Prepare for Teaching Outdoors
Spend some time preparing for your outdoor lessons to ensure things go smoothly. Browse through this section for ideas on what you might want to consider before taking your class outside.
Co-create Expectations and Rules for Learning Outdoors
Just as it’s important to communicate your outdoor classroom plans with parents and administrators, it’s vital that you express your expectations and vision to your students.
Most educators recommend giving students direct instruction while you are still inside the classroom, especially if you are new to using outdoor classrooms. Here are a few topics we suggest you discuss before heading outdoors.
- Involve your students in creating class expectations to help build a sustainable learning environment.
- Take a walk around your potential learning space and ask students to suggest how the space can be used responsibly and respectfully. Draft a class agreement.
- Talk to students about how the outdoor classroom will differ from being outdoors at recess or lunch time.
- Decide as a group on emergency procedures and practice them.
- Describe and practice any outdoor classroom management techniques you plan to use (e.g. if you have a special signal to get students’ attention while you are outdoors).
- Describe the outdoor lessons and activities while still inside the classroom to reduce distractions.
Communicating with students on how the outdoor classroom will work will provide a comfort to those who may be uncomfortable with changes to their learning environment.
Pack a Go Bag
These lists include supplies that will make it more comfortable, safe and enjoyable for you and your students to spend time outdoors. If you don’t have everything on the list don’t let it deter you from heading out. Start small with trips that are close to the school building, short in length, and head out on days when you have the weather on your side. As you build up your supplies and feel more comfortable, venture farther from the school for longer outings in any kind of weather.
If possible, we recommend building a lending library of outdoor footwear and clothing at the school, in case some students don’t have an item on the days you plan to go outside.
With a little creativity, outdoor classrooms can be used to teach any subject. It can be helpful to look through your teaching plan and make note of which lessons would be most conducive to going outside.
As inspiration, many organizations have already prepared lesson plans to use outdoors for everything from science and physical education, to math and art. Don’t get too hung up on your lesson plan, one of the most exciting aspects of outdoor classrooms are the opportunities for emergent curriculum (see Tip #9 on Megan Zeni’s outdoor classroom blog).