FROM TEACHERS FOR TEACHERS… Tips & Tricks for taking your learning outside in Spring!
“Spring is such an exciting time to take learning outside because our surroundings are changing on a daily basis. It is a great opportunity to observe changes in the environment and apply learning about seasons and ecosystems to understanding the changes that can be documented and observed.”
10 TIPS FOR BEFORE YOU GO…
- Provide lots of notice for students to be prepared and clear expectations (student led) before leaving.
- Communicate with families early on to support students in carrying or wearing the right gear. I know some teachers connect to relevant grants. Carrying a Go-Bag with all the necessary essentials is helpful, and allows classes to stay learning safety and comfortably in the rain or shine. This fosters resilience in students and they learn that “there’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad gear.”
- Reach out to parent helpers! Learn about local experts in your area who would love to share their expertise.
- Think about each lesson or activity you plan and ask yourself . . . “can we complete this outside”.
- Begin to collect useful items and store them in your classroom (jackets, sunglasses, water bottles, hats sunscreen) so kids can grab & go as needed! Have a first aid kit with you. A whistle helps to get the students’ attention when is time to return to school.
- Have students pack backpacks with a snack, a sit-spot cushion, nature journals, a pencil, an eraser and dress for the weather.
- Get some hammocks! My students were so relaxed and engaged in reading and drawing in the forest. Such a great way to connect with nature and decompress after a busy week!
- Explain that the natural environment should be respected.
- Be very explicit to the students about what the learning goal is.
- Make sure your activities are allowed by local authorities. If you plan to have a fire, check with someone first!
20 TIPS FOR WHEN YOU’RE OUT THERE…
- Call it Outdoor Learning, which helps differentiate it from recess or outdoor playtime.
- Having students take ownership of a project (such as ordering the seeds for the garden boxes that they designed, built, and installed irrigation in) is really helping them become more engaged. I have found connecting to community projects to be one of my favourite ways to take learning outside.
- Take your students outside at the beginning of each season, using the same location, to look for signs of the new season. Discuss the new season using all of the senses and how it differs from the last season. Discuss why Spring has sprung sooner in some areas, such as why there is still snow in that area of the playground. Using the medicine wheel, divided into four sections, have the students draw a picture of the new season.
- Be prepared to take your learning path wherever nature leads: one of our students noticed a Crocus with a bee in it collecting pollen, so we talked about pollinators, and their importance to our ecosystem and about the scarcity of options for bees in this Spring season. Another student noticed a nearby squirrel eating pine nuts. We stopped, took a video and watched how he extracted the pine nuts from the pine cone. We learned to be very quiet, so as not to make our new friend uneasy.
- I have a class set of small notebooks that the kids all grab, when they know we are heading outside for learning. Math problems are plentiful if you look around outside, and I have often set the student up with a great math problem, inspired by what we had just encountered on our adventures outside.
- Be ready to change your plans. One day I took the kids to our garden to look for spring colours and new life. They noticed the garbage right away in the garden after the snow melt, so instead we began cleaning up the garden.
- The Get Outdoors handbook has been a great source of enjoyable, motivating activities. https://hctfeducation.ca/product/get-outdoors/
- Make the core routines from Coyote’s Guide your guidepost to your outdoor day. They fill your day with purpose and allow you to meet the objectives of building empathy and exploring nature. http://cbeen.ca/book-orders/
- Notice seasonal changes in trees and plants. Plan a visit to your community garden to help with planting.
- Use community members to come and share their skills. http://cbeen.ca/directory/
- Egg cartons are useful to organize collections that students make. It defines a small area that students should be using and therefore limits students taking any large samples from nature.
- Keep it simple! Taking silent reading, lunch, or journals outside takes no prep.
- Just get outside! I do find that reading in the outdoors allows students to find their centre, and reading engagement is greatly enhanced.
- Centers outside was a hit. I heard one of my kiddos say “this is great! Who needs toys!”
- Plan walks so you pass a fountain or public water access (another school, city park, arena, pool etc) at some point during the day.
- Students love collecting things, so have scavenger hunts where they need to find something.
- I find having a regular outdoor routine all year long that makes going out in the Spring joyful.
- We tend to do our activities in the early morning, especially as the weather gets hot. I start with short lessons outside and work our way up to much longer lessons.
- Map your community by visiting landmarks and locating previous locations you have visited. Create an art piece that includes the local species and natural features that were significant to each location you visit.
- Students have been practicing their outdoor learning all year. The consistency of learning outside each week has helped them adjust to an outdoor classroom.