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S/O-Outdoor Classroom w/Older Kids


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Renai's Digging in the Dirt thread has me thinking...when DD was little, we did the whole outdoor classroom thing. Granted, at the time I didn't think of it as a classroom, but we took everything outside. Finger painting on the easel, reading in the tent, exploring various items at the sand table, chalk, bubbles, ride on toys, stilts, digging in the dirt for worms....

 

Then, it stopped. We sent DD to Kinder. Outside time was limited to afternoons, and slowly afternoon activites ( story time at the library, gymnastics, play dates and, later, homework and afterschooling) took over the afternoons. We pulled DD out at the end of 2nd, started officially HSing at the start of 3rd. We are nearing the end of 4th, and as I said, Renai's thread has me thinking.

 

We haven't recaptured that enjoyment of the outdoors-that relaxed, soak up the sun and the knowledge spirit that marked the early years. Yes, we go to the park or the nature center. Yes, DD goes out to the backyard for breaks and rides the scooter or plays fetch with the dog. But it's not the same. I would love to take the learning outside, I just seem to have forgotten how.

 

Part of me feels that it may just be that DD is 10 and has outgrown the age and stage of an outdoor classroom. She's too old for sand tables and the Step 2 easel and whatnot. But another part of me wants to believe that we can create an outdoor learning space.

 

So,if you made it through that, does anyone want to share ideas about creating a backyard learning environment for older children?

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I don't know so much about things like a sand table and painting outside. But we take our science books outside and read in the swing. We take our math lesson outside and work problems on the picnic table.

or we take our read aloud and go outside and read on the playset.

in my public school high school years some of my best memories are learning in the grass outside the science wing ( my teacher took good classes outside and use a portable whiteboard while we sat in the grass. I am so incredibly grateful that he loved fresh air and sunshine. (it sure beat the h*ll out of the English teacher who kept her room like a cave with this curtains tightly drawn)

it is so windy where I live that we can't always do school outside. But on nice calm days we take out as much as we can.

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Hmmm...some good food for thought here. I think the way to go will be more taking school outside than outdoor classroom, as others have stated. I've been browsing Pinterest and drooling over Hugglepods today. Maybe we will string up a clothesline and hang some sheets/toss down some cushions and read outside this week, since I don't see one of those in my a near future we, lol.

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You can still paint outside, maybe not with the preschool easel, but a real one. Painters still do that these days, you know.  ;)  Do geography projects out of clay and sand and twigs and grass, maybe linked to your literature or history (carve out the mines of Moria from a big clay mountain, or create the lantern forest from Narnia, or the Hanging Gardens of Babylon etc.) Hang a hammock for reading, use The Private Eye to supplement science study. Dig a pond (hole) and see what happens. Make a butterfly garden. What grows best in full sun? How to do you keep rabbits out of your veggies? Who grows better tomatoes, you or your daughter? Get a sketchbook and learn to draw trees and bugs. Make pressed flowers. Tons of things to do with an older kid. Tons. 

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Start keeping a nature journal -- both of you. This book, Keeping a Nature Journal, will provide lots of inspiration.

 

Project Feeder Watch is a nation-wide citizen science project run by Cornell University for tracking bird populations.  Their year is just about over, but you can put up feeders now then join in reporting your backyard birds next fall. They also have a free homeschool curriculum guide with lots of cool projects.  

 

Download a geocaching app onto your smart phone and start geocaching in your neighborhood.

 

Start a garden, whether a vegetable, hummingbird or butterfly garden. Dissect flowers.  Make leaf rubbings. Dry and press flowers then make cool paper with them or do other crafts.  

 

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Here is a great resource for learning to write nature poetry:  http://www.amazon.com/Crow-Doesnt-Need-Shadow-Writing/dp/0879056002

 

I love this one for middle elementary:  http://www.amazon.com/Sunflower-Houses-Inspiration-Garden---Grown-Ups/dp/0761123865/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1427760632&sr=1-1&keywords=sunflower+houses

 

This is a great board game about organic gardening.  Highly recommended:  http://www.educationallearninggames.com/how-to-play-the-garden-game-game-rules.asp

 

This is the most hardcore book around about traditional societies and how they conveyed their knowledge about and experience of nature.  If you get just one thing, get this:  http://www.coyotesguide.com/

 

This is one of the better books of background and experiments either outdoors or using things commonly found outdoors.  It is written to the parent/teacher:  http://www.amazon.com/Creepy-Crawlies-Scientific-Method-Hands-/dp/1555911188/ref=sr_1_154?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1427761267&sr=1-154&keywords=science+experiments+for+kids

 

ETA:  Here is a better link for the Coyote Guide:  http://store.wildernessawareness.org/Coyotes-Guide-Connecting-Nature-Edition/dp/1579940250

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We often do read-alouds outside on a big blanket. And we are in the middle of a Botony unit that includes planning, planting, and maintaining a garden (butterfly/bee garden for DS7 and a pumpkin garden for DS5, plus they will help a bit extra with the yearly veggie garden), so that gets us out quite a bit. We've done our monthly poetry tea as a poetry picnic, and we've taken art on our hikes for some scenic or nature drawing.

 

We honestly find it LESS distracting as yelling toddlers are a part of our life indoor OR out, lol. At least outside the noise spreads out a bit, and the littles are a bit happier.

 

I haven't had much success with math or writing outside, as we don't have a table in our backyard right now that lends itself to this (its a bit tippy, tbh). But if you have a nice patio set I'm not sure why you couldn't spend the whole day out there. It's pretty high on my wish list, because before it got wobbly it was my lifesaver.

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Thanks for starting this thread!  Being outdoors has been on my mind lately!

We've been going for daily walks and occasionally to a nature center, but I haven't gotten to the forest-school point that Chris in VA mentioned.  I did listen to a good podcast about them though -- its episode #2 from Nature Kids Radio.  Like some others have mentioned, when the weather is nice we do school on the front porch.

 

 


This is the most hardcore book around about traditional societies and how they conveyed their knowledge about and experience of nature.  If you get just one thing, get this:  http://www.coyotesguide.com/

 

I recently saw this book mentioned.  It seemed hard to find (even the website's buy link is defunt) and the reviews vague.  I'm glad to get an actual recommendation. 

 

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Thanks for all the suggestions :) Placed a ton of holds with the library (not that we don't every week, lol). The poetry book looks perfect-one of the topics DD asked to cover next year is how to write poetry-why not let her start now? I think I'll look into more citizen science projects, too-I know I've seen them mentioned here before.

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One of the best ways that many kids learn math is through manipulatives or tactile writing. Tactile writing involves writing with their finger in sand, on clay, or in dry dirt, or - if you are a much cooler mom than me - in the mud. The act of feeling wakes up the connection while the act of erasing by wiping smooth allows for a calm restart. This is ideal for outdoor school.

 

Manipulatives can be stones, sticks, jewels that you put in the bottom of vases to catch the sun, marbles. Even better for that age, using separate items for tens/ones/hundreds.

 

Beginning algebra works really well with an empty flower pot. You create an equation like 5 + 2 = 7 out of manipulatives, but then the flower pot is turned upside down over the two items so you cannot see them. Now the equation reads 5+x=7. The goal is for the student to figure out what x is. When they think they know, they can pull up the flower pot and see if they got it right. Start simple and work your way up. You might be surprised at how much they really grasp or how out of the box their thinking can be.

 

Tactile math is one of those things we often drop with kids as they get older as well. It is really a shame because there are so many fun things you can do!

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