Outdoor Teaching Plan
Teacher’s Name: Chrissie Libby
Class Grade Level(s) & School: Functional Academics, Grades 6-8, Lincoln M.S.
Class Subject: Science and Language Arts
Number of Students in the class: 8 students
Lesson/Project Name: Arctic Friend Treasure Hunt, & Nature Connection
1. What are your own teaching goals going into this project?
a. A teaching goal for me with taking this class was to support the fact that I believe that learning naturally takes place outdoors, and to excite children to embrace all that nature, constantly changing, has to offer us. Nature fill us not only with a sense of wonder and the environment outdoors offers variety, lending itself to students independently exploring and discovering for themselves – natural curiosity. I want to research and gather books that will help me with sharing about adventures outdoors with students and their families, and I want to also research some basic observation, projects, and activities that I can teach the students, facilitate learning, and watch them explore the world around them.
b. I feel blessed to live in Maine where we have four distinct seasons, offering endless possibilities to incorporate learning outside. Stepping outside, we can see nature changing its palette daily, but more drastically in three-month intervals. I want for the students to find beauty, intrigue, and peacefulness in at least one thing outdoors each season, so that they may retreat to there when they feel the need. We will not always be able to provide them the spaces they need because students leave to go home at the end of the day, and I want to teach them that nature offers them a lot if they listen quietly. Self-reflection can be healing and they each have responded differently during our walks and then breaking off to sit quietly alone for a short period of time. Being outside also lends itself to being a very forgiving environment to shout if they are angry, run to get the energy out, or just play to laugh. One of my goals is to teach them that emotional needs can be met in nature, even if just letting out steam or seeking a quiet place to reflect. I want to do orienteering and map skills in Baxter Woods in a meaningful way with the students.
c. I want to research some quotes also about nature from which students can jump into their own thoughts when writing and for open discussion after. I want for them to be able too to see that people of all ages, currently and from years ago, found tranquility and wonder in nature just like they can. I want to be able to use the quotes when I connect with parents too about the projects that the kids will be completing so that they can see how important others too feel being outdoors is.
2. What are your goals for students going into this?
a. Process/skill goals
- I want the students, at their own ability level, to journal for me about the activities. I will provide photos, magazines from which to cut, and colored pencils so that students can most appropriately illustrate/show their ideas and findings in their journals.
- I want for the students to practice map-making skills once more before this activity to be sure to stress the importance of writing/drawing details.
- I would also like for the students to practice measuring distances, using their own feet walking, rulers and yardsticks, discussing when it might be appropriate for which form of measurement.
b. Subject/content goals
- Map making, orienteering, measurement, descriptive writing in journals with words, phrases, and pictures/art
- We will incorporate the arctic wildlife and habitat that we have been working on already, and make a pet rock to resemble an arctic animal. We will discuss hibernation.
- I want for them to be able to work together, independently. I want for them to be able to feel confident in their abilities that should a friend need assistance that he/she will offer to help. I want for them to be compassionate and patient with classmates during this activity because I know that everyone will go at his/her own pace with some finishing soon and others still taking the entire class allotted time.
B. THE PLAN:
nearby woods to walk into (otherwise transportation would need to be arranged)
walking permission slips signed by parent/guardian to leave school grounds to park/woods nearby
2. The Class/Project
a. Prep before going outside: (60minutes/day for 4 days)
Description of prep: Please include, in detail, all aspects of preparation: tools, discussion, academic work, review of any outdoor behavior rules, clothing, etc.
We had found rocks in the fall when we collected some fallen leaves. We used those rocks in this project because the ground was already frozen. Should we do this activity during another season, then I would bring sharper shovels to dig to bury our treasures.
Also in the future I would like to involve parents in this activity, not only supervising but also to “do” it with us so the students see that learning is life long and that adults enjoy being outside as well.
For some background knowledge, we have been studying the arctic region and arctic animals. I incorporated this project into that unit which was already on-going to have ample time to integrate the ideas and use it too in writing for reflection in their journals.
For considering going outside, I needed to:
- bring several small shovels from home
- have students prepared clothing-wise for outside time with warm winter coat, mittens, hat, and boots
- ensure that all students had parent/guardian permission for walking field trips off school property
- have another adult with me to support students and be there in the event of an emergency
- discuss safe behavior when leaving the school building, crossing the street, and what to do/say if we came across a person walking a dog in the woods (they like to go directly to the dog to pat him/her, but not all pets are as friendly with children)
- ensure that all have gone to the bathroom before leaving the building
- bring the first aid pack with us, just in case
- bring a cell phone should be have an emergency in the woods or should a parent/staff need to reach one of us
- sign the students and staff attending out of the building and let the main office aware of who is leaving, when we will be returning, and where we will be going
For the project itself, I needed to gather
- rocks from our fall field trip to Baxter Woods
- black sharpie markers
- writing paper
- sharpened pencils
- hand-held pencil sharpeners
I discussed the idea of treasure hunting with the students, sharing too that we were going to make a ‘pet rock’ and that we were going to send him on vacation to the arctic region for a while. We have worked with maps earlier in the year and the students mapped a room at their own house, our classroom, and an area outside near the basketball courts, so they have experience in making maps.
b. Outside: (90 minutes/day for 1day)
Description of activity:
We reviewed the rules and expectations as a group for clarity and reminding once more before leaving the room. I made sure that all students used the bathroom before leaving the building, signed us out properly and made the office aware. All students were dressed appropriately, all were ready to go. Each student held his/her pet rock, and a clipboard with paper and a pencil on it. I carried colored pencils, sharpeners, additional pencils, and rulers/yardsticks.
We exited the building together, staying in a group. We crossed Stevens Avenue, and entered Baxter Woods. In the fall we travel to the pond further into the woods so most of the students are familiar with the general area there. I set the boundaries for the students, within which they were able to find/make an arctic habitat for temporary hibernation for their pet rock. Students were not sure what to do at first, and then became more acclimated to the freedom of choice and then began telling me why one place would be better than another, or what to avoid, or why they should bury it further under the snow, packing it tightly. After they each found their spot and buried their rock, they each began to draw landmarks around the spot so that they could find their way back in a couple of weeks. As I walked around I asked them to tell me again why they chose that area, and what they would remember about the area, and then I shared with each of them what I noticed by their area, so they could draw as much as possible. They knew that they needed to be as detailed as possible so that they could find their pet in 2 weeks. They also measured, some with feet, and others with rulers and/or yardsticks. They measured how far from the gate, between trees, and how far from large trees and rocks. They drew compasses on the map to show direction, though drawing the gate with the parking lot on one side and trees on the other, gave them a great landmark from which to begin.
It was really neat to see the thinking and then how many wanted to help each other with remembering details. One student finished early, as I knew he would, so I let him sit near the gate and begin to color his map, shortly another student joined him. The others continued to measure and add details to their maps.
I quickly sketched a map as I walked around to each student so all were on one piece of paper as a back up plan in case the maps were not able to be followed clearly.
When all of the students were done creating their maps, we gathered what we brought to the woods and left as a group to return to the classroom.
c. Classroom follow-up: (60minutes/day for 2 days)
Describe follow-up activity:
We came back to the classroom, and discussed our activity. It was great to hear the enthusiasm. I had them write in their journals about their experiences. I read several quotes about nature out-loud, passed out a sheet with 4 of them on it, and had them highlight which one they thought they most connected with. We shared some of their responses and some of their pictorial representations in front of the class and shared explanations. Students then colored in areas of their map to remind them of their rock’s location, coloring in the trees, parking lot, rocks nearby, snow piles in some areas, dried leaves and branches that were piled along one side of the path.
In two weeks…
We went to the woods to find our treasures! Each rock friend was in a small can with a lid, with my classroom information on it; should it have gotten dug up by an animal and surfaced, someone could contact me and I would have gone to get “the project”. All were still buried on our trek to the woods to find them, many still under snow.
Students brought their maps outside with them, on clipboards, and used the maps like a treasure map to find their rock friend. The students realized and I could hear their comments, that they could not tell from their drawings and labels where to actually dig. Some of the comments were – “next time I would”…draw more details, label the tree that it was pine so I know if it was maple or pine, not use the words pile of snow because it might melt by the time we come back, and that they would add more details. This self-generated feedback was interesting because they piggybacked on each other’s comments and brainstormed some good ideas. I took notes and we shared them back in the classroom.
All students found their rock friends. I helped 2 students by sharing the map I drew which had some of the bigger landmarks for me to identify where they were located, and the students were able to find their rocks using both their and my maps.
When we returned to the classroom, we processed about the activity. The students suggested that we do it with a younger grade like at the elementary school to teach them about mapping, and that they could help the younger students make eyes and faces on their rocks. Creative ideas. I noticed another of Herbert W. Broda’s points rise to the top here; he mentioned the reluctant reader thriving in such activities in the outdoors, and it was true with two of my students who are very challenged by reading – they were able to follow the clues made by peers to find their own pet rocks, when the peers were not able to do that for themselves – they did it appropriately and seemed to benefit from feeling good by helping someone else -they are usually the ones on the receiving end of help, and it was heartwarming to see them feel proud helping others and sharing their own skills.
I enjoyed opening the students’ eyes about the fact that both there are more games to play outside but even more, that there are activities to do outside that are educational and fun.
I might try to coordinate with an elementary classroom to involve younger students in this activity so that all of the students in my classroom can feel like teachers and share their own knowledge with younger learners, who are not judgmental and would look to the older students for information and skills.
I will try this activity again with doing more of a self-evaluation or All About Me activity, and include a self-portrait and to bury in the fall shortly after beginning school. We would do the same personal story/inventory and another self-portrait in the late spring, and the use our maps to find our treasure that we had hidden in the fall. We would be doing a lot of activities including map reading, and skill building, but also each student would read and compare his/her information from the fall and spring to see if there are any differences and similarities.
I also want to display the books that I have purchased during upcoming parent/student/teacher conferences so that parents can browse through them while they are there, possibly borrowing them to review at home if they would like. Broda supports involving parents and community in his Schoolyard-Enhanced Learning book, pages 62-65. He shares that not only do parents want to be involved with their own child’s learning, but they too can offer different perspectives, knowledge from their own experiences, and teach the children skills that they know. They also could help gather materials or perhaps orienteer when the class plans a trip out in the field. Parents volunteering to supervise will also get to see the teachers teach outdoors which will gain support for further learning in this manner. This passage stood out to me as being important acknowledging that everyone will offer enthusiasm, no matter what his/her experience or prior knowledge: It doesn’t matter if the parent is a professional botanist or a weekend angler; both may provide a wealth of outdoor knowledge and nature lore. I have often found that the amateur outdoor enthusiast brings along an energy that kids really love. Everyone has something to offer, and further, that adult’s child feel proud that his/her parent is involved and interacting with his/her classmates, strengthening the home-school connection because the interactions take place on a more neutral ground (literally), neither in the classroom nor the parent’s environment.
LIST OF RESOURCES:
Schoolyard-Enhanced Learning, Using the Outdoors as an Instructional Tool, K-8: Herbert W. Broda
Off The Beaten Path – Maine, A Guide to Unique Places: Wayne Curtis (7th Edition)
The Simple Living Guide, A Sourcebook for Less Stressful, More Joyful Living: Janet Luhrs
Fun With The Family – Maine, Hundreds of Ideas for Day Trips With Kids: Bonnie Merrill
Living Green, A Practical Guide To Simple Sustainability: Greg Horn
Best Hikes With KIDS, VT, NH & ME: Cynthia Copeland, Thomas Lewis, Emily Kerr
Maine-ly Fun! Great Things to Do with Kids in Maine: Published to Benefit Maine Children’s Cancer Program
Ready, Set, Grow! A Guide To Gardening With Children: Burpee, Suzanne Frutig Bales
Quotes About Nature with which I can connect. I have shared these with my students.
Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better. ~Albert Einstein
The world is mud-luscious and puddle-wonderful. ~e.e. cummings
The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quiet, alone with the heavens, nature and God. Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be and that God wishes to see people happy, amidst the simple beauty of nature. ~Anne Frank
The richness I achieve comes from Nature, the source of my inspiration. ~ Claude Monet
Study nature, love nature, stay close to nature. It will never fail you. ~Frank Lloyd Wright
The sun, with all those plants revolving around it and dependent upon it, can still ripen a bunch of grapes as if it had nothing else in the universe to do. ~Galileo Galilei
To me a lush carpet of pine needles or spongy grass is more welcome than the most luxurious Persian rug. ~Helen Keller
If a man walks in the woods for love of them half of each day, he is in danger of being regarded as a loafer. But if he spends his days as a speculator, shearing off those woods and making the earth bald before her time, he is deemed an industrious and enterprising citizen. ~Henry David Thoreau
To forget how to dig the earth and to tend the soil is to forget ourselves. ~Mohandas K. Gandhi
What is a weed? A plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson
I only went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in. ~John Muir, 1913, in L.M. Wolfe, ed., John Muir, John of the Mountains: The Unpublished Journals of John Muir, 1938
Man’s heart away from nature becomes hard. ~Standing Bear
How glorious a greeting the sun gives the mountains! ~John Muir Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson
I love to think of nature as an unlimited broadcasting station, through which God speaks to us every hour, if we will only tune in. ~George Washington Carver
Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves. ~John Muir
God writes the gospel not in the Bible alone, but on trees and flowers and clouds and stars. ~Martin Luther
Forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair. ~Kahlil Gibran
The human spirit needs places where nature has not been rearranged by the hand of man. ~Author Unknown
Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished. ~Lao Tzu
You must not know too much, or be too precise or scientific about birds and trees and flowers and water-craft; a certain free margin, and even vagueness – perhaps ignorance, credulity – helps your enjoyment of these things… ~Walt Whitman
Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better. ~Albert Einstein
Nature will bear the closest inspection. She invites us to lay our eye level with her smallest leaf, and take an insect view of its plain. ~Henry David Thoreau Nothing is more beautiful than the loveliness of the woods before sunrise. ~George Washington Carver
Nature is full of genius, full of the divinity; so that not a snowflake escapes its fashioning hand. ~Henry David Thoreau
There is not a sprig of grass that shoots uninteresting to me. ~Thomas Jefferson