Celebrating Spring with Outdoor Project-based Learning

Spring is the season of opportunity. After months of cold, dark weather, the days begin to grow longer, and the world starts to get warmer. For many of us, it’s a chance to emerge from indoors and enjoy the fresh air. But spring is much more than a time to schedule a quick vacation. Spring also creates a unique opportunity for teachers to implement outdoor project-based learning with their students.

Many teachers have found that working with students in nature can increase their engagement, curiosity, and critical thinking skills. Throughout spring, students get the chance to view nature in action. Consider the new growth of vegetation, animal activity, or the changing patterns of weather. All of these can be explored using STEM and project-based learning. It may require a little creativity, but you’re a teacher, creativity is what you’re made of!

The Great Outdoors

A teacher’s work is never done. Maybe you just don’t have the space to create outdoor lessons on top of your other responsibilities. If that’s the case, here a few easy ideas to help you get started:

  • A Classroom Garden: A classroom garden is a phenomenal way to introduce your students to earth science while also fostering communication and teamwork. A garden can be used for lessons about bacteria in soil and photosynthesis in plants. Planting flowers creates openings to discuss the importance of pollinators in our ecosystem, while vegetables can be used to explore healthy nutrition. Gardening can also be used to challenge student’s engineering skills. Many gardens require protection from animals who will devour the growing buds. How can students protect their plants while still giving them space to grow?
  • Building Birdhouses: Spring is a time when many birds begin building nests. Your students can lend a hand by building a birdhouse for them to shelter in. But how can they construct a shelter that’s light, sturdy, and safe from predators? Use this video to get students started and challenge them to think of ways to make their birdhouse stronger. You can also challenge students to make bird feeders that are resistant to pests like squirrels. Just let their engineering imagination run wild!
  • Film Canister Rockets: Maybe you want something with a bit more pizzazz. Something explosive your students would never be able to do indoors. If that’s the case, then treat your class to some film canister rockets. Create your own film canister rockets using nothing but water and Alka-Seltzer tablets, then prepare to get wet! Not only is this a fun outdoor activity, but students will get the chance to explore concepts like chemical reactions, practice math by calculating the time of liftoff, and much more.
Happy Spring!

Spring may be short, but there is still time to implement the kind of authentic and meaningful learning that fosters student curiosity, creativity, and critical thinking. If you’re looking for more outdoor ideas, consider taking advantage of VAI’s latest free Timely Topic. Earth Day Explorers includes four inquiry-driven mini lessons that will allow students to explore and discover the great outdoors. Each activity can be done in 15 minutes, so feel free to do one, or do them all!

Step outside and take your class on a field trip into the wild. There’s plenty of learning to be found outdoors, and who knows what your students will discover?

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