In my last post, I shared with you the first five ways to take learning outside but there is even more you can do. Let’s dive into number six through ten.
#6 Artful Explorations
Don’t be afraid to bring some of your art supplies outdoors. Set up an easel with paint and paper, chalk, or even just water and then step back and watch the creative interest grow. Set out a large flat piece of cardboard with bottles of glue and invite the children to add their nature collections to the cardboard. They can keep gluing their collections to the board for days on end then change it up and add some paint. Hang a large sheet out on a line for the children to try some big art with paint and brushes. Give the children a bucket of water and paint brushes to head out and paint the trees, fences, or sidewalks.
#7 Cooperative Games
At least once a week, I like to take a few minutes to teach my students a new large group game. Large group circle games like “Blue Bird Through My Window” and “Duck, Duck, Goose” are always a big hit. My prekindergarten students absolutely love playing games together like kickball, obstacle courses, or relay races. But we also play simple games like “London Bridges”. I will tell you, every time I play London Bridges with a few of my younger students, they ask me to play it over and over again. Large group games promote a sense of community, develop important skills in cooperation and sportsmanship, and give the children new experiences that they can go off and play on their own. After I teach the children a game, it isn’t unusual to find a small group of my students playing the game without my help and they are always adding their own rules for play.
#8 Take a Clip Board Walk
Now you might be thinking that walks are boring but if you put a little imagination into it, a walk can be profound. You can talk all kinds of walks like a listening walk, and an eye-spy walk. How about a fast, slow, quiet, or loud walk? And just about every kind nature collection walk (rock collection, leaf collection, acorn collection, stick collection). Bring your collections back and count them, sort them, compare and contrast them and now you have some terrific math.
I love to create a little chart for each child and have the children put their chart on a clip board and bring the clip board plus a crayon along with them for our walks. For example, if we are going on a listening walk, I draw up a simple chart with pictures of things the children will likely hear. As they listen and hear each item on the chart, they mark it off. This helps us talk about each item plus it is a great prewriting and prereading experience.
#9 Nature Journals
A nature journal can be a great way to document outdoor explorations, as well as promote pre-writing and drawing skills. Feel free to get creative with the nature journals. You can let children glue or tape items from nature in their journals, invite them to dictate their nature adventures to you, and encourage them to draw in their journals.
#10 Open-Ended Gardening
My students love any kind of gardening whether it is planting flowers in a pot, veggies in the ground, beans in a bag, or grass in a cup. Ongoing opportunities to explore the planting and growing process offers up the chance to talk about other topics too such as insects, nutrition, and the stages of growth.