The school days are winding down and the weather is getting warmer. It seems like a perfect time to teach students to appreciate the great outdoors! Here are some of my favorite nature-themed ideas and web resources that can carry students through the last weeks of school and even into the summer.
What's in a name?
Teach your students to classify and identify the plants and animals they see around them. If your school will allow it, think about putting a bird feeder somewhere on your campus. Have students use the website What Bird to identify the name and hear the call of the birds they see. You can even have students create charts and graphs to measure the number of visits by different species and then use that information in a math lesson. If birds aren't your thing, do a similar activity with insects and plants on campus. The eNature Field Guides site makes it easy to identify a plant, insect, or animal by listing its characteristics.
To see even more animals from other habitats, check out the PBS American Field Guide for videos of animals from around the country.
After an afternoon of exploring the schoolyard, have students imagine that they are great explorers on expedition. Share images and text from the Lewis and Clark Field Journals published online by the University of Nebraska, then ask students to write descriptive paragraphs about their plant and animal finds. It's a great way to encourage the use of descriptive adjectives as they share the identifying features of their discoveries.
Grow for a cause
A fun way to carry learning through the summer is by starting plants from seed in the classroom. Even better, you can grow plants for a cause you and your students are interested in supporting. LiveMonarch is a non-profit foundation where you can request a packet of milkweed seeds to plant on your property and help provide habitat and food for monarch butterflies. To help your students learn more about the life cycle of a butterfly, you can even "Adopt a Butterfly" on the site and receive regular emails as your adoptee goes from egg to adult.
In another venture taking place across the country, gardeners are participating in the Plant a Row program to help feed the needy. If you'd like to participate with your students, think about starting a garden on your campus and donating part of the produce to a local food bank. You'll benefit the local community by filling a need while also giving students a chance to learn more about plants and how they grow. Got a great idea for a school-based garden, but lack the funds for seeds? Tomato Bob donates seeds to schools each year - visit the site to fill out an online form describing your project to apply.
How do you use technology to teach students to appreciate the great outdoors? Share your ideas with us!