Vernier Science Education - March2024


Forums / Elementary Science / Outdoor Learning

Elementary Science

Outdoor Learning

Author Post
Hannah Hetrick Hannah Hetrick 125 Points

Hi everyone!

I am a future elementary teacher and I'm looking into different ways to incorporate outdoor learning into the science classroom. Besides community/school gardens and nature hikes, do you have any neat ideas? Or even specific activities to do within the garden/on nature walks? If anyone has experience applying for/receiving grants for their outdoor education programs, I'd love to hear about that, too. 

Thank you!!


Emma Ammons Emma Ammons 635 Points

HI Hannah,

First of all, so excited to hear you thinking about incoperating lessons outside when possible. When it comes down to lessons, a lot will have to do with what type of lesson you are covering and with what age group. For example, if you are learning about the water cycle, maybe you could go to the stream and have students looks for water trails and talk about how rain falls to the ground, creates run off, goes to the stream and eventually evaporates or makes it way to a larger body of water. Another great way is to just take note books, or books outside and enjoy the fresh air for a lesson. For animal interactions you could go somewhere and have students observe the animals they see, where they live, noises they make, etc. Hope some of that is helpful. Good luck with your students! 

- Emma Ammons ([email protected])

Emma Huisman Emma Huisman 750 Points

Hi Hannah, 

I am a third-year elementary education major from Wartburg College. Taking students outside and into new environments other than a classroom can have a lot of value to the students and can create some impactful learning experiences. Creating these authentic learning experiences that allow your students to connect their learning to the world around them greatly increases their ability to retain the knowledge they are learning because it makes the information relevant to them. This can even be as simple as going out to the field by your school and having students draw or write what they notice and what they wonder. Doing this kind of inquiry for students is a great way for them to start thinking about science.

Emma Huisman

Lindsey Gueltig Lindsey Gueltig 220 Points

Hi Hannah! Look up places near you! My school does a short overnight trip every year for the fifth graders at a camp where there are hiking trails and they put together outdoor lessons! it is so fun and informational and the kids love it! It is a great way to get the students outdoors and engaged.

Matt Bobrowsky Matt Bobrowsky 6410 Points

Hi, Hannah.

I have an activity where students observe the moon at the same time every day (or evening) for two weeks and see how it changes phases and changes its position in the sky.  This can be done either during the daytime (e.g., as a class) or in the evening (individually or with family members).


Luke Oravecz Luke Oravecz 6420 Points

Hey Hannah,

I really like the idea of taking the students outside! There are plenty of benefits like allowing students to see, visualize, and connect to the world around them on a deeper level.  It can also be a fun break from the classroom setting every day.  Teachers could even use/label it as 'Field trip' or anything else to do with exploring nature. 

Here at Wright State, we took a class outside and let students find interesting things to make observations on.  They learned how to draw, label and describe what they see in nature.  Again, I think it would be a great way to get students moving and have them interact on a different level than the classroom.  

Linda Stokes Linda Stokes 1260 Points

Hello Hannah,

Congratulations to the education career!! How is the outdoor gardening coming along?

Elizabeth Inselmann Elizabeth Inselmann 1395 Points

Hi Hannah, 

  One idea with nature walks is relating them to reading specifically phonics. After talking about different letter sounds students go on a nature walk and find items that have that sound in the name. An example would be A so students could see on the nature walk and record they found an Apple. I hope this helps. 

All the best, 

  Lizzy Inselmann 

Ella Brase Ella Brase 630 Points

Hi Hannah, 

I am a third-year elementary education major from Wartburg College. Taking students outside and into a different environment other than the typical classroom environment has a lot of value and usually leads to more impactful learning experiences for students. Creating authentic learning experiences for students and allowing them to connect with their content by relating it to the world around them will also increase your chances of students retaining the knowledge they are gaining. Outdoor learning gives teachers a great opportunity to incorporate inquiry into the curriculum. Travel to a local pond and allow students to write down what they notice and what they are curious about and then create a lesson based on their curiosities. You could also be more intentional with your lesson and have students identify specific types of clouds during a weather unit or you could include a physics lesson to see which objects soar down a class-made ramp the fastest. 


Ella Brase 



Caroline Meroski Caroline Meroski 365 Points

Hi Hannah, 


Some ideas could be exploring nature and taking the students out to look at the trees and maybe even take them on a nature walk. This would be really interesting and engaging for the students.  You can also do different science lessons and experiments. 



Brianna Otoski Brianna Otoski 1760 Points

We completed a nature walk with our students and it was amazing to be able to see the students so involved with the world around them! It was inspiring to see the world through a child's mind, and to be able to hear the questions they came up with about the world around them.

Would definitely recommend. :) 

Amber Baker Amber Baker 530 Points

Hi Hannah, 

my name is Amber Baker. I am a senior majoring in elementary education at Wright State University. There is a lot of benefit to bringing students outside. Students need one-on-one experience with science. They also need as much opportunity as possible to practice science. The more they practice science the more likely they are to see themselves as scientists.  

some activities could be as simple as taking them outside and having them record observations about what they see. You want to connect what your students are learning to their real-life experiences. 

My group taught a whole science lesson about ecosystems and their components (producers, consumers, and decomposers) to fifth graders just by stepping out the door of their school. 

I hope this helps,

Amber Baker

Kali Kells Kali Kells 20 Points

Hello Hannah!! 

I am a 4th-grade science teacher and I LOVE  having science outside. I think the first piece of advice I would give you is not to wait until your lesson actually involves outside to get outside. Using fold-up tables or even just a space in your school parking lot you can have class outside. In the first few months of school, while it's still warm, I try to get outside as much as possible. I've found that by providing guided and fill-in-the-blank notes I can rely less on my projector and slides and we can go over vocab outdoors. Need to create a graph of your class experiment results? Break out the chalk and make a giant bar graph outside! 

One of our class projects is also to plan and maintain our school garden. We design its layout, research which flowers will survive the best, budget, and shop for supplies. All the fourth graders take turns weeding and maintaining it during the year. If you don't have a garden you can just plant some class plants. You can make a project out of it. Grow the seeds in bags, transfer the seedlings to planters, re-pot them once they outgrow their pots, and allow families to adopt them at the end of the year and plant them at home. 

If you have a place to go on a nature walk preserving and drying out flowers or cataloging different types of leaves is always fun. 



Allison Corwin Allison Corwin 1210 Points

Hello Hannah!

I think getting students outside to experience science is extremely important and I love that you are interested in it. One thing I did at a local school with fifth grade students was take them outside and ask them to make observations about how organisms in the ecosystem were interacting. One thing that I loved about this activity is that it can be conducted in any ecosystem. You can have students make observations at school or near their own homes! Once I gave students time to make observations, I introduced vocabulary specific to the topic (producer, consumer, decomposer, energy, etc). I think letting students interact with nature and then teaching them about the specific content at hand is very important. So many standards can be connected to outdoor learning. 

Best of luck in your teaching! 

Allie Corwin

Samantha DiMaggio Samantha DiMaggio 390 Points


My name is Samantha DiMaggio and I am a junior in college studying to be an elementary teacher. I think teaching science outside of the classroom and in nature is a great idea! Students will be able to learn about nature, habitats, animals, insects and so much more by actually being in the environment. Some fun and engaging activities that I hope to do with my future students are projects such as creating a garden outside and watching our plants grow or examining the different types of insects living in the environment. Its one thing to be reading about science but its so much more interactive and effective for young learners to have the opportunity of being outside in nature and experiencing science firsthand. Some other topics that can be taught outside are lessons on pollution, weather, habitats and different types of species. I remember in first grade i went on a fieldtrip to Doorbrook Park and the enitre class went looking for fossils in the lakes and wilderness of this park. I remember how fun and interesting this was to shuffle through rocks and just be outside of the classroom setting. Another interesting activity is having the students plant plants outside and water them. This could teach young students about pollinators, bees, butterflies, different types of plants, and plant survival. Another fun idea is building birdhouses with the students which could follow a lesson on how different types of animals of the same species obtain food. 

I wish you the best of luck in your classrom!

Samantha DiMaggio

Matt Bobrowsky Matt Bobrowsky 6410 Points

I have an activity where students observe the moon at the same time every day (or evening) for two weeks and see how it changes phases and changes its position in the sky. This can be done either during the daytime (e.g., as a class) or in the evening (individually or with family members).


Matthew Rossetti Matthew Rossetti 140 Points

Hi Hannah!

Outdoor learning is a great topic to discuss and I also look forward to incoporating that into my classroom. I beleive that learning outside, especially in a class such as science, is great for the students becasue they get to see the lesson in a new environment with fresh air. In particular, during covid times, this is a great oppurtunity to get the children excited about learning. I think that a good suggestion would be to read a book to them outside. If the book can somehow relate to the outdoors, than their learning will be increased even further. 

Catherine Chacon Catherine Chacon 630 Points

Hi Matthew, outdoor learning is great for children! I agree that during these times it's been difficult for everyone especially the little ones so your idea sounds awesome. I remember back when I was in 5th or 6th grade my science teacher would always make fun and engageful lesson plans that had to do with outdoor learning. One of them being the butterfly project when we went over the transitional stages and towards the end we set them free outside or when we planted our own little flowers outside. I'm a preservice teacher now in New Jersey and the fact that I still remember most of the lessons I did with my science teacher from elementary school speaks volume about her philosophy of teaching. The children will always cherish and remember those fun and engageful activities. 

Post Reply

Forum content is subject to the same rules as NSTA List Serves. Rules and disclaimers