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6 Favorite Activities for Outdoor Education

outdoor education

Cabin fever, anyone? I bet your students have it! Don't fret, I have a few ideas for you to capitalize on winter and ensure learning at the same time!

Lakeville, MN is the home of Learners Edge and freezing cold winters. Most districts have cold weather closure policies. Winter weather can prove challenging for schools, teachers and students. The largest school district in Minnesota, Anoka-Hennepin, closes school when the wind-chill is below minus 40 degrees or air temperature is below minus 25 degrees. Occasionally, the Governor will close all Minnesota schools. But until those closures occur, we might have students who haven’t been outside for recess for DAYS as they are mandated to stay inside if the temperature drops below zero. These bodies are restless, full of energy and some students may even struggle to regulate their behavior. These factors make learning more difficult.

There will be times, though, when you can get outside with your students. Yes, even in the winter and even in the winter in Minnesota! To get you started, here are my top six favorite ideas for outdoor education in the cold.


  1. Teach students a new outdoor, winter activity. Snowshoeing, skating, cross-country skiing or hiking are a few wonderful activities that can be done in the snow and cold. If you need assistance with funding equipment purchases, check out this link to help you locate and apply for grants. You can even have older children teach younger children how to do these things as a mentorship opportunity. Mentors and mentees mutually benefit, and mentoring is research based!  
  2. Teach students survival skills. This might include how to dress appropriately for winter and cold OR how to read and follow GPS coordinates. There are some excellent books/series highlighting survival like The Hatchet Series by Gary Paulson. Another new book about surviving an avalanche is being released Jan. 2, 2018. Check it out here: Avalanche! Survivor Diaries. 
  3. Let them play! Research shows that we need to reintroduce this concept to students and doing so increases social-emotional skills and academic learning. Building a snow structure or even a simple game of tag can keep them busy, and not all play has to be structured. This allows for the children to brainstorm, make a plan and follow the plan with peers. What a great life skill! Take a look at our webinar on the importance of play. 
  4. Study nature! Winter is an excellent time to find and identify animal tracks. Students can look for nests in trees or discover how animals in their region survive winter. Hang a bird feeder outside your classroom window, and let the students watch their new feathered friends. There are many other science connections that can be made outdoors in the snowy season. 
  5. Use winter as an inspiration for art! Students can collect winter items on a nature walk for a collage. Studying the shape and differences in snowflakes with a magnifying glass might inspire a great drawing or multimedia project. Children would also have a blast just painting the snow. After a fresh snowfall, flocked trees or sledding children could offer some great artistic opportunities for photography students.
  6. Assign Winter Wonderland Bingo for homework over a long break or during a frigid month! This BINGO board has a great variety of activities for your students and includes options for service and spending quality time with family and friends. This activity is available for download here!

Cabin fever or not, get your students into the great, brisk outdoors for more educational opportunities and learning fun 

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Topics: Teaching Advice

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