By Teachers, For Teachers
The beginning of a new school year means new possibilities and opportunities, both for you and your students. Before the cold of winter sets in and as you head back to school, keep the kids engaged and actively learning by taking it outside.
Outdoor instruction carries several benefits. The most obvious for many teachers is that their children seem to have additional focus while learning outdoors—there's just something about a change in environment that keeps wandering minds engaged.
Taking kids outside can also help reduce anxiety, encourage exercise, and promote an interaction with nature. Interacting with the plants, dirt and rocks that they will later study is crucial to providing a foundation for understanding the world in which they live. Also, when children know they will be spending time outdoors, you may even record better attendance. Classroom management is even easier outdoors, because students are less prone to act out if it means going back inside and slaving away over worksheets.
Here are some ideas you can use to keep learning strong while spending time outdoors:
Perhaps you can estimate how long it would take the classroom's fastest child to run from one end of the playground to the next, or you could estimate the length of the slide in feet or inches. Identify types of angles on the swing set, slide and climbing structures, and measure those using a chalkboard-sized protractor.
Many science concepts, from physics to biology, are connected to items you find outdoors. Explore levers on the playground, look for wildlife or plant life you can classify, or experience first-hand how the light from the sun can be directed to burn a leaf.
Are you teaching a unit on poetry? Many poets and artists are inspired by nature. Take the students on a hike to gather words and ideas for their writing. Describe what you are seeing as you hike using flowery language; then help the students write different types of poems from the observations they made.
Physical education class is an ideal time to take the kids outdoors, when the weather is pleasant. You’ll find those students who normally hate P.E. are more engaged simply because of the change in environment. Playing organized games can help promote healthful living while giving them the fresh air they need.
Storytelling may not be part of your curriculum, but it's actually a great way to teach children to speak clearly and use their imaginations. Take your students outdoors and pick one or two to tell a story. Have them find one item outside and use that item to tell a one-minute narrative with a beginning, middle and end. You will be surprised at the amount of creativity they have!
Winter will come, and, depending on where you are teaching, your kids are going to get limited outdoor time when it hits. Make the most of fall with several outdoor teaching sessions.
About the author:
David Reeves is the Marketing Director of Superior Recreational Products (SRP) in Carrollton, GA. For more than 30 years, Grounds For Play (http://www.groundsforplay.com/), a division of SRP, has focused on designing play environments that provide challenging exercises specific to particular age groups. GFP play environments have become a standard for schools and apartment complexes. Connect with GFP on Facebook.