the ways that you can get your students outside and still meet your curriculum outcomes.

I like to start with a copy of the curriculum documents that I need and a highlighter. I will then read through the outcomes and highlight any that look like they can be taken outdoors. You may want to have a particular season in mind also when you are looking at things. Some things are just easier to do in the fall, spring, or summer than in the winter (especially if you have a lot of snow or rain.) For example, in our grade 1 science curriculum, there is a unit on living things. Many of the outcomes can be done outside such as observing and recording plants and animals, learning about habitats, and exploring different life cycles.

Once you have discovered which outcomes or objectives can be done outdoors you can go about planning your unit or lessons around them. 


  • You ensure that all of your curriculum is being met
  • The ability to share with your administration how you are going outside and still meeting the curriculum
  • Assessment is easier because you are working with specific curriculum outcomes


  • The curriculum documents can be boring, daunting, or just confusing sometimes
  • It takes time and careful planning to take some outcomes outdoors
  • Some things may be difficult to transfer to the outdoors or you find it just easier to do them in the classroom
A child pointing at a snail on the ground

Strategy 3 for Taking Your Curriculum Outside: Look for Pre-Made Lessons and Units​

If the idea of planning for the outdoors is daunting to you, why not look for some lessons or units that have already been made and adapted to the outdoors. Blogs, TeachersPayTeachers, and plenty of books have ready to go activities and lessons made specifically to take outside. Chances are, if they are well designed they will meet some of your curricular outcomes too. 


  • The resources are ready to use and have been tested before
  • Pre-made plans will tell you all the materials and prep work that you will need to do
  • All of the resources may be ready for you to print or prepare


  • The resources may not fit your class or your subject or your curriculum perfectly and you may have to do some adapting
  • Depending on the source they may not be suitable for your climate or area
two children examining a butterfly with magnifying glasses

Now It’s Time to Take Your Curriculum Outside

No matter which of these strategies for taking your curriculum outside you choose, your students will benefit from the time spent outdoors. They will get the chance to learn in nature and from nature. They will also reap the mental and physical health benefits of being outdoors. Even if you can’t find ways to take your curriculum outside, you can still get outside with your students during the day. Why not try outdoor reading time, outdoor art time, or even just a mental health break or a walk?

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