Ask any student in an elementary classroom what he or she likes best about school and it’s very likely the answer will have something to do with being outside. Kids are generally passionate about the natural world and while iPads and video games may seem to rule, nature is still cool.
Some kids are more outdoorsy than others, but probably all of your students would be thrilled to catch sight of a caterpillar crawling on a leaf or notice a trail of ants marching toward their anthill. How can you bring that level of excitement back into the classroom? Better yet, how can you harness the attraction of nature to teach an academic concept?
Bringing nature crafts into your room may be the answer. It’s easy to search Pinterest for dozens of ideas that are cute. However, many of these options may have more of a decorating purpose than you would like. Also, when you’re thinking about a craft that 18-25 children will work on at the same time, you need ideas that don’t rely heavily on specific, craft-store items.
Sounds like it’s time for your students to venture outside for a quick playground field trip! Especially appropriate for the younger grades, having the kids pick up twigs and leaves to manipulate in to letters back in the classroom is an easy way to blend going outside with practical learning.
Another idea is to divide the kids into groups and ask them to locate certain objects. For instance, one group could look for white pebbles, another group could be responsible for clover leaves and another group could be on the lookout for worms. Each group’s findings can be counted, written on paper, charted, sorted, etc.
Are you short on time and can’t spare the minutes to collect outside materials? No problem. It may be easier than you think to create a nature-inspired activity using items found in your classroom. Check out these options:
- Distribute old magazines and have students cut out photos of animals. Lay out one or two large pieces of poster board and help students divide the animal photographs into groups of mammals, fish, insects, etc.
- If classroom computers and/or iPads are available, have each student choose an animal and find out in which state, country or continent that animal lives. Then, give the students time to draw or paint a picture of the animal and its native land. They can also “frame” the picture by gluing popsicle sticks around it.
- Have you seen a butterfly heart? Try this: use masking tape to create a heart shape on your classroom wall or door, as small or large as you like. Instruct students to cut out butterfly shapes using colored paper. Let the students affix the butterflies inside the heart shape. This is a neat way to talk about butterflies and end up with an impressive classroom display at the same time.
Experiment with different ideas that blend nature and academics. Your students will likely be excited to include outdoor elements in their learning processes.