In April, Out Teach’s very own Instructional Coaches, Wendy Kelly and Sammy Wren, presented at the National Science Teachers Association’s annual conference in St. Louis, Missouri. Their session, “Take It Outside: Using the Outdoors as an Experiential Learning Lab” was designed to help educators from across the country use outdoor spaces and engaging instructional techniques to inspire students’ passion for Science.

Anne Marie Fayen, Academic Programs Manager at the Dallas Arboretum, attended the session and shared that Wendy and Sammy “spoke from experience and made going outside to learn sound exciting and, with some planning ahead, not too complicated or overwhelming.”

Below are some of Anne Marie’s favorite tips and tricks from the session:

• Ask teachers to think about a time they connected to nature. What do they remember about the experience? What made it meaningful? They will probably share a childhood memory. How can we help our students have these same positive experiences in nature?

• Create a culture of outdoor learning with your students, and set appropriate rules for learning outdoors. For example, consider going out a specific door (ideally not the same door used for recess/PE) to access your outdoor learning environment.

• Treat the outdoor classroom as a resource for all, like the library or computer lab.

• Have a few basic materials on-hand that students can use to explore the outdoors and engage in hands-on learning:
o Hand lenses
o Thermometers
o Tape (to collect items)
o Small bags (to collect and sort items)
o Safety scissors
o Wooden stakes (for marking locations)
o Something that makes noise, like a harmonica or bird whistle, to get students’ attention

Taking students outside to learn Science, or even do cross-curricular lessons that incorporate Math and Reading/Language Arts, doesn’t have to be difficult. With a few tools, tips, and tricks, students and teachers across the country can take learning beyond the four walls of their classroom!

Out Teach, formerly REAL School Gardens, provides professional development for elementary school teachers. Out Teach prepares them to use school gardens, outdoor classrooms, and green schoolyards to improve instruction through three-dimensional project-based learning, and outdoor experiential inquiry-based education. Professional learning with Out Teach improves hands-on science and STEM education through instructional coaching and digital education resources and improves 21st Century skills.