7 Ways to Take Learning Outdoors

Summer is a great time to get outside and explore – for educators and students. So we put the call out to National Geographic Certified Educators to give us their favorite outdoor activities and teaching resources. In addition to this awesome library of outdoor lessons, materials, and partner activities, here are seven ways our certified educators get their classes outside.

Jacqueline Dukes |  All Ages

One of my favorite outdoor activities is Sports Day (field day, Japanese style). I like the activity because it is held annually at every school level from pre-school/kindergarten to elementary to junior high school. Through this activity, students learn to respect each other and look for the talents within the team—working together to achieve success.

Magali Bourque | All Ages

My all-time favorite outdoor activity with any age group is going on a field trip to Fish Creek Park in Calgary. The kids have the chance to discover a wonderful and diverse ecosystem. Throughout the day, we search for ”clues” of human and non-human activities. We research trees and try to discover the history behind their growth. The kids are always amazed by all our discoveries! Even though the park is close to our school, the majority of students never really visit it. I’m glad, every year, to bring kids to discover and explore a WONDERFUL outdoor park.

Kimberly Waite | Elementary School

I use The Listening Walk and The Kid’s Guide To Exploring Nature to get my kindergarten explorers interested in nature and the outdoors. We take listening walks around our school to engage our five senses as a part of our map-making unit. We also do scavenger hunts in our school garden to learn about the different parts of plants and labeling. When we study rocks and minerals, I have students look around their yard or the school for a rock to bring to class. We have a “Rock Show and Tell” and record the properties of rocks for a rock field guide.

Kelly Koller | Elementary and Middle School

One of my favorite stand-alone activities is to send students out with magnifiers (or Chromebook microscopes) and discover patterns. They sketch the pattern and create an “I Wonder?” question about what they are seeing. I have used this activity to just focus on the skill of developing questions and being curious. When I take a more literary twist, I have them focus on descriptive writing skills OR writing a simile/metaphor as well.

Juliet Dana | Middle School

Some amazing, free outdoor curriculum coming from folks connected to UC Berkeley’s Lawrence Hall of Science. The BEETLES project has done extensive write-ups of outdoor lesson plans for field instructors and classroom teachers. I love getting outside to do something like their “Walk & Talk,” but if I need to do some science content, I have really had success with their “Bird Language” unit.

Lyanne Abreu | Middle and High School

Gardening and cooking outside! I’ve taught my students how to use basic propane stoves. Not only might it come in handy during a hurricane in Miami, but it also teaches students basic life skills such as cooking. We grow some produce like kale that they can use to sauté to make foods like stir-fry. Being outside and cooking, it just brings people together.

James Mewborne | High School

My favorite outdoor activity we do here at River Bluff High School is to use GPS receivers courtesy of our South Carolina Geographic Alliance. Students create geocaches for their classmates to find. We explore the campus together, and discuss the role technology plays in geography as well as everyday life. The AP students also use this opportunity to create a review with each geocache themed to one of the course units.

Want to keep exploring from summer into fall and all year long? Join educators from around the world taking the National Geographic 1 hour online course for educators: Developing an Explorer Mindset with Your Learners.

Content has been edited for length and clarity.

Lead photo by Lori Espstein.

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