"Today my belief in an integrated learning experience for my students remains resolute. I am confident that such an experience can be developed within the context of the ever-shifting state and federal learning standards. I am convinced that nature study is the child-centered program that can integrate critical thinking skills in science, mathematics, and language arts." - Laurie rubin
In Laurie Rubin's book To Look Closely: Science and Literacy in the Natural World, Rubin reflects on what she learned by taking her second grade students outdoors for weekly stream study excursions. Rubin taught first and second grade in Ithaca, New York for 23 years. In To Look Closely, Rubin chronicles a year of experiences at the stream. She shares strategies for teaching outdoors, and discusses how to integrate the skills students acquire through nature study into every subject.
The Children & Nature Network published Thriving Through Nature: Fostering Children's Executive Function Skills. The 2015 report, by Chiara D'Amore, describes how time in nature from infancy through adolescence helps children to develop executive function skills. These skills include the ability to reason, plan, remember, use self-control and solve problems. Pages 10-12 provide a variety of nature-based activities that teachers of K-8 students may introduce outdoors. The report notes the recommendations of writer and educator David Sobel that "early childhood activities that foster a connection with the natural world should center on enhancing the developmental tendency toward empathy with nature, in middle childhood exploration should take precedence, and in adolescence social action should assume a more central role." Sobel explains these three stages of bonding with the earth in his article "Beyond Ecophobia" in Yes! Magazine.
The Pennsylvania Land Trust Association produced the 2014 publication Nature Play: Nurturing Children and Strengthening Conservation Through Connections to the Land. Authors Ken Finch and Andrew M. Loza explain how nature play enhances children's cognitive and emotional development. On pages 30 and 31, they provide lists of age-specific nature-related activities for children. Finch and Loza explain the connection between immersion in nature during childhood and the decision as an adult to serve as a steward of the natural world. They discuss the importance of unstructured nature play, along with the design of natural playscapes. The publication also addresses safety and liability concerns.
Finch, Ken, and Andrew M. Loza. Nature Play: Nurturing Children and Strengthening Conservation Through Connections to the Land. Harrisburg: Pennsylvania Land Trust Association, 2014. Copyright 2014 Pennsylvania Land Trust Association.
The David Suzuki Foundation of Vancouver, British Columbia published the Nature as a Classroom guide for teachers in April 2015. The Foundation developed the guide after holding a series of teacher workshops, in which teachers discussed strategies for teaching outdoors and brainstormed ways to reduce barriers to taking students outside.
The Children & Nature Network's Natural Teacher Network produced the eGuide 10 x 10: Tools for Teaching, which offers tools and resources to help teachers connect students to nature. The guide offers ten reasons to take students outside and provides links to original research and studies that support each statement. It also provides ten examples of nature-centric programs at schools in the U.S. and Canada. Additionally, the guide provides a list of organizations that support nature-based learning.
Cornell advocates the "Flow Learning™ sequence." He discusses Flow Learning in the video above. Stage one involves activities that awaken enthusiasm, with the goal of fostering playfulness and alertness. Stage two involves activities that focus attention. Receptivity is the goal of these activities. Stage three offers direct experience to participants, with activities that promote communing with nature. And, in stage four, participants share inspiration by engaging in activities that promote idealism. Cornell provides the age level for each of his activities. The “Sound Map” activity, for instance, helps to focus the attention of children (and adults) ages 5 and older.
Sharing Nature® Worldwide. "Flow Learning." Online video clip. Sharing Nature® Worldwide. Sharing Nature® Worldwide, 2015. Web. 22 Feb. 2016. Used with permission of Sharing Nature® Worldwide.
This collection of resources provides inspiration and strategies for teachers to support outdoor learning opportunities.