Bringing Nature into your Classroom

This month’s blog topic, Bringing Nature into Your Classroom, is the first in a monthly series of articles that are designed to help you to incorporate environmental education practices into your classroom curriculum.  We look forward to working with you!

Bringing nature into your classroom is an easy way to supplement your science, language arts, math, technology and social studies curriculum with hands-on, place-based learning.  Environmental topics are interdisciplinary by nature and help children build connections through:

  • Sensory observation – feeling, smelling, listening
  • Data collection from their observations
  • Classification skills by grouping of natural objects
  • Stewardship from growing plants, taking care of animals
  • Observation through microscope, telescope, microscope, hand lens
  • Drawing, sketching, photographing, and  videotaping nature

Here are 10 ideas to help you get started!

  1. Bird feeders – By placing bird feeders outside your window, students can observe various species and record what they see, developing observation and note taking skills.  It’s a great opportunity to get up close with nature without going outside.  You might want to consider having  your class participate in the Project FeederWatch program.
  2. Use nature journals – Students can stay in touch with the natural world by working on their journals – daily, weekly or monthly.  Potential prompts are:  Today we…  I saw… One thing I thought was curious was… I learned… I think… You can have students make their own nature journal by following steps outlined on this website.
  3. Hang outdoor-related posters in your classroom.  Acorn Naturalists is an excellent source!  
  4. Create a Nature Corner in your classroom – when you go outside, bring some of the things you find inside: from seed pods to leaves, galls, etc. Use these specimens for creative writing lessons, data collection, and more.  Field guides, nature books, and hand lenses help to engage students and encourage exploration and creativity.
  5. Bulletin boards are excellent ways to display items that show what your class has done outdoors.  Include digital pictures of animals and plants found outside, maps of the area, or student work directly related to the outing.
  6. Create a Nature Art Area – again, using found items including sticks, bark, moss, leaves, acorns, etc.  Think about having books like Look What I Did with A Leaf as inspiration.  Other ideas including using plants as dye, and pokeweed berries as ink.  
  7. Learn to ID trees in your school yard.  Go outside and collect a variety of leaves.  Then use field guides and books to identify the various species.
  8. Create homemade ecosystems to place in your classroom window and observe throughout the year.
  9. Conduct simple science experiments, including soil testing, snow evaporation, water density and cloud formation.  The book Nature in a Nutshell for Kids is a good resource.
  10. Grow microgreens in the classroom…there is a quick payoff!  You can taste them within two weeks!
The goal is to make nature accessible.  Begin by introducing one nature infusion into the classroom each week.  Keep it simple.  Tweak your curriculum to be place-based.  And whenever you have options, give a nature option.   These real life experiences will enrich writing, inspire inquiry, and improve critical thinking.  What’s more, by bringing nature into your classroom, you will foster an appreciation of the outdoors in your students and help them make connections that will enrich their lives.

​Composed by Mary Ellen Kelly 

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