No Child Left Inside Lessons

The benefits of taking students outside for outdoor activities and lessons can be substantial for everyone.

By Lynsey Peterson


outdoor studies lessons

I admit to coming down with spring fever just like my students. After months of cold weather, all you want to do is get outside in the sunshine.  As understandable as this is, students still have a lot of work to do, and many concepts to master before summer vacation. My solution is to take my classroom outside. 

Though it may be out of your comfort zone, an outdoor excursion can be beneficial to both you and your students. In this media-driven age, the average child can identify many more corporate logos than species native in their area.  Unfortunately, it is not only our appreciation of nature that is suffering, it’s also our health. Obesity is a growing problem among youth and adults. Vitamin D deficiencies are arising from our lack of sunlight exposure. Add these problems to a greater emphasis on test scores, reduction of recess times, and fewer funds for field trips, there are many reasons to try to get your students outdoors.

My first tip for a successful outdoor experience is to discuss safety rules, just as you do for labs inside. Next, take a hands-on activity or lab that you would normally do inside, and adapt it for the outdoors.  It is best to give the pre-lab instructions inside before you head out.  Once you feel comfortable taking your students outside, try one of these outdoor activities. Some of these activities include having students become photojournalists who chronicle plant and animal life outdoors, checking water quality, and identifying biotic and abiotic components of aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems.

Here are some more tips for success with outdoor lessons:

  • Check with your principal before heading outdoors. You may need to pick up a hand-held radio, or give the school secretary your cell phone number in case someone needs to reach you.
  • Check with the school nurse for any student allergies.  Bee sting reactions could be especially serious for some students.
  • Check the weather report. Choose a sunny, warm, dry day whenever possible, especially the first few times you go. 
  • Give students fair warning that they will be heading outside, and specific instructions about what to wear. 
  • Purchase some field guides to identify common plants, trees, insects, spiders, etc.
  • Emphasize that students should respect nature and adhere to school rules.
  • Use what you have.  Not all schools have access to forested areas or streams, but even a lawn can yield interesting species.

You can find many ideas for outdoor learning. With a little planning, your outdoor excursion can be something that your students will remember long past their final exam. For more outdoor lessons see the activities below.

No Child Left Inside Lessons: 

Outdoor Ecology Lab 

Students are introduced to an integrated unit that includes math, science, language arts, geography, and technology lessons. The lessons are intended to introduce them to multidisciplinary projects.

A Mini Insect Field Trip 

Students practice the four skills they have already explored so far: collecting, labeling, pinning, and making field observations of insects and plants in the RHS Outdoor Science Classroom.

Outdoor Classroom's for the '90s Student 

Students experience an outdoor classroom. Students sign a contract stating that they will follow the rules of the outdoor classroom. Students help to keep the outdoor classroom clean and up to date with all the needed provisions. Students experience all types of wildlife in this setting.

Biology Guide

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Lynsey Peterson