Sharon has an Masters of Science in Mathematics and a Masters in Education
Edwin is a second-year teacher who wants to make sure he gets his students outside as much as possible this year. He knows children learn by doing, and he thinks bringing them into the environment they're learning about is important. Outdoor activities, or learning that takes place outside the classroom, fall into these categories: leisure, noncompetitive, and community-oriented. How can Edwin provide his students with these experiences? Let's take a look.
Edwin knows students like to play games that allow them to compete against each other. Winning and competition are certainly motivators. However, noncompetitive activities, or those that don't have an end goal of winning or losing, have value as well.
One of the most common noncompetitive outdoor activities is hiking, which many first-time participants find both challenging and fun. The length and difficulty of the hike should be carefully chosen based on a number of factors: expected weather, available hiking areas, age of the students, fitness level, and hiking experience, to name the most important ones. For younger students, or those not used to a lot of physical activity, a half-mile paved path on mostly level ground might be appropriate. For an older group of students who've already had several successful hiking experiences, an eight-mile path, including steep hills and rougher trails, might be an appropriate challenge.
Like other noncompetitive activities, hiking often results in a feeling of shared accomplishment, which leads to better group-bonding.
There are all kinds of outdoor activities people participate in that fall into the leisure category. A leisure activity is one that uses free time for fun. Edwin and his girlfriend go cycling almost every weekend. His personal hobby inspires Edwin to coordinate with his local bike shop to take his students on a tour of their city, focusing on historic places corresponding to some of the lessons they have gone over during the school year.
When students have opportunities to participate in leisure activities, they get a chance to build fitness and stamina, learn about their environment, and work as a team to accomplish a goal. For example, on one cycling outing, Edwin took his students on a trail and had them work together to identify trees, a technique they were working on in science.
Any activity that brings members of the community together makes for a stronger community. That's why, when Edwin finds out that one of the parents at the school is organizing a 5K run to raise funds for a local charity, he convinces his class to participate. Community-oriented activities help students become active in the lives of others and become members of a larger group. Some of the students raise money by running and getting sponsors, while others help provide refreshments to the runners or help with other details to make the race go smoothly.
When traveling outdoors, always advise students to stick with other members of their small group. Groups of three or four generally work best, but the best size really depends on the situation. Use your best judgement.
Some planned activities involve equipment or an unfamiliar activity. When this is the case, set aside plenty of time at the beginning to go over proper rules of use and what to do in case of equipment malfunctions. Even students who say, 'I already know all about that' often benefit from these instructional sessions.
Proper clothing helps protect us from sun, cold, wind, and precipitation. Make sure you have covered all reasonable possibilities with your students well ahead of time, and make sure they know what clothing to bring.
Contrary to what many people think, it's very possible to get sunburned in the winter and on cloudy days. Activities in and around water often increase sun exposure due to reflection off the water. Inactive students that spend a lot of time indoors are especially vulnerable, so make sure everyone has sunscreen and uses it often.
People will generally burn more calories during an outdoor activity than they do on a normal school day. This makes fueling up on outdoor days more important than when sitting at school. One of the first noticeable signs of dehydration is crankiness; staying hydrated helps maintain positive attitudes.
Outdoor activities, or learning that takes place outside the classroom, offer a lot of exceptional learning opportunities, but they also come with their own unique challenges. This lesson has provided you with the basic ingredients to plan safe and productive outdoor activities including:
- Noncompetitive activities: those that don't have an end goal of winning or losing
- Leisure activities: uses free time for fun
- Community-oriented activities: help students become active in the lives of others and become members of a larger group
Whatever the activity, make sure the people involved have proper food, water, and clothing, and that they use sunscreen for skin exposed to the sun. If you cover all of these bases, the sky is the limit on the outdoor educational opportunities available to you and your students.
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