The benefits of an outdoor classroom are pretty hard to ignore. The science is in, and better academic performance, enhanced attention, increased enthusiasm and engagement, and improved behavior are just some of the positive outcomes you can expect if you take your lessons outdoors.
Outdoor learning improves children’s health, engages them with learning and leads to a greater connection with nature.
But you can’t just pick up all the desks, rulers, and pencils and move to the great outdoors. What about inclement weather? And where would you store all your flair pens? The outdoor classroom may not be an option for every teacher — or even many school districts — but there are plenty of ways to incorporate outdoor classrooms and their benefits into your teacher toolbox with an outdoor lesson box!
Not sure if you really need to make the trip out into Mother Nature? First off, let’s consider some of the great advantages of an outdoor classroom lesson:
- Enlarged spaces to facilitate more physical learning
- Opportunities for ‘wet’ play
- Greater sensory stimulation
- Fresh air and sunlight
- Engagement of student’s social skills
- Increased awareness of their natural environment
- Added movement and physical activity
- Confidence building and increased self-discipline
- Enhanced sense of place and civic-mindedness
Enough said, right?
The wonderful thing is that there is no real prescription for what makes a good green schoolyard or outdoor learning space! As long as it’s outdoors in nature and it’s got enough room for you and your students, it fits the bill as an outdoor classroom.
Once you realize that many indoor lessons can also be taken outdoors, your teaching will change forever!
But don’t rush out the door just yet! Ensuring you’re adequately prepared for these transitions is the key to their success.
Preparing for an Outdoor Classroom
If you catch your students (or yourself!) wistfully staring out the window, it might be time to move to an outside learning space. Give the class a stretch, a change of scenery, and some fresh air to re-engage them in your content!
Whether it’s for a reading comprehension lesson or nature walk, your outdoor learning space will likely require some additional equipment to maximize its potential. We have put together a functional and fun Outdoor Lesson Box Cut and Assemble Kit to assist you with transitioning your students out of the classroom and into nature.
Outdoor Lesson Box
In our Outdoor Lesson Box Cut and Assemble Kit, you will find everything you need to enable outdoor learning — from finding the perfect spot out in the schoolyard to the items you’ll need to stock up on before you head outside.
Outdoor Lesson Box
Choosing the perfect Outdoor Lesson Box for your classroom is really a matter of personal taste. As long as it fits everything you need and is easily transportable, the possibilities are endless!
Attach your Outdoor Lesson Box Sign to your box and you’re ready to fill it with handy things for all your outdoor classroom needs.
Outdoor Lesson Box Inventory List
Your Outdoor Lesson Box should contain everything you need to ensure your outdoor classroom is as functional as your indoor classroom!
- Whistle – The benefit of having a lovely, large working space means you need to have an easy way to capture your students’ attention. A whistle provides the perfect method to be heard without losing your voice. Why not change things up a bit? Try different whistle blows to cue your students to move stations, stop and listen, self-check their progress, or return to base.
- Picnic Blanket – Comfort is key when you’re learning in a new environment. Ensure your students are safe from ants and grass allergies by providing a picnic blanket. Extra-large picnic rugs make great focus areas for whole classwork, and if you get a waterproofed blanket you won’t have to worry about wet grass! Flat sheets provide a cheaper and easier-to-wash alternative!
- Surface for Writing – While grass is comfy for our bodies, it isn’t all that great for our handwriting. Allow your students to make the most of their space by providing them with a firm surface to lean on while they work. You might choose to use clipboards or mini-whiteboards, but we love these Write and Wipe Paper Saver Sleeves from Amazon!
- Extra Supplies – Avoid having to run back to your indoor classroom, and have some spare supplies on standby. A small pencil case is perfect for holding onto a few pencils, erasers, scissors, and glue for those forgetful little darlings.
and the best thing…
- Chalk – This one’s a game-changer! Save on paper, and utilize every element of your outdoor area by canvassing your paths and playgrounds with your students’ thinking.
Outdoor Lesson Checklist
Once you’ve grabbed your Outdoor Lesson Box, you’ll need to find the perfect spot for your outdoor lesson! As I mentioned, there is no particular space that is perfect for an outdoor classroom.
There are some health and safety requirements that need to be taken into consideration, however, when finding the perfect location.
Make sure your students will be as comfortable as possible by taking into account some of the following questions:
- Will the class be protected from the elements?
- Is there adequate space for the activity I have planned?
- Will we disturb another class? Will another class disturb us?
- Are we far enough away from vehicle thoroughfare?
- Is there any flora or fauna nearby that will cause us issues?
- Do students have permission from their parents or doctor to use sunscreen and/or bug spray?
When you introduce the outdoor classroom routine to your class, be transparent about your selection process for their learning area.
Once they understand your requirements, older students can be sent ahead to ensure there is a suitable learning space available before you haul the whole class outside!
Outdoor Lesson Box Monitor Badges
Collaborating with your students is the ideal way to ensure the outdoor classroom works for your whole class. As all good teachers know, a great way to develop responsible and autonomous learners is to give students ownership of their tasks.
Once you have established an outdoor lesson routine, give one or two students the role of Outdoor Lesson Box Monitor. Our Outdoor Lesson Box Cut and Assemble Kit includes Monitor Badges to give your students a defined role and make them feel important.
Responsibilities in this job can vary, dependent on the age level and maturity of your students.
Some responsibilities for the Outdoor Lesson Box Monitor can include:
- selecting the outdoor classroom space for the lesson
- carrying the box to the outdoor lesson
- handing out equipment to their classmates
- checking the inventory of the box at the end of the lesson.