Research has shown positive benefits from outdoor learning in science education. These experiences enhance learning for students from all backgrounds, support increased scientific content knowledge, and develop environmentally conscious students. Science is the world around us, and having our students explore this world is essential to understand it.
What can outdoor learning look like in a school setting? It could be taking your classroom outside for the day. Perhaps it could involve integrating the natural environment into your science curricula and lessons. It could even be taking your students on a school trip.
Schools with easier access to natural environments in a more rural setting can use ponds, creeks, fields, forests, and gardens to support their lessons. Schools with less access to natural environments in an urban setting can set up bird feeders and create school gardens. Bringing students outdoors to learn, observe, and report is much more authentic than giving them a rock or leaf from a bucket that the teacher collected.
It may be challenging to create the proper lesson to support your standards, so finding a kit that encourages outdoor learning and standards is the next best thing. Here are some great options to support outdoor learning.
Neo/SCI Exploring the Weather Outdoor Science Lab Investigation
Neo/SCI Exploring the Weather Lab Investigation allows students to examine the barometric pressure and understand the fundamental concepts behind weather forecasts. They can also examine relative humidity and measure precipitation, as well as wind speed and direction. Enough materials are provided for 40 students working in 10 groups of 4.
Innovating Science Seed Germination and Plant Structure Class Kit
This kit is designed for young elementary students to examine and understand what plants need for growth and survival. It contains materials for 15 groups of two to dissect and germinate seeds and compare plant growth to other types of plants grown in the classroom.
Science First Fieldmaster Orienteering Class Kit
In this Fieldmaster Orienteering kit, we have everything you need to start with map and compass work. Several teacher guides will help you direct your students in class and out. This kit includes student compasses, a teacher demonstration compass, metal student safety whistles, an economy stopwatch, control markers, control cards, an alphabet stamp set, “Orienteering and Map Games for Teachers” by M. Garrett, and USGS Fact Sheets: “Topographic Map Symbols” and “Finding Your Way with Map and Compass.”
Outdoor learning offers numerous benefits for students and teachers alike. With a solid plan and effective supporting materials, outdoor learning can be seamlessly incorporated into science education. Whether in a rural or urban setting, engaging students in inquiry-based exploration of the natural environment can create hands-on outdoor learning opportunities.
Naomi Hartl graduated from the University of Saskatchewan and started teaching in her home province of Saskatchewan, Canada. She has taught a variety of subject areas including biology, mathematics, health education, physical education, home economics, and career education. In 2015, she relocated to Oregon, USA, to work with School Specialty and has worked in curriculum development and writing with the company and is now the Science and STEM Subject Matter Expert. Working with School Specialty has allowed her to pursue her dream of making a difference in the lives of teachers and students by curating solutions to create safe, equitable, and successful learning programs.
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