It’s hard to sit still in a classroom all day, regardless of whether you’re 5, 15 or 50!
While classroom learning has its place and its benefits, there’s much to be said for the value and joy to be found when you learn by exploring the world around you. That’s why it’s so important to get kids up and out, moving and exploring and experiencing the great wide world.
With a world so wide, it can be hard to know where to begin! Use these tips and ideas to get you and your kids started on your outdoor learning experiences:
Take a Walk
So much of the talk about using the outdoors to further education has to do with hikes and parks, but the world is wide and varied and has so much to offer: in parks and out of them!
If you don’t have easy access to a natural park or can’t go every day, there is still plenty to see, do and learn just by taking a walk down your road or around your block.
Get kids outside and talking about the plants they see, whether those are large crop fields, a neighbor’s garden, the trees lining your street, the flowers in window boxes or the weeds poking up through the sidewalk cracks. Examine how flowers turn towards the sun or how ivy or vines can climb up the side of buildings.
Observe the animals you find: busy ants, buzzing flies, a neighbor’s pet or industrious birds and squirrels. No matter how rural or urban your home is, you can always find bugs. Set your little bug detectives on the case and see how many different bugs they can find!
Take a Hike
While you certainly can find plenty of ways to explore the natural world from your own backyard or front stoop, finding time to hike the trails can be an invaluable educational tool.
Not only do you get the physical benefits of hiking and climbing, but you also get the chance to immerse yourselves in natural, exploring plant life, animal life, rock formations and bodies of water.
You can plan activities like a nature scavenger hunt or just carry along a smartphone or small notebook so you can keep track of questions that come up. This way you’ll remember them when you get home and can have fun finding the answers together.
Exploring nature is great for any age group, even preschoolers. Encourage them to collect leaves or interesting rocks, point out the colors or animals they see or explore the different textures they find along the trail.
Play at the Park
Simply by providing a special place to engage in unstructured outdoor play, parks provide many wonderful opportunities for continuing education outside of the classroom
Parks provide many of the same opportunities to examine nature that kids can get from a walk or a hike. They also provide a safe space for kids to run, jump, swing, climb and play, exploring and testing their physical limits. Physical play not only builds muscle and cardiovascular endurance; it also helps kids learn how to evaluate risks.
By playing with siblings, friends or new acquaintances at the park, kids get to work on building their interpersonal skills. They learn how to share, cooperate and work together to create imaginative new games and make believes. To help shy kids feel more confident, teach them a few classic outdoor games that they can share with a group.
Get the Kids Involved
You may have lots of great ideas, but you won’t get far if the kids aren’t interested in them. That’s why it’s so important to encourage kids to take an active role in their own education.
Seasonal bucket lists are a great way to get kids thinking about what they would like to do or explore outside the walls of the classroom. Get started now by helping them create a fall bucket list. When kids feel they have a say they will be more open to the learning opportunities available in every fun activity, from apple picking to hayrides, leaf jumping to corn mazes.
Find Community Opportunities
Like the interpersonal skills mentioned above, there are so many educational opportunities beyond the natural sciences available outside of the classroom. A great way to both continue and supplement classroom education is to get kids involved in their communities.
Help kids find age-appropriate ways to volunteer and give back to the community. Sort toy donations at Christmas, help at a food bank, pick up trash, visit a nursing home or simply reach out to a neighbor in need.
Show kids what their community has to offer by introducing them to the many programs and wonders of their local library or by taking them to community fairs, festivals and shows. Listen to a live concert in the park, explore a local farm show or celebrate ethnic diversity by attending cultural festivals.
Help kids explore their community and learn how important it is to be a part of it.
Once you get started, you’ll be amazed at how a little outdoor time can supplement so many facets of a child’s education. Natural sciences, physical development and interpersonal skills may be the most obvious areas for growth, but it’s not hard to find ways to make mathematical, literary or historical connections to the world around you as well. Use “indoor” resources like your local library, your kid’s school work or online lesson plans to help you find even more ways to get the most of your outdoor adventures.
Kacey is a lifestyle blogger for The Drifter Collective, an eclectic lifestyle blog that expresses various forms of style through the influence of culture and the world around us. Kacey graduated with a degree in Communications while working for a lifestyle magazine. She has been able to fully embrace herself with the knowledge of nature, the power of exploring other locations, cultures, and styles, while communicating these endeavors through her passion for writing and expression. Her love for the world around her is portrayed through her visually pleasing, culturally embracing and inspiring posts. You can find her on Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram.
The views and opinions expressed on this blog are purely the blog contributor’s. Any product claim, statistic, quote or other representation about a product or service should be verified with the manufacturer or provider. Writers may have conflicts of interest, and their opinions are their own.