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Outdoor lessons to keep students entertained this spring

MONDAY, JUNE 01, 2015 09:42 AM

When the weather is nice and the school year is coming to a close, it's harder than ever for students to stay concentrated on classroom assignments, projects and discussions. That's why many teachers decide to take their lessons outdoors. Though it may seem like a surefire way for students to become even more distracted, the change of scenery can actually be beneficial for engagement and focus. Here are a few outdoor lesson ideas to keep students entertained this spring:

Although they may not seem readily apparent when we're so accustomed to using worksheets and textbooks, the ways you can talk about math outdoors are numerous. In fact, relating math to the real world is what the Common Core calls "modeling," and it's an important Standard for helping students engage in mathematics lessons at every grade level.

Here are a couple of ideas: If you're learning geometry, head out to the baseball field. See if you can figure out the distance from first base to the pitcher's mound based on the dimensions you already know. Or, if you have a wheelchair ramp, find the slope. For younger students, use the garden to measure plants and determine the differences in heights. You can even talk about fractions as they relate to the number of each type of plant compared with the total number of plants in the garden.

English/language arts
Especially if your students are currently learning about environmental science, taking students outside as an English/language arts teacher is a great way to help them develop opinions about the outdoors and back them up with first-hand evidence. Ask students to observe the areas surrounding the school building and answer a prompt like "What can I do as an individual to help the environment?" Or "What types of plants thrive the best in my climate?" Then, have them head back inside and write a short essay using evidence they gained during their time outdoors. If you want to take a more literary approach, tell students to bring whatever book you're reading in class and do a read-aloud session outdoors. Have students play different characters and encourage them to have fun with it.

Of course, there are tons of ways to teach science lessons outside of the school building. Develop a project that takes students outdoors, whether you're learning about nutrition, environmental science, ecosystems or even just doing a project too messy for the classroom (like, say, building working volcanoes). No matter what, the possibilities for learning science out of the classroom are endless.