Behymer, Nature in the Classroom

I chose to research ways to bring nature into the classroom because I am interested in incorporating outdoor/environmental education methods into achieving conventional school standards. It is not always an option for kids to attend outdoor school programs, nor is it always ideal for school teachers to physically bring their students outside for lessons. I am interested to learn ways in which nature can be brought into the classroom. I believe that both conventional teaching methods and environmental education methods are important. They should be integrated in order to give students the best opportunities to learn about themselves and the world around them.

The most valuable things I learned in my research of this topic included:
1. More time spent in the natural environment (indoors or outdoors) can reduce symptoms of attention disorders, improve cognitive functioning, while enhancing creativity, socialization, and mental and physical health.
2. Students can test their creativity and build their own outdoor classroom by developing a Classroom Nature Discovery Center.
3. The logistics of how to make outdoor programs work in a school setting are directly related to gaining support from the community.
4. Encouraging children to take risks is vitally important to a child's development of balance. The awareness they gain of their bodies while climbing trees and jumping over rocks as kids will prevent injuries as adults.
5. Educators who share nature with their students are more likely to retain their enthusiasm for teaching.

If you only have time to take a look at one resource from this wiki, start here … It gives a great overview of what this topic is all about, why it works, and what these programs might look like incorporated into the curriculum of various age levels. The clip is a great resource itself, but also provides information on how to obtain additional resources to get such programs implemented in your own classroom. 5/5 for this resource. After watching, you might just find yourself making time to check out the rest of these info nuggets below.

To gain an appreciation for why outdoor learning should be incorporated into a traditional school setting in the first place, watch this video that I score a 5/5 as a resource for my topic. In the video, one of the teachers states that the benefits of getting students interacting with Nature include exercise and promoting curiosity. The Brain Rules that we've been discussing in class stress that both of these elements are essential to the learning process. This video also brings up an interesting and relevant challenge of getting the materials together in order to carry out many of these activities. Teachers must be motivated to take on the extra work of collecting items themselves or reaching out to the community for support.

If that's gotten your attention, then you may want to check out this Audubon website on the topic: Tips for Bringing Nature to the Classroom. It has some great ideas, both simple and complex, for transforming your indoor classroom into one that is conducive to "outdoor learning". It also contains a link to a PDF file with awesome instructions on how to create a Classroom Nature Discovery Center! The ideas are so great, I only wish they'd listed a few more. I give this resource a 4/5.

For more ideas, check out this slideshow presentation. Although it is designed for preschoolers, many of the activities could easily be modified to be implemented at the elementary or middle school levels. The presentation itself is laid out nicely and has some great images to show these programs in action. However, it could be improved upon with a few more words describing what materials would be required for each activity. It gets your brain ticking with ideas to develop on your own, but wouldn't be an easy go-to resource to get an activity together in a time crunch, so I give it a 3/5.

This video takes you through a day's lesson inside an elementary school classroom and how it was implemented with the help of a friendly Macaw named Yako. Although the video quality and musical accompaniment could use some revamping, it's a very practical resource that I give a 4/5.

Not totally convinced that Nature is an important element in the classroom? Read what award-winning environmental education author Richard Louv has to say about adding vitamin "N" to your classroom here: Children & Nature Network. Not only does he describe several great ways to do so, he backs them up with research! Louv scores a 5/5 from me with this one.

Such small steps, planting "seeds" of nature in the classroom, could become something amazing, providing an abundance of learning opportunities and FUN. Here's a 5/5 video slideshow that exemplifies just how amazing.

Ok, so this last one isn't exactly "in the classroom", but it is on the school playground … Plus, it's a really inspiring story and shows just how much Nature can teach, not only our students, but the entire community. It goes beyond curriculum goals, concepts, facts, or figures and teaches about living and learning in the context of our place. A bit long, but it's so wonderful that I give this resource a 5/5.

1 Minute PowerPoint to sum it all up ...