Spring Outside for Education

As spring arrives, changes occur all around us. Flowers break through the earth, stretching petals toward the sun. Grass greens. Birds chirp wildly, soon filling their nests with eggs. The wind carries a croaking cacophony from a chorus of toads at a pond auditorium. Verdant tree leaves unfurl in the breeze. People welcome the change in weather, and nowhere can be found a bunch more anxious for spring than in a classroom!

Don't wait for the end-of-day bell to get a breath of fresh air! Design your lessons to take advantage of the season. Fun teaching opportunities are right outside the building's door. Teachers of all grade levels design simple and easy lessons to incorporate real-life learning applications.

Do you remember growing a plant from a seed in the elementary classroom of your youth? There's probably a good reason why you do! In learning the life cycle of a plant, you began to apply that knowledge to the world around you. Whether your class is surrounded by skyscrapers or the centerpiece of a corn field, nature supplies several materials for making a class's time spent outside worthwhile.

Bring your youngsters outside to discover some of the most basic skills in math and science. Begin by gathering collections of outdoor artifacts. Direct students on a scavenger hunt to find a variety of specimens from their environment. Discuss the items outside or take them indoors to construct a sensory garden or a terrarium. Besides learning to identify common features of the surrounding environment, here is an opportunity to introduce the fundamentals of the divisions and classifications of the plant and animal kingdoms.

An introduction to the scientific method will lead to greater experimentation helping to strengthen skills in science and critical thinking. Carry along notebooks and pencils on your outside adventure to diagram the life cycles of trees and plants flourishing in the school yard. Is anything growing yet? What observation skills can kids put to use? Model how to question the changes taking place. Encourage your students to formulate a hypothesis about what may develop in the soil over the course of a few days or a week and then record that information in a journal.

Save sunny days for lessons on evaporation. Study wind force on breezy days. Check your rain gauges—constructed in class during arts and crafts—on days following storms. Every day is perfect for discussions on emergency preparedness and personal safety.

As the students progress through their education, their outdoor objectives become more complex. Gather a magnifying glass and a sheet of paper to harness the sun's power to produce fire. Round up a dozen tape measures to find the height of trees, poles, and playground equipment by using their shadows. What experiments can be done in water filtration? Test your class's ability to correctly identify the area's flora and fauna. Observe clouds and discuss their types.

By the time students reach middle school, we hope they are practicing safe habits when in the sun. Round up a few varieties and various SPF levels of sunscreen to test their effectiveness on leather straps. Not only can a lesson like this address standards in science and math, these lessons are ones that can have powerful impacts on students' overall health.

From counting pebbles in elementary to practical applications in geometry or algebra, being outdoors during springtime is a welcome break. Keep in mind the new rules and procedures that must be taught to students prior to exiting the building. Don't be surprised if a sudden change in behavior occurs the moment some kids step out from under the school's artificial light. Rein in their energy with a vigorous walk or a few jumping jacks. Before teachers begin the outside lesson, the students' attention must refocus. Help their minds settle a moment before beginning the lesson. Invite them to listen to the environment, and then proceed with your planned activity.

In addition to new classroom management preparations, teachers must consider how the change in classroom environment may affect students with disabilities and health concerns. Do you know who has seasonal allergies? Before taking a class outside, review students' medical information. Pollens, bees, and mosquitoes are potential threats we don't often see in the classroom, but they may be lurking outside.

Along with keeping safe the individuals in your classroom, be sure to inform your colleagues and supervisors of your whereabouts. The school needs to know this in the case of an emergency like a fire. Likewise, bring your class roster and take attendance before and after your outdoor journey. You never know when someone may make a mad dash for the hills! Spring fever hits some people hard; check to make sure you return to class with the same people who left.

Use the environment to boost your students' learning opportunities this spring. It will be a change in pace, but it won't be a time-out from education. Exercise your body and mind with a class trip to the educational great outdoors!