The other day I noticed a pair of cardinals outside my window. It was a male and a female. Both had twinges in their beaks, and both were hopping along the branches of a little tree. It was pretty clear they were trying to decide where they were going to build their nest. Almost immediately, my brain shifted into educator mode. How could this be used in a lesson? What would students notice or wonder about the pair? It’s funny how something as simple as birdwatching can ignite the imagination and open the door to future learning.
I know these last couple weeks of the semester can be hectic, but I think it’s worthwhile to spend some time outdoors with our students. Not only can this improve their mental and physical well-being, but it can also provide space for the kind of STEM activities you could never do in a classroom. Here are just a few mini activities that can help you keep student curiosity alive:
- Film Canister Rockets (K-12): Looking for an explosive activity that will get kids excited about STEM? Create your own film canister rockets using nothing but water and alka-seltzer tablets, then prepare to get wet!
- Garbage Garden (K-12): Use the remains of your veggies from dinner to grow a garbage garden to teach kids about where our food comes from!
- Homemade Thermometer (3-8): Using some recycled materials, engineer your own thermometer and learn the science behind temperature and how we measure it.
- Squirrel Feeder (2-12): Everybody loves bird feeders; they see squirrels as nuisances. But squirrels are intelligent and amazing creatures! Try this engineering challenge to foster love and appreciation for sensational squirrels!
Adventure is Out There
We’ve almost made it to the finish line. Summer vacation is just on the horizon, but there is still time to implement the kind of authentic and meaningful learning that fosters student curiosity, creativity, and critical thinking. If you’re looking for more ideas, or just concerned about burnout, consider taking advantage of VAI’s latest free lesson. The AMAYzing Outdoors includes four inquiry-driven mini lessons that will allow students to explore and discover the great outdoors. Each activity can be done in 15 minutes, so feel free to do one, or do them all!
So step outside and take your class on a field trip into the wild green yonder. There’s plenty of learning to be found outdoors, and who knows what your students will discover?
*Image by Hari Krishnan via Wikimedia Commons