As the school year draws to a close and the weather warms up, special assemblies, performances for families, and other fun activities lead to changes in classroom schedules and routines. When you return to a stuffy classroom after an exciting event, it can be difficult to engage students in a sit-down lesson. Kids look longingly towards the playground, but you still have important content to teach before they move on to the next grade. That’s when outdoor learning activities can save the day! Read on for 10 easy ways to bring the learning outside for any grade level or content area.
Take this favorite review activity on the road! Give each student a numbered answer sheet and a clipboard to fill in their responses. Place numbered sheets around the outdoor space with a problem or question. Students start at a number and then every few minutes ask them to “Scoot” (mix it up and ask them to run, skip, hop, crabwalk, etc.) to the next number. Build in movement while practicing skills in any content area!
2. Four Corners
This classic multiple-choice game is also fun outdoors! Designate the four corner locations on the playground or outdoor area as A, B, C, or D using signs or chalk, and have kids move to the appropriate spot when you call out a multiple-choice question.
Create question/answer cards–or have students create them!--and take this cooperative activity outside. Students can practice or review together for any topic while building in movement.
4. Steal the Bacon
Play a variation on the basic game to incorporate learning. You might have two “bacons” labeled true and false, or 1 and 2 (for math practice), and call out questions. The students whose number is called run and grab the correct bacon.
5. Sidewalk Chalk
Math problems or games, writing poems, or any kind of word activity or practice is more fun when writing large! For more ideas, check out 21 Educational Sidewalk Chalk Games.
6. Nature School
Take your science lessons outdoors with ideas from Project Noah Nature School. With short video introductions to guide students’ exploration of nature, as well as interesting challenges to try, your students will go from acting squirrely to observing wildlife in no time!
7. Scavenger Hunt
A great way to encourage students to collaborate, scavenger hunts can be adapted to fit any content area or learning goal. Action for Healthy Kids has ideas to get you started, or check out 28 Ingenious School Scavenger Hunts for Students for more inspiration.
8. Physics Challenges
Provide students with simple materials and engage them in solving a problem or building a creation. Try a balloon rocket, egg drop experiment, or assembling a catapult with popsicle sticks! Learn about energy, force, and motion with simple experiments with swings, slides, and seesaws. If students have iPads, they can record and graph their motion with the Playground Physics app.
9. Word Games
When it’s too hot to run around, try low-key literacy-focused circle time outside with a word activity from ESL Games.
10. Read Outside
Gathering the class under a shady tree to listen to a read-aloud, or having students bring their books outside for reading time, can be a wonderful way for everyone to relax after a busy day. Or, have students bring a beach towel from home and read “on the beach” for a fun twist.
While the ideas above are geared towards learning outside, there’s ample evidence that taking a break–especially outdoors–is good for kids’ brains, too, as exercise boosts brain function, reduces stress, strengthens memory, and increases productivity. Unstructured time playing outdoors also gives students a chance to practice social and problem-solving skills, encourages creativity, and helps kids focus when they return to the classroom. So, as the school year comes to a close, taking the kids for a little extra outdoor time–whether learning-focused or free play–may be just what everyone needs!
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