Extend your Classroom – Outdoor Education

Whether you are taking a break or continuing to homeschool throughout the summer months, the warmer weather and abundance of natural resources make it a great time of year to extend your classroom to the outdoors. From taking casual nature walks to setting up elaborate weather stations, the opportunities for outdoor learning abound. Not only is outdoor education fun, but it’s beneficial as well. Outdoor education promotes environmental responsibility, physical health, and mental well-being.

Creepy, Crawly, Yucky Fun!

  • Create a compost bin in your yard. Kids will have fun gathering dead leaves, grass clippings, weeds, kitchen vegetable scraps, and soil to add to the compost bin. As all these ingredients turn into compost, they can observe the living things such as millipedes and earthworms make this their home! This slide show is a great resource for creating and learning about compost bins.
  • Go on a backyard scavenger hunt. Create a list of insects, flowers, trees, and other natural items that can be found in your backyard or nearby park. You can print a word list for older children, or a picture list for younger children. They will have fun collecting and observing creepy crawly bugs and pretty flowers. Some items should not be collected but can be checked off a list, described, or drawn. If you have a digital camera, you can take pictures of each item and create a slide show when you get home. The National Wildlife Federation has put together a list that you can customize to your area.

Nature Crafts and Projects

  • Taking a trip to the beach this summer? Kids love collecting seashore treasures. When you return home, use their collection to create any number of beach themed crafts such as DIY sea shell crafts, or a nature walk bracelet.
  • Pretty flower petals, leaves, stems, and blades of grass can be used to make fairy and gnome houses.
  • Don’t let the rain stop you from incorporating nature into your summer learning. Indoor activities such making colorful  dried bean mosaics and building a small terrarium are great ways of bringing nature inside.

Science Experiments

  • Make your own wild bird food and see which blend attracts more birds. Or, make bird food that is supposed to attract a specific type of bird and see if it works!
  • Whether your summer is hot and humid or moderate and dry, one thing is true wherever you live: You have weather! Using common household and hardware store items, you can make a barometer, weather vane, and rain gauge that can be used to set up a homemade backyard weather station.

While all of these planned activities are wonderful, don’t forget the spontaneous opportunities that offer the perfect chance for teachable moments. Maybe you’re on your way home from a summer cookout on a beautiful clear night. Take a moment for stargazing before you head in the house. Is your child an early riser? Use this time for taking in a sunrise. Counting petals on a flower, splashing in puddles, planting a garden, even the simplest of activities will help foster an appreciation and understanding of the wonders of nature.