Tips for Bringing Nature to the Classroom
Even when you can't manage to get outdoors with your students, you can do a lot to bring nature inside. Try some of the following ideas to make classroom time more wild and green.
- Nature units. Select unit themes that relate to nature and the environment whenever possible. Topics such as birds, rain forests, animals in the community, climate change, farming, and green design can generate great interest among your students because of their riveting content and real-world focus. At the same time, these topics are inherently interdisciplinary. Your students will be motivated to master required content and skill standards across the disciplines as they learn more about these fascinating subjects.
- Growing things. Fill your classroom with living things. Plants your students have grown from seeds, terrariums, fish tanks, window bird feeders, and ant farms can all provide ready access to nature. You'll be amazed at how much attention your students will pay to a bean plant, a hungry goldfish, or a crawling hermit crab. That attentiveness will set them up for a lifetime of nature observation.
- Greener living. If possible, save energy by opening the shades, blinds, or curtains wide and using natural sunlight instead of electricity to light your room. When appropriate, open the windows for fresh air. Brighten the room with cut flowers or house plants. You'll be surprised at how much more alert kids will be when the atmosphere of their classroom is less artificial and confined.
- Picture this. From early cave dwellers scratching pictures of buffalo on their walls to today's kids choosing sea pictures for their computer wallpaper, people have filled their lives with images from the natural world. You can continue this tradition by creating a classroom that is rich in nature images. Create a bulletin board with pictures and information about wild places in your area. From a list you provide, let each student choose a "totem animal" to be their special symbol for the year. Surround the blackboard with images of local animals. All of these pictures will remind your students daily of the wondrous world they inhabit.
- Create a Classroom Nature Discovery Center. Download our step-by-step plan with important guidines for showing respect for nature as it is being studied. (See PDF link at the bottom of this page.)