It’s warm and sunny outside, the perfect time to use nature as a teaching tool. If your class has access to a natural area, it’s time to use it to teach! Natural areas could be as simple as a park or a garden, or could include a field trip to a nature preserve or national park with hiking trails. Here are 12 ways you can tie in a nature hike to your curriculum (and they aren’t all science!):
1. (Science) Find evidence of life – Take a clipboard and a paper and write down all of the ways you can tell animals live in this area, even if you don’t see them. Look for footprints, droppings etc. Talk about making inferences.
2. (Art) Collect leaves or acorns for a nature collage – Give students a set number of items that they can collect. Once back in class (or while out in nature if you bring the supplies), glue the items on a paper to create a collage. You might make a whole class collage or individual collages.
3. (Math) Estimate the number of… – There are so many ways to estimate in nature. How many leaves are on a tree? How many trees are in a given area? How many blades of grass are in a square meter? How tall is a tree?
4. (Writing) Write a story with this as a setting – Tell students that this area must be the setting of their story, but leave everything else open ended. How many different stories can they come up with? Writing can be done in class, or in nature if you bring clipboards and papers.
5. (Music) Imitate nature sounds – Sit quietly and listen for natural sounds. Make a list of the sounds and then try to imitate them. Sounds could include bird calls, squirrels scratching, leaves falling etc.
6. (Social Studies) Look at the natural resources, find ways ancient cultures would use them – Traditionally, all people had to use were the resources around them. Have students look at the natural resources around them and determine what they could use to build shelter, feed themselves, protect and clothe themselves etc.
7. (Science) Compare and contrast different forms of life – There are so many different kinds of life – plants, animals, insects etc. Create a list of the life you can find, or find evidence of, and use the information to create a chart, table, graph or Venn Diagram.
8. (Art) Bring a sketchbook and do an up close sketch – Have students choose one small area and draw a sketch of the section. Then, have students exchange sketchbooks and see if they can guess what/where the other has drawn.
9. (Math) Measure natural items – Bring along rulers and scales and measure what you find. How long are the leaves? What is the circumference of a tree? How much does a pinecone weigh?
10. (Writing) Choose a natural item (leaf, acorn, blade of grass) research 10 facts about it and write an expository article.
11. (Music) Use natural items to create instruments – Can you create a drum with a tree stump? Can you put a group of acorns into a cup to make a shaker? What sound is made when you rub two pinecones together?
12. (Social Studies) Create a map of the area you visit – Section out an area and have students create a map of the area. Compare maps and see what students have remembered or left out. Students could also hide a treasure and create a treasure hunt.
Heidi Raki is a teacher and mother who blogs about creative, real life learning ideas and technology suggestions at her blog www.rakisradresources.com.