Ways to Engage Your Children's School in Outdoor Activities
Yes, the kids are back in school. But that doesn’t mean your family’s outdoor adventures give way completely to nights of homework and weekends at the multiplex.
Increasingly, schools are open to using outdoor adventures as part of every kid’s education. Volunteering with your kids’ school, and helping them create outdoor classrooms, hands-on environmental lessons and science experiments in nature is good for the kids, and good for your spirit, too.
Here are a few approaches you can make to teachers if you’d like to help them fold nature into their teachings more easily…and get a little extra time with your kids in the process.
The Science Teacher
We’ll start with the easy one.
Your kids’ science teacher may already have some great ideas on how to use what’s just outside the classroom window as part of his lessons. It’s such a natural fit.
Are they learning biology? Studying the growth of plants on the school grounds, making notes on the neighborhood squirrels, or sorting through leaf litter for bugs to study help with that.
Are they studying the weather? Organize a lecture outside on what the clouds above tell us.
Are they studying geology? Find a local rock formation and offer to help organize a field trip to study its meaning.
If you’re willing to pitch in, there are endless ways to help your children’s science teacher utilize the outdoors.
The Math Teacher
Math might seem like the most traditional chalkboard-and-scratch-paper form of teaching, but math teachers can get their students outdoors, too.
Geometry in the symmetry of plants. The relationship between surface area and volume in the shape of an acorn or crabapple. For more advanced students’ you’ll even find a Fibonacci sequence in the petals of many flowers, or the way trees branch.
Approach your kids’ math teacher and volunteer to help organize an outdoor lesson.
The Art Teacher
Arts and crafts are an easy fit with the great outdoors. Whether it’s helping young kids make mixed media sculptures with objects they can find in a simple walk around the neighborhood, or challenging advanced students to draw careful studies of plants on school grounds, art teachers can nearly always find a way to get kids outdoors.
They just may need volunteers to help keep the kids organized and on-task. It’s something you could even do on a brief break from the office, to get a little more time with your children and get away from screens for a while.
The Literature Teacher
Preschoolers have The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Middle Schoolers have My Side of the Mountain. High schoolers have Leaves of Grass.
Nature is in every page of many of the great stories American English curricula teach.
So why teach it all inside?
Look over the reading lists you get at Back-to-School night, with an eye toward finding a lesson that naturally uses the world outdoors. Then offer to help organize a brief field trip that helps to frame a story or critical scene.
The History Teacher
Wherever you live, the history of your community is all around you. Ask your kids’ history teachers what they’ll be studying this year, then look for places they could visit or local organizations that could send a speaker to supplement the classroom lessons. If you do a bit of the organizing work, you may be able to help create a meaningful field trip to let your kids experience local history with their feet.
If there isn’t one particular class you’d like to take part in, you might still be able to bring nature into your children’s school year with a little of your free time.
Offer to organize an environmental club, for instance. Even if you could only hold meetings once a month, you could put together a group of kids willing to help clean and maintain the school grounds, seek opportunities to lighten the school’s footprint, or even maintain an outdoor classroom and garden.