From the Blog

Outdoor Learning Strategies and Resources for Schools and Teachers

by Kate Gardoqui & Jean Haeger 

Outdoor spaces are safer than indoor spaces when it comes to the transmission of COVID-19. This fact may inspire schools to explore outdoor learning options for the fall as a way to allow some in-person contact among students and teachers while keeping everyone as safe as possible. This approach, which was used by New York schools during a tuberculosis epidemic in 1915, would have many benefits. Regular contact with nature, even in the context of a small schoolyard or garden, can improve students’ physical fitness, mental health, academic achievement, and cognitive, social-emotional, and motor functions. In stressful times, outdoor learning could support students’ and teachers’ mental health while enabling teachers to push students’ thinking and creativity.

The resources below are intended to help schools think through approaches to outdoor learning or select units that can be taught (at least in part) outdoors.

Why Teach

Resource Description
Schools Beat Earlier Plagues With Outdoor Classes. We Should Too. This article from the New York Times describes outdoor classrooms from 1915 and discusses modern approaches to and possibilities for outdoor learning.
Children & Nature Network Tools and Resources This page has fact sheets on the benefits of outdoor learning and an extensive resource library of studies on the effects of nature connection.
Outdoor Classrooms in the age of COVID-19 This article from Education Week lists pros and cons along with quotes from teachers who have moved traditional lessons outside. This article points out that outdoor learning does not have to mean learning about the outdoors; it can just mean being outdoors while learning.

Resources for

Resource Description
National COVID-19 Outdoor Learning Initiative This webpage shares information for the new National COVID-19 Outdoor Learning Initiative from Green Schoolyards America.
Guidance on Reopening schools from the NAEEA These recommendations from the North American Environmental Education Association were developed based on over 65 community feedback calls conducted with hundreds of environmental and outdoor learning providers from around the country during the spring of 2020.
MEEA EE Guidance Document Here you will find guidance on ways schools can use the outdoors and principles of environmental education to enhance learning while adhering to COVID-19 safety guidelines.
Inside-Outside New England Resource Document Read a statement about the value of outdoor learning for students of all ages. This statement includes links to two videos of school-based outdoor programs. Although the videos themselves are about elementary programs, the second one in particular gives some examples that are applicable to secondary schools as well.

Resources for (All Subject Areas)

Resource Description
Promise of Place This is a searchable clearinghouse of curriculum resources. It was created by the Center for Place-based Learning and Community Engagement, a unique public-private partnership that works to advance place-based education by facilitating collaborative efforts in research, program design, technical assistance, resource development, and dissemination.
Project Learning Tree Check out the curriculum materials and other resources. Also, learn about the GreenSchools program.
10 Tips for Teaching Outside the Classroom Here you will find thoughtful and practical pointers for any teacher thinking of moving their instruction outside.
Youth Outdoor Equity Leadership Fund (grant opportunity) Mini-grants of $500 will be awarded to young leaders aged 18 to 30. Examples of projects could include: online outdoor education sessions; creating gardens that employ young people and provide fresh food; providing outdoor gear to remove barriers to outdoor recreation; legislative action training to advance policies that increase equitable access to nature.
Certificate in Nature-Based Early Childhood Education The Nature-Based Early Childhood Education Certificate program in the Department of Education at Antioch University New England trains teachers, administrators, and founders of nature preschools and forest kindergartens.

Resources for (Subject Specific)

Math

The units below are all from the Performance Assessment Resource Bank from SCALE, a project at Stanford University. You have to sign up for a free account in order to access the units.

Resource Description
Garden Boxes A basic geometry unit that designs garden boxes or raised beds.
Drawing To Scale: A Garden A couple of lesson plans about drawing to scale while planing a garden.
Dog's Play Area A two-week geometry unit for high school. The premise is keeping a dog away from a garden.

History

Resource Description
Gundalow Company Classroom Resources & Lessons Lessons and activities about the history of the Portsmouth, New Hampshire region, and the history of gundalows.

Writing

Resource Description
Nature Journaling Curriculum resources from John Muir Laws. Nature journaling is an excellent way to help students practice observation and description skills. Art and ELA standards (and possibly science standards related to observation of phenomena) can be integrated into a nature or gardening journal.

Science

Resource Description
NH Fish and Game Watershed Education Program Information and resources on water quality, watershed mapping, wildlife, aquatic resource management, and the Watershed Ecology Institute.
Seacoast Science Center Teacher Learning Connection These activities and assessments include videos of naturalists highlighting the New Hampshire coastal environment while addressing a selection of cross-cutting concepts, science and engineering practices, and literacy skills. Activities vary to appeal to different learning styles and are designed to be completed from a student’s home.
Squam Lakes Natural Science Center Curriculum Resources This website has a wealth of activities about New Hampshire ecology, lakes, and watersheds. It also provides free access to the science center’s book, "50 Nature Activities for Kids."
Gundalow Company Classroom Resources & Lessons Lessons and activities about watersheds and marine science.

Gardening, Agriculture, and Equitable Food Systems

Resource Description
Collective School Garden Network An article with practical ideas about how to integrate gardening into various subjects areas.
VT FEED A database of lesson plans about agriculture, food justice, nutrition, and ecology.
Edible Schoolyard Project A wealth of class activities for sixth graders.

Nature Connection

Resource Description
FindingNature.org User-Generated Resource List A wealth of activities from environmental education programs across the country.
Last Child in the Woods Resource Guide Backyard activities.
Children & Nature Network - Thriving Through Nature This resource does not have detailed lesson plans, but it does have ideas and suggestions for activities.
Children & Nature Network - Nature Clubs for Families This guide can help families or community leaders set up community nature clubs for local families.
Curriculum Materials from Wild Earth This blog contains a wealth of full lessons and instructional videos from Wild Earth, a nature connection program.

This resource was compiled with assistance from Serena Galleshaw, student of urban planning at University of Southern California, as well as Esperanza Gonzalez and Alisha Mai McNamara of Wild Earth.