10 Ways to Take Your Classroom Outside!

Outdoor Classroom Day is May 18! 

Get ready with these great ideas from Nat Geo Educators!

1. Gardening

The cafeteria crew used the harvested veggies to prepare personal pizzas for the students.
Photo by Becky Collins

Becky Collins, a teacher at Lipscomb Academy in Nashville, Tennessee, created a gardening program for her kindergarten students, teaching them about where food comes from and how it’s grown. Through this project, Becky has convinced her pickiest eaters to try broccoli, and in the process she has changed the way they learn new skills.


2. Schoolyard BioBlitz

What is a schoolyard bioblitz, and how can you plan one for your school, class, or after-school program? Hear from teachers, students, and volunteers on their experience of discovering biodiversity through a bioblitz organized in the suburban schoolyard of Charles Carroll Middle School in New Carrollton, Maryland. Use our activity to start blitzing your own schoolyard!


3. River Clean-Up

Kennedi smiles when her and some other students find some wildlife during their class river clean-up.
Photo courtesy Shakenya Humphries

Shakenya Humphries, a middle school language arts teacher at Washington School for Girls in Washington, D.C., wanted to pick nonfiction material that would feel relevant to her students, so she teamed up with the science teacher to plan a field trip. After studying nonfiction texts about global water issues, students worked together to clean up a local river.


4. Community Murals

This is one of seven murals created during the project.
Photo by Lavie Raven.

For a summer project, Lavie Raven, a high school social studies/language arts teacher at North Lawndale College Prep in Chicago, Illinois, visited the indigenous ‘Namgis community of Alert Bay, British Columbia, Canada. He worked with community activists, traditional artists, museum curators, and ‘Namgis youth to create outdoor artwork representing cultural survival. The endeavor was supported by a grant from the Fund For Teachers organization.


5. Getting Dirty

A fifth-grade student tends to the chickens in the coop at Manzo Elementary School.
Photograph by Sean O’Connor, National Geographic

Manzo Elementary School in Tucson, Arizona, puts food waste to work in its own organic garden—and chicken coop. Composting can be an easy way to start a school garden, dig deeper into recycling, reduce food waste, and fight climate change.


6. BioBlitz (Species Inventory)

Students observe a specimen they found near a creek.
Photo by Nicole Ross

Nicole Ross empowered her emotional and learning support students with an interactive and localized BioBlitz at Red Mill Elementary School in Etters, Pennsylvania. Nicole has switched schools since and is currently a middle school teacher in Havre De Grace, Maryland. Check out natgeoed.org to learn more about BioBlitz and how to bring one to your school.


7. Diving Into Culture

During Bella Bella Community School’s “Ocean Day”, students learn about sustainable resources, ecosystems, and marine biology. Ocean Day also provides an opportunity for older students to teach younger students how to use paddleboards. 
Photograph courtesy Bella Bella Community School

On Campbell Island in British Columbia, Canada—land of the indigenous Heiltsuk Nation—students in Chris Williamson’s woodworking class built 16 stand-up paddleboards using locally sourced and milled western red cedar. Says Bella Bella Community School Principal Fred Schaub, “This has a physical activity component to it but also a more philosophical purpose to reconnect our youth with the water, to build self-esteem through accomplishments and to help our youth to find their voices as aboriginal people.” Is there a local outdoor tradition, sport, festival, or art to which your class could contribute?


8. Observing (and Improving) City Life

First-grade teacher Ellie Clin led her students through an inquiry-based accessibility study that culminated in a service learning project through the Grove Community School in Toronto, Canada. During weekly community walks, students collected data on structures that made the city more accessible for people with physical disabilities, such as beeping sidewalk signs or public transit vehicles that lower close to the ground. Her students then took on a project to improve the accessibility of their community.


9. EcoVoyaging

Prairie Woods’ canoe is named the EcoVoyageur. No, that isn’t a misspelling! Voyageurs were French, Canadian, and American fur traders active in the Upper Midwest in the 18th and 19th centuries. Prairie Woods offers historical programs integrating Minnesota history and the legacy of the voyageurs with environmental and outdoor education.
Photograph courtesy Prairie Woods Environmental Learning Center

Prairie Woods Environmental Learning Center in rural Kandiyohi County, Minnesota, has a far-reaching goal: “The common thread is connecting people with self, others, and the environment,” says Executive Director Dave Pederson. “We are doing what we can to connect people to the great outdoors, making an emotional connection with the outdoors and the environment so they care about it. If you haven’t experienced it, you are not going to care for it.”


10. Navigating

The famous profile of the Brooklyn Bridge looms over students of The Urban Assembly New York Harbor School. By working in and around New York Harbor, students learn about the structural and natural landscape of the city’s waterways.
Photograph by Tizoc Gomez, courtesy The Urban Assembly New York Harbor School

With a focus on maritime learning and activities, students at The Urban Assembly New York Harbor School are able to have experiences such as going on overnight sailing trips up the Hudson River, becoming scuba-certified, and diving on oyster-reef restoration sites in New York Harbor.

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