Learning Outside the Classroom

Get outside and take your students with you! The outside is an integral part of my classroom experience. We explore the moon phases and Earth’s motion by using the sun on a clear day. We photograph plants to identify them and the variety of plant components in the Spring. We test strategies for cleaning water from the parking lot. We use our campus to examine latitude and longitude changes as we walk. Many different science concepts (as well as other content areas) can be explored, investigated, and observed OUTSIDE.

When you leave the four walls of your classroom, students’ self-identities can change. Their approach to the learning task also changes. For some students, learning outside can be uncomfortable. For others, it offers the chance to blossom where they might not otherwise if left inside. Providing a chance for students to design their own learning focus in the outdoors increases these benefits.

Of course, guidelines for behaviors and expectations will need to be established prior to your first trip. I hope to address these in the coming weeks. One of the hallmarks of my teaching career is an outdoor experience I have with 8th grade students for roughly 20 weeks. In my research I discovered the length of time spent on this experience impacts their learning outcomes and the manner in which they approach the learning. I will share more about how I set this up each year soon. In the meantime, think about and jot down ideas of how you could explore the outside with your students. What opportunities await you on campus? Are there untapped resources? What would you study outside? Do you have an outside experience with students you would like to share? Please do!

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