Taking the Classroom Outside

Post by Contributing Writer, Emily C.

With the arrival of spring comes nicer weather, new projects and chores in the yard, a desire to soak up some sunshine and nature, and in our house it means it is time to move at least part of our school day outside!

Giving kids a little bit of freedom to explore and ownership of projects outside can be a big help in keeping them busy while you tackle some of those much-needed-to-be-done yard tasks. And with a little bit of planning, you can even sneak a little intentional learning into the mix and they’ll still love every minute of it.

Child’s Garden

One of the easiest ways to empower kids in the garden is to designate a small space in the yard where they can plant a garden of their own. Michele has a great post on simple handmade gardening gift sets! A younger child will benefit from some hard-to-kill wildflower mixes where something is sure to survive! Keep in mind that it might be necessary to give a little gardening assistance to ensure that there is success as well!

Older kids can begin experimenting with vegetables or more specialized flowers. They might be eager to join a local 4-H group as a source of community and encouragement in their learning. Even if you don’t have a yard for planting you can designate a container on your apartment patio or in your windowsill as their own garden space.

Give them ownership, let them dig and water and experiment and naturally learn what it takes to encourage God’s creations to grow with a little bit of loving assistance from us!

Archaeology Dig Site

Digging, exploring, discovering and getting dirty are great ways to engage your little adventurers in a new subject. If that sounds like something your kids are after than an archaeology site might be just what you need. You might want to grab some library books about archaeology to get you started. (Some of our favorites are Archaeologists Dig for Clues and Archaeology for Kids!)

Choose a place in the yard that might be otherwise neglected and prepare your dig site! Again depending on the age of your kids there are a few alternate approaches. Armed with a bucket and a shovel, your younger child needs only to be pointed in the direction of an acceptable place to dig.

Your older children (after their careful research) might be more excited by a properly laid-out grid in which they can dig and then record their findings in a journal. We made our grid with some skewers we had on hand, though an abundance of straight sticks in your yard would be perfect for this. Then we used some yarn to wrap around the sticks creating our grid lines.

We’ve found entire skeletons in our yards; mice, birds, and even a dog once! But if excitement withers and the little seeds, rocks, and garbage particles that make up the majority of their discoveries fail to encourage them, then you can always supplement their discoveries with some strategic placement of fun mineral rocks, interesting plant bulbs and more. Just be sure to let them know you placed some surprises for them to discover!

Science, Math, Writing and more!

Science is the most obvious subject that can be studied outdoors. The study of plants, insects, and animals in your garden or neighborhood can be the jumping off place for nature journals, drawings, collections,  experiments, or further exploration of a specific topic at the library.

By graphing the growth of seedlings and predicting the probability of success from all your indoor starts you can encourage kids to tackle all sorts of math concepts in real-life situations.

Simple counting games as you walk around the block and observe new signs of spring is an engaging way to involve even the littlest ones. Comparing the numbers of the different types of plants growing in the garden and creating charts can be fun for the whole season as new plants are added and begin to blossom through the next few months.

Simple nature journals in which the kids can observe what they see and smell and hear outside is not only a great beginning to scientific research, it is also a great way to encourage writing skills.  (Michele’s note: We liked The Robin Makes a Laughing Sound, to introduce the concept of a nature journal/sketchbook for the first time. It even shows where the author scratched out mistakes- and it’s ok!) :)

Prompting a story about the squirrel in the backyard tree, writing a poem describing the most beautiful flower on the block, taking note of the things they see on a nature walk to compare with their siblings; the possibilities are endless when you observe the world around you.

Spread the art supplies out on the sidewalk and just let nature inspire. You’re outside, so you won’t even have to worry about the mess!

Emily lives in Salt Lake City with her husband Jeremy and their 3 wild and crazy kiddos! She loves reading, running, baking yummy treats for her family, her early morning yoga, walking to the library and all things creative and crafty. She especially enjoys exploring nature with her children and learning side by side with them. You’ll find her chatting about all aspects of life at her blog, Industrious Emily* and also sharing her crafty side through the blog, Life at the Table.
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