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Moving Away From Four Walls: Building a Curriculum that Thrives in the Outdoors

Imagine classrooms bathed in sunshine, lessons whispered by the wind, and knowledge unearthed from the soil. This isn’t some idyllic daydream; it’s the essence of an outdoor-focused curriculum, and it’s within reach for every school regardless of the space they have available. But how do we transform traditional education into an adventure that takes place under the open sky? Let’s explore the exciting possibilities!

One of the barriers to outdoor learning is bad weather. By having a class set of bad-weather gear you can help overcome this barrier.

Step 1: Laying the Foundation – Finding Your “Why”

Before building our outdoor learning haven, we need a sturdy foundation. Ask yourself:

  • Why outdoor learning? Define your goals. Is it to boost engagement, deepen understanding of the natural world, or foster a connection to the local environment? Or Maybe all of the above?!

  • What are your resources? Assess your school grounds, nearby parks, and community partnerships that can offer outdoor learning opportunities.

  • How will it integrate with existing curriculum? Look for ways to weave outdoor activities into core subjects like science, math, language arts, and even history. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself. One outdoor lesson a week is a great start! We have a whole treasure trove of curriculum-linked activities to help you on your way.

Step 2: Building the Framework – Designing Engaging Outdoor Learning Activities

With your “why” in place, it’s time to get creative! Here are some ideas to spark your imagination:

  • Science in the wild: Conduct plant and animal surveys, study weather patterns, or build rain gauges and measure precipitation.

  • Math under the sun: Estimate tree heights, calculate the area of a pond, or create scavenger hunts that involve problem-solving.

  • History comes alive: Reenact historical events outdoors, visit local landmarks, or research the history of your school grounds.

  • Storytelling in the breeze: Write poems inspired by nature, create collaborative stories based on outdoor exploration, or perform plays under the clouds.

Step 3: Removing the Roadblocks – Overcoming Challenges

Transitioning to outdoor learning isn’t without its hurdles. Here’s how to tackle some common concerns:

  • Logistics and safety: Develop clear procedures for bathroom breaks, sun protection, and emergency situations. Partner with parents and volunteers for supervision.

  • Curriculum alignment: Don’t force-fit! Look for natural connections between outdoor activities and learning objectives. Remember, hands-on experiences can often deepen understanding better than textbooks.

  • Weather worries: Embrace all seasons! Rain can be an opportunity for puddle-jumping and studying water ecosystems, while sunshine is perfect for nature journaling and solar energy experiments. Although funding can be a hurdle, providing children with all-weather gear can be a great step in helping to incorporate outdoor learning. Many Early Years and Kindergartens already do this.

Step 4: Cultivating a Thriving Ecosystem – Collaboration and Growth

Remember, embedding outdoor learning into your curriculum will not happen overnight. Here are some tips for continuous growth:

  • Collaborate with colleagues: Share ideas, plan joint outdoor activities, and support each other in overcoming challenges.

  • Involve students: Ask for their input on activities and projects. Empower them to take ownership of their learning experiences.

  • Connect with the community: Partner with local environmental organizations, parks and recreation departments, and experts in relevant fields. You can often get funding for wet weather gear or other outdoor equipment from local companies.

There are lots resources online to help guide you and resource your outdoor learning curriculum.

Right here at Outdoortopia we have a great community to help guide you.

Helpful Links:

A few other sites you may find helpful: - A huge bank of outdoor lessons and resources. - An online shop with physical outdoor learning resources.


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