Sunday, April 27, 2014

Our Gloggers Report: Getting kids OUTSIDE!

About once a month, we will feature some insight from amazing guest bloggers (GLOGGERS!)  on a topic of interest.  This month's topic is: KIDS AND THE GREAT OUTDOORS!

We asked our gloggers the following questions:
What do you do to teach your students or your own personal kids about nature or the outdoors?  What activities have you done?  What activities would you like to do?

It looks like each class had their own
birdhouse outside.  Pretty Cool!
Evidence of creativity at its finest!
This topic is near and dear to my heart.  I firmly believe that children need to get out and EXPLORE the outdoors.  Fresh air and sunshine can cure many problems!  I would love to work in a school or learning environment that shares this belief.  Throughout my time working in schools, I have come across many programs and schoolyards that help make outdoor learning a reality.  Just the other day, I was walking past an elementary school and I could tell that outdoor learning and experiential learning were a priority at that school.  Here are a couple of pictures from the schoolyard. 

And now, I introduce to you our galactically gifted gloggers!

Amy talks about BEES!

Students Making Observations
Every year we bring local beekeepers to our school to help our students become hands on learners and to develop an awareness of the delicate ecosystems they live in. Each of the presenters raises honey bees as a hobby. The presenters bring in all of their equipment and then let the students try on the outfits and try to identify the beekeeper's tools. Also, information is shared about the importance of pollination to growing healthy crops.

The students will even make lip balm from beeswax, view a live observation hive, and enjoy a slide presentation on how our economy is affected by bees. Students also learn about the strange disappearance of honey bees over recent years, and what the consequences will be if scientists don’t figure out a way to stop honey bees from vanishing. This is an eye opening experience for my students every year.  Many local bee keepers are passionate about their hobby, and if you contacted them they would probably love the opportunity to share their love for honey bees with your students.

Click here to go to Amy's Store!

Alicia talks about CREEK STOMPING!

My kids have always enjoyed being outdoors.  Unfortunately for them, I'm not exactly thrilled to be "roughing" it.  I'll lay by the pool all day, but being one with nature is not my cup of tea.  However several years ago, I discovered a fun way to get my kids outside, exploring, learning and having fun and even have fun myself while doing it. It's called "creek stomping."  For those of you who don't know what this is, it is simply playing around in a creek.  We'll walk for hours, finding animals, playing in waterfalls, flipping over rocks, swimming and splashing.  I'm much more cautious than they are.  I'm always on the look out for a creepy crawly to steer clear from...but my son LIVES for those things. He can catch ANYTHING.  We once found a gigantic alligator snapping turtle, along with little baby snapping turtles, snakes, crawfish, frogs, tadpoles and even a baby duck.  We've gone all over our neck of the woods in southwest Ohio in search of new creeks to explore. When we travel, we'll try to find some new creeks as well.  We found some great ones in Hocking Hills and Great Smoky Mountain National Park.  It's so fun to watch my kids getting hands on experience with local animals, fossils and rocks.  They can't get enough of it!  It feels like we are on an adventure every time.  It's definitely become one of my favorite things to do with them in the summer.

Click here to go to Alicia's Store!

Susan talks about growing plants and class pets!

Click here to go to Susan's 2 Week Life Cycles Unit Plan!
My favorite way I like to teach my students about the outdoors is to introduce them to plants.  I teach in an urban environment so most of my students do not have gardens at home.  One of my Science standards is lifecycles, so I am able to include this standard while teaching them about growing plants. 

© | Dreamstime Stock Photos

I usually have a class pet each year.  Last year we had a pumpkin.  We painted it for halloween and when it began to rot we planted it outside our back door.  This year we had a pet sunflower.  Unfortunately, I forgot to take it home over Spring Break and it died :(. 

This past week we planted some veggies.  My students planted corn, carrots, zucchini, squash and peas.  We check on our plants each afternoon to see if they have sprouted yet.  We will be graphing their growth and measuring to see which vegetable grows fastest.

Click here to go to Susan's Store!
Click here to go to Susan's blog!

Rosie talks about BUGS!
I really DO LOVE creepy crawlies…………..just not crawling up my leg!
It doesn't matter if you love them or hate them, they normally produce a strong response in people (especially children) which is excellent motivation for learning.
My cute little grub exploring the bugs!

Think of the amazing artwork that could be created
with this as inspiration!
Do you live near national parks, beaches or beautiful woodland areas?  No?  Well that’s not a problem, because insects are everywhere…. inside and out!  Even inner city schools should have no problem finding insects and other wildlife tucked away in neglected corners.  I love the unexpected ‘teachable moments’ that arise from a creepy crawly popping up in an unexpected place………. and so do the kids!

The whole topic of bugs is a fantastic spring board for delving further into other areas of the curriculum. Apart from the obvious connections to science, they also inspire amazing artwork; They’re a great prompt for both descriptive and factual based writing; They can provide an unusual starting point for discussing social issues e.g. bullying, empathy & compassion (is it ok to hurt things smaller than yourself?) They are also integral to discussions about environmental issues (honey bees are responsible for much of what we eat, worms are used in recycling etc.)

Here are a couple of main points to keep in mind and possibly share with your class next time you all bump into a bug!
Click for this BUG SCAVENGER HUNT freebie!
· Many insects are helpful (worms, bees, spiders etc.)
· We don’t need to harm or make a fuss about things that aren't bothering us
· We can respect things smaller than ourselves
TEACHERS - ATTEMPT TO MODEL CURIOSITY & RESPECT—The kids will be watching your reactions!
· Ensure your classroom nature table has a few copies of informative books on hand.  If a child spots an insect you can grab a book and share some cool facts!  You could compile a class book of the bugs you see.  Another handy things to keep on you nature table is magnifying glasses (you can get low cost plastic ones at your local dollar store)
· Getting comfortable around bugs includes becoming more familiar with them.  Specifically teach the children how to behave in their presence (as we already do with dogs etc.) This is especially important if you're likely to encounter a particular bug (e.g.wasps lurking around your lunch eating area)

· If you encounter a bug where it shouldn't be, pop a drinking glass over it, and gently slide a thin piece of cardboard under the cup.  Carry the cup outside and release the creature by removing the cardboard.
· If you really can’t handle the sight of that humongous cockroach in your classroom, send a child to get a teacher who you know can model curiosity and respect!  “Wow!  What an amazing creature!  Someone grab a magnifying glass and the camera—  who has a good suggestion about how best to capture this bronzed beauty?”

Carmen talks about living and non-living things!

You can use these Note Taking Printables:  Click here!
One of my favorite parts of the year is when I get to teach my 3rd graders abut Living and Non-living Things. I am so happy that it is in the curriculum for 3rd grade! It gives us a chance to get outside and do some investigating. First, we talk about the characteristics that a living thing MUST have:

I used this fantastic free review
 game that I put in my
Literacy Centers after the lesson,
by Jessica Smith:
Click here!
breathe air, eat food, drink water, reproduce, move, and grow. I give lots of examples, like how apple tree makes apples and a dog has puppies, or that a plant grows toward the sun and needs nutrients (food) from the soil. We talk about why fire isn't a living thing even though it meets a lot of the criteria.

THEN, I give them all clipboards, pencils, and a note-taking sheet, and we head outside! We walk around the school, through the playground. We investigate trees, and grass, and little bugs. We look at wood chips and plastic garbage. And all the time, the kiddos are talking: "This blade of grass is a living thing!", "Those clouds aren't living things because they don't need food" etc. And they are happy as clams to be outside :)

Meeghan talks about an alphabet scavenger hunt!

The other day my children and I decided to have some fun on an outdoor alphabet adventure.   With four children all under eight, I was trying to think of something that different ages and abilities could do.  My oldest daughter loves scavenger hunts...and I figured the others would as well!  Sure enough -everyone was up for an adventure.  The game was simple - let's find something that starts with each letter of the alphabet.  
So... the kiddos set off, running around the backyard looking for things to collect and bringing them back to tell me what they started with.  The game was tough!  It does seem like a simple task...but -every letter of the alphabet is hard to find in the backyard!  So.....  when all the kiddos were tired of running around, we sat down and finished our alphabet -filling in letters with things that might be outdoors, but we did not find.  
Other ways that you could modify this activity to make it more difficult include looking for the ending sounds of words.  You could also try to come up with adjectives that describe different objects outside.
Meeghan blogs for Sight and Sound Reading - Help your child learn to read for free!

Outdoor Alphabet Adventure -scavenger hunt while learning the alphabet
An example of the activity

Our resident bloggers also have some great ideas!

Kenzie talks about exploring the needs of plants with lima beans!

I am a huge outdoors person and I feel that kids are not outside nearly enough.  I recently did an activity with my students that involve planting lima beans.  Each group was given a Tupperware container, water, a piece of paper towel, and a couple of cups of presoaked lima beans.  Without much direction, I had them assemble their items.  I proposed a COMPETITION to see which group could produce the longest, healthiest sprout. 

Picture from
First, I had the students talk about what plants need to survive.  I had them come up with a game plan for using their materials in such a way that would ensure winning the competition!  I circulated the room and listening to their thought processes as disagreements arose and allowed students to make their case.  I did my own project where I layered 100 beans into my smallish Tupperware and drenched them with water.  I then put my project as far as possible from the window.  :-)

This activity helps children understand the different
parts of plants and also helps them understand where their
food comes from.  $2.00.
Click here!

The students looked at everybody's projects and wrote down their hypothesis for which group they thought would produce the longest, strongest sprout.  They explained why.  They also wrote about how they thought my project would do and explained why. 

Throughout the course of the project, the students recorded measurements and wrote observations.  They seemed to really enjoy this project!

Free activity to help kids learn about
the parts of plants
Click here!

Awesome Nature Scavenger Hunt!
Click here!

 Juliana talks about a fun ocean animal research project!

Click here!

Spring is my favorite season to teach about the outdoors. We get butterflies and ladybugs and watch them grow. When we have recorded our observations in a special handbook, we go to the garden and let them free.

One of the last projects, and the one that I really get excited about is the ocean project. As a class, we pick an animal to research. We use a special notebook where we gather all of our data. As a culminating activity, the students write what they learned about the animal, we add laminating, hair gel and a zip lock bag, and the students get an amazing project that will last for the whole summer!

Stay tuned for next month's glogger post, which will be all about building a positive classroom community at the beginning of the school year!

Until next time! :-)  Kenzie


1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing so many great ideas! Children are always so excited to be learning outside........ and I know I'm always more enthusiastic about teaching outside!! :-D