As we enter our second year of the global pandemic, teachers and parents everywhere are looking for new and creative ways to educate kids outside of a traditional classroom setting. With a mix of in-person, virtual, and hybrid learning plans in place, there is no one-size-fits all approach, and so many factors need to be taken into consideration when drafting lesson plans. Outdoor instruction is preferable for in-person learning given the need for social distancing and mask breaks, and the time outside helps children socialize with one another while burning off some energy. And while safety isn’t a challenge when children are learning remotely, they still need time away from their screens and lack the in-person social piece they so desperately miss. Scheduling regular breaks throughout the day can help boost focus, concentration, and motivation, improve self-regulation, avoid power struggles, and help with anger management.
Whether you’re a teacher looking for outdoor education activities you can enjoy with your students who are learning in-person or online, or a parent on the hunt for ways to get your little ones outside to make virtual learning more manageable, this post has tons of ideas to inspire you. Many of these can be enjoyed independently, as a group, or as a family, and thanks to smartphones and tablets, you may be able to turn these into outdoor group lessons that can be enjoyed with students who are learning in-person and those who are learning virtually.
17 Outdoor Education Activities For All Ages
Nature Scavenger Hunt
If you’re looking for easy outdoor education activities for kids that also let you stretch your legs and soak in some vitamin D, a great no-fuss idea is to create a nature-themed scavenger hunt. We’ve written an entire post on indoor and outdoor scavenger hunts for kids, but if you’re looking for something quick and easy to organize when your kids or students are climbing the walls, write out a list of specific things for them to find while you’re outside. For example, your list could include the following:
- A tree
- A green leaf
- A brown leaf
- A bug
- A feather
- A rock
- A cloud
- An ant
- A bird
- A flower
If you’re in the middle of an outdoor-themed lesson, you can make your list relevant to what you’re learning about. Write your list on a piece of paper, attach it to a clip board, and give your kids a marker so they can cross the items off their list as they find them.
Simple Soil Science | Left Brain Craft Brain
If your kids or students like to play in the mud, and you want to find ways to make the experience a little more educational, this is a great, low-key science experiment both younger and elementary-aged kids can enjoy. You can walk around the neighborhood and collect soil from multiple areas to see if there are any differences between them, and order a little sand and potting soil to mix things up a bit.
Site Word Soccer | Chalk Academy
What a fun way to help kids practice their literacy skills while simultaneously burning off steam and getting a good dose of vitamin D! All you need for this activity is a soccer ball and some pylons. You can also use this idea to create vocabulary soccer, math soccer, and many other variations, making this an activity you can use for all ages and stages!
What Melts In The Sun? | Frugal Fun For Boys And Girls
If you’re looking for easy outdoor education activities for younger kids, this is a great one! All you need is a muffin pan and a bunch of objects that may or may not melt when they become hot. It’s a fun way to get kids engaged in a little outdoor fun, and if you give them a piece of paper and a clipboard, they can keep record of the items that do and do not melt like true scientists!
Oil and Water Summer Experiment | Growing a Jeweled Rose
This is a great experiment your kids can enjoy indoors and outdoors, and all you need is water, food coloring, and a few liquid droppers. It’s a great way to demonstrate why oil and water don’t mix, and keeps kids busy for ages!
Egg Carton Seed Planters
Rescue an egg carton from your recycling bin and create your very own seed planters! All you need is potting soil and seeds, and you and your kids can create your very own garden that you can bring inside once you’re finished. Make sure to label the planters if you are trying to grow more than one thing, and I suggest putting your egg carton into a shallow dish to avoid making a mess when you water your plants!
Exploding Baggies | Kids Activities Blog
If you’re looking for outdoor education activities for kids that involve a little science, this is a fun way to demonstrate the reaction that occurs between vinegar and baking soda. Adding a drop (or 3) of food coloring is the perfect way to bring this experiment to life, and will add a pop of color to your outdoor space when all is said and done!
Bird watching is another great option for those in search of outdoor education activities. National Geographic has a great Kids Bird Guide of North America, and this Beginning Birdwatcher’s Book is a great place for kids to record their sightings.
Egg Drop Challenge | STEAMsational
If you’re looking for outdoor STEM activities that require a little more thought and work for your child/students, this egg drop challenge is a great one. The goal of this challenge is to create a container that will protect an egg, ensuring it won’t break when it’s dropped to the ground from a significant height. This is a great way to encourage kids to put their thinking caps on, and it works as both a group or individual project!
How Do Leaves Breathe? | KC Edventures
Leaves are living parts of a tree, but do they actually breathe? KC Edventures shows you how to discover the inner workings of leaves. By using green leaves you pick from a tree or plant, a glass jar, and a rock, you can see photosynthesis taking place right before your eyes!
Blow frozen bubbles!
We blow a lot of bubbles in the summer months, but last winter we tried blowing FROZEN bubbles, and it was a lot of fun. We first experimented with store-bought bubbles, but had no success, and after doing a quick search on Pinterest, I found an easy recipe for frozen bubbles that works every single time. I have no idea where I originally found the recipe, so I can’t give appropriate credit for it here, but it seems this is the recipe most people use, so give it a try!
Erupting volcanoes are one of my favorite science experiments for kids as you can make them as big or small as you want, and they are super easy to make. We did these with apples when my daughter was little, but last year we made snow volcanoes in the backyard and they were a hit! All I did was add a few scoops of baking soda, dish soap, and food coloring to a plastic water bottle, and then my daughter and I built a snow volcano around it, ensuring the top of the water bottle was unobstructed and positioned at the top. Once we were ready, we poured vinegar into the top of the water bottle and watched as our snow volcano ‘erupted’. It was so much fun and we can’t wait to do it again this year. Don’t have snow in your neck of the woods? Consider making a dirt and leaf volcano instead!
Why Do Pinecones Open Up? | Lemon Lime Adventures
As autumn winds down, pinecones, acorns, and other tree seeds fall to the ground. But why do pinecones open up? This is a fantastic fall outdoor science experiment for kids that are in the older age group of elementary school because you can demonstrate the scientific method and set up different jars for each hypothesis you make.
Exploding Diet Coke and Mentos Experiment
If you haven’t tried to explode Mentos in diet coke, are you even a parent? LOL. This is such a fun experiment to do with kids, and it doesn’t require a lot of setup, which I love. Tinkerlab has all the details, which you can find HERE.
How to Leaves Breathe? | Discover. Learn. Connect.
This activity is super easy to setup, and it’s a great way to visibly teach kids about photosynthesis. The author of the post provides additional resources you can use in your lesson, as well as tips for further explaining photosynthesis and respiration in plants and trees.
Spatial Awareness Nature Shape Puzzle | Little Pine Learners
This activity provides a simple and fun way to help kids work on their spatial awareness using art while enjoying a little time outdoors. You can use so many different materials and create tons of different shapes, making this an activity you can try over and over again.
Teach Tally Marks with Sticks | The Educators’ Spin On It
If you’re looking for outdoor education activities that help kids practice their math skills, this is a fun one! All you need is a set of sticks or twigs, which your kids can collect as they run off some steam before your outdoor math lesson!
Whether you’re a teacher looking for outdoor education activities you can include in your daily lesson plans, or a parent on the hunt for learning activities you can enjoy after school or on weekends, I hope this collection of ideas inspires you!
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