Get Students Outdoors and Learning!

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Winter is over, and it’s time to soak in the sunshine vitamin. Many activities usually done in the classroom can be modified and conducted outdoors. The benefits of outdoor learning are well documented. Research shows exposure to the natural world is important to children’s social, psychological, intellectual, and physical health. Equally important, a change of scenery can inspire students.

With that in mind, here's a sample of engaging get-out-of-the-classroom lesson ideas that bring students into the light and stimulate learning.

  1. The Sky’s the Limit: Track aircraft in real time!

At Data on the Fly, North Carolina students had the opportunity to learn about technology and aviation. But you don’t need to go to an airport to have a similar experience. Elementary students can design paper airplanes to learn about Forces of Flight. Older students can build a Stratux aircraft monitoring device to receive data from aircrafts in the area and compare their findings with aircraft_monitoring_data collected in Data on the Fly. More aircraft data is available in Data Depot.

  1. Garden Inspiration: Get close to the earth!

Plant a garden or simply start a natural collection. Students may identify trees, plants, seeds, birds, clouds, and rocks.  Use Data Notebook to record these observations. Brainstorm about how environmental changes impact plants and animals. Explore the role of soil pH in plant nutrition. Design your garden layout while determining the relationships between perimeter and area with Garden Fences. Study the land, and make Crop Recommendations to family farmers.

  1. Plug-in While Outdoors: Have STEM fun with robots and devices!

Introduce students to programming with robots. Design an outdoor obstacle course, test the friction of different surfaces, or explore the various aspects of a square. Then use the free CodeSnaps app to program a robot through the obstacle course. Students’ excitement over the novelty of the gadget will have them fully engaged in computational thinking and collaborating with peers. Take your entire class out for a walk and listen to pre-loaded instructional podcasts using WalkKits (audio devices). Each WalkKit set includes teacher materials with support activities.

4. Conversations in Nature: More traditional learning in a new space!

Expand your reading circle to include natural settings. Take reading materials outside and engage in active reading strategies. Allow students to act out stories. Practice weather vocabulary and expressions with Spanish classes. Create electronic Flash Cards  for any subject with images and sounds, and share these with classmates. Make learning fun for your English as a Second Language learners by providing a casual and natural environment in which to try challenging words.

Learning beyond the classroom offers opportunities for creativity, dialogue, and collaboration that are difficult to replicate in your classroom. Now that the weather is warm, connect with your students and your curriculum in the great outdoors.

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About Author

Ada Lopez

Ada’s goal is to help improve children’s lives. Her inspiration to develop technologies that enhance teaching and learning comes from her years in the classroom. Ada taught high school biology in South Florida and middle school science in North Carolina. She earned The National Braille Press Hands on Award for co-authoring Reach for the Stars: Touch, Look, Listen, Learn.

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