One of the things that we have seen trending in child development studies, is that the decrease in an interaction with nature, as well as the decrease in unstimulated downtime, has resulted in an increase in attention and behavioral related disorders in children who are a part of the most recent generations. Doctors and scientists are reporting that though it is important to introduce electronics and technology at a certain age so that children are aware of the tools of modern society, it is equally as important to allow them to find way to entertain themselves and interact with the natural world. Many schools are teaching this idea that book knowledge and technological skills are the future, that in order to gain knowledge and communicate with the world, you must spend the majority of your time in a classroom, in front of a computer. I happen to think this is a flawed view of education and that there is a great need for a curriculum that places just as much value on your instinctual connection to nature and your ability to understand the natural world as it does on your level of reading or your score on a math test.
We spoke to teachers all over the country who are implementing more outdoor time in their curriculum to learn how they have found a way to make it fit without having to discard other lesson plans. Here are a few great ideas to get kids outside while still meeting the goals of your school district.
Take Your Class on a Hike
Depending on the age of the children in your classroom, the word hike may be used loosely. Grab your Chaco shoes and think about the various public forests or park grounds that you could take your kids to for a day of exploring. There are a lot of ways to make this fit a few different subjects but the easiest way to include this in your curriculum is to turn it into a science project. This can also be adjusted based on what grade you teach, but for the most part you can lay down some ground rules if necessary and use this for any age group. Turn your hike into a scavenger hunt and ask them to collect certain items like leaves or acorns, then talk about those items and their life cycle.
Use Your Outdoor Green Space as A Gymnasium
Your first thought might be to apply this idea to your physical education class, but this could also be used to teach about the body in a biology related way. The important thing is that you get the kids to touch and feel the ground beneath their feet and pay attention to the way their body responds to movement.
Make Nature Your Muse
Bringing your art class outside can be a great way to really connect to nature. Depending on the time of year you may only be able to spend a few minutes outdoors to collect supplies for a mixed media project. However, if you live in warmer climates or wait until the springtime, you can spend an entire class period outside. Use the view as a landscape for a painting or drawing project, or as the kids to collect an item and then attempt to sketch it.