Outdoor learning activities: 57 fun and engaging ideas

The great outdoors can be an incredible tool for enhancing learning for pupils of all age ranges and skill levels. Across any subject or topic, you can make use of nature and the things that make it up.

To help you, we’ve compiled a comprehensive list of outdoor activity ideas spanning subjects including English, maths and science, and more.

 

 

Outdoor English learning activity ideas

 

1. Sound and word throw. Draw a series of circles in the playground and label each of them with a different sound. Shout out a word and ask the pupil to throw a bean bag (or something else you can throw) into the circle that represents the sound that word begins or ends with. (True Aim Education).

2. Grab a letter load. Lay the alphabet out in the playground with physical counters and give the pupil a basket. Shout a word out and challenge them to run to each of the letters that make up the word. Who can collect all the letters and spell out the word the fastest? (Growing Book By Book)

3. Take story writing outside. Give the class a story prompt related to nature and sit outside to write it. The world around them should provide plenty of inspiration for stories to tell. You could even storyboard it out in the playground first (See point 7). (Busy Teachers)

4. Write phonics sounds on ping pong balls and throw them into a water table. Ask the class to go “fishing” for sounds using a pond net. (Hope Education)

5. Make a series of garages with cardboard boxes and label each of them with a phoneme. Give the pupil a toy car and then shout out a word. They then need to drive the car into the correct garage, matching the word and sound it begins with. (Thimble & Twig)

6. Word-based hopscotch. Use chalk to map out a course using words from the same family, e.g. mat, sat, cat, bat etc. Ask pupils hop across the course, they read aloud each word. Use more complicated vocabulary for more advanced children. (123HomeSchool4Me)

7. Use chalk to create an outdoor story map in the playground. Draw out 3-6 boxes and depict a story that has a beginning, middle and end. Use the prompts to retell the story out loud before they come to write it. (Hope Education)

8. Make recipe cards using outdoor materials. Cook up a leaf casserole or mud pie and write up a list of instructions so everyone else knows how to make one too! (Thimble & Twig)

9. A new season is a great opportunity to learn new vocabulary. Print out a vocab list and come back to it every so often, ticking off things they’ve seen that are related to that season. (Twinkl)

10. Stay silent and listen! Ask the class to go out into nature and carefully listen to the sounds outside. Use the phonemes and graphemes collected and make some words. (Hope Education)

11. Head outside and read. The great outdoors can open up the reading opportunities for children, enhancing their experience in a multi-sensory environment. Create a dedicated space for it. (Pentagon Play)

12. Freeze various items in ice, then have the class melt and break into the ice to retrieve the items. As they do, ask them to read out the sounds of that object, and pair them with similar sounding items. (Growing Book By Book)

 

Outdoor maths learning activity ideas

 

13. Take a look at different things in the outdoors, like pinecones, tree stumps and leaves, and look for symmetrical patterns. Discuss it outdoors then take a picture and print them off later, using a mirror to check your theories. (Buggy and Buddy)

14. Use chalk to make a number line, adjusting the numbers involved depending on the age of the class. Hand them some equations and use pebbles or small stones as counters to help them up and down the line. (No Time For Flash Cards)

15. Use and angle-finder and ask pupils to find angles in nature or in the playground. Hand them some chalk and ask them to create their own on the playground, developing their knowledge of angles. (Hope Education)

16. Practice things like number and place value using things found outdoors. Collect a bundle of 10 sticks to represent a whole, and see how 1 can represent a tenth of that. (Play Of The Wild)

17. Make a human clock. Use sticks, chalk or stones to make the outside of a clock. Then ask your class to get in lay down, before stretching their arms and legs to resemble a time of the day. (Educate Outside)

18. Let the class explore the great outdoors armed with a series of questions that need to be answered. For example, find a picnic table – how many legs has it got? How many legs would there be on 5 picnic tables? Increase the difficulty depending on the skill-level of your class. (Third Space Learning)

19. Have a class scavenger hunt where pupils are challenged to collect a certain number of outdoor items. Then use them for multiplication, number bonds or 100 square activities. (Hope Education)

20. Make a meter. Challenge the class to head outdoors and collect items, like sticks, rocks and pinecones, that make up a metre. Get them to estimate it first, then use a measuring stick to check their work. (Play Of The Wild)

21. Maths and physical activity come together in the addition Olympics.

22. Head out to the road and safely conduct a car survey. Give pupils data collection challenges on the types of vehicles that pass by. Once you’ve collected the data, head inside and think of ways to visualise it. (Third Space Learning)

23. Use sticks for measuring. Find sticks that are of different lengths, compare and order the lengths of different sticks, or use real-world measurements to see how long collected sticks are. (Hope Education)

24.Collect a load of items from outdoors, like leaves and stones, then practice data handling by sorting and ordering them. Group leaves by colour or stones by shape. (Creative Star Learning)

 

Outdoor science learning activity ideas

 

25. Create a quick and easy parachute, learning all about gravity and air resistance on the way. Use different materials, like cloth, plastic or paper, and see which can float the longest. (Inspirational Laboratories)

26. Design a big light box. Take a cardboard box and some bottles of water and learn all about reflection with a light box. This activity doubles up nicely as an art project too. (True Aim Education)

27. Learn all about the power of the sun using a pizza box and some foil! Make a DIY solar oven and make some scrumptious in the sun. A great excuse to get outside on a hot day. (Little Bins For Little Hands)

28. Get creative and learn about the power of wind by designing some anemometers. Decorate some cups for an arty twist on this classic project for learning about wind. (Education.com)

29. Study the sun, it’s relation to Earth and how that affects light with a human sundial experiment. Come back every day at a different time and draw the shadow a child projects in the playground. (Scholastic)

30. Learn about temperature changes and insulation with a fun challenge with hot drinks. Make a mug of hot chocolate and leave it outside, coming back to it to read the change in temperature. (Twinkl)

31. To be used during a walk in a park or large outdoor wooded area. Ask the class to guess which way north is. Show them the answer using a compass, then move on and do some walking. Make them guess again once you’ve made enough twists and turns to make it tough again. (Go Science Kids)

32. Experiment with different materials and shapes to testing what floats and what sinks. Take a large container outside filled with water, then make small boats out of different materials (like paper, lollipos, foil, sponge etc). (Primary Science Teaching Trust)

33. Dive into engineering with outdoor LEGO. Build a class water wheel, working to create solutions that stop or flow water in the direction you want it to. (Frugal Fun For Boys and Girls)

34. Introduce the class to the complexities of climate science with an adapted game of dodgeball. Have two teams throw bean bags in an out of a circle as you replicate how greenhouse gases warm the planet. (Learn through Landscapes)

35. Plant your own class garden. Plant some seeds and learn what it takes for a seed to blossom into a flower. Tie in some science learning about the growth of plants and the lifecycle. (Little Bins For Little Hands)

36. Make gigantic bubbles. Those small bottles of bubbles and tiny wands are great for a bit of fun, but why not be a bit more…ambitious? Construct bigger wands and your own solution to see how big your class bubble can be! (Scholastic)

37. Build a water bottle rocket. Learn all about some of the most fundamental laws of physics by building pressure inside a water bottle and watching it fly into the air. (Science Sparks)

 

Outdoor coding and ICT learning activity ideas

 

38. Join the world’s largest treasure hunt with Geocaching. Find exciting trinkets near you using a Geocaching app and learn all about GPS and navigation as you go. (Geocaching)

39. Make your playground a museum for the day. Pick a topic, like how your grandparents used to play, then head online to research ideas. Bring them all together and step back in time as you head into the playground. (Outdoor Classroom Day)

40. Coding hopscotch. Draw out a hopscotch course and have a coder write out algorithms that allow lay out instructions to get to the end of the course. (Teach You Kids Code)

41. Go on a sound hunt. Make a list of sounds you think you might find outdoors, then go and find them. Record the sound so you can analyse it in class later. (Artful Parent)

42. Take a coding robot outside and build it a small course, using items from nature as barriers and obstacles. Programme the robot to make it’s way through the maze. (Hope Education)

43. Use an egg carton to teach algorithm and debugging. Used as a grid, the pupil must create a set of instructions that get a toy figure (like a piece of LEGO) from one side to the other whilst avoiding a set of mines or hot lava rocks along the way. (Teach You Kids Code)

44. Learn how different factors affect the predictability of an event with scooter science (could be substituted for anyone that rolls). Line up at the start line and predict how far a scooter will travel in different scenarios (from different sized hills, with/without pushing etc). (Science Sparks)

45. Practice if/then statements by following the teacher. Example: “If I walk sideways, then you walk forwards”. Make it more difficult as you go in this practicing of branching and conditional statements. (Teach You Kids Code)

46. Make a stop action movie. Use a digital camera or smartphone and take pictures that can later be weaved together into a simple movie. (Hands On As We Grow)

47. Focus on communication by going for an outdoor adventure using walkie talkies. Before you head out, set off some radio codes to help others discover locations or other communications. (iSave A to Z)

 

Other outdoor learning activity ideas

 

48. Create a nature journal for each pupil. Have them take notes, make drawings or paintings or stick in things they’ve found in nature. Use these to inflame their love of the outdoors. (Thimble & Twig)

49. Make a bee home. All you need is a small pot, straws and modelling clay to make the perfect little home for all those friendly bees. Place it in a green part of your school grounds and wait for them to move in. (Hope Education)

50. Discover cartography and your local area with the creation and use of a map. Draw out and label your surroundings, using a compass to direct your path. (Outdoor Classroom Day)

51. Build a bird feeder. Bird feeders are really simple to make, and they can kickstart your other outdoor projects too. Once they’re in place, observe what birds dive in for a tasty treat and kick them off a premade list. (The Spruce Crafts)

52. Adapt the popular game of Bingo and bring it into the outdoors. Come up with your own game or download a template online that’s filled with different ideas. (Twinkl)

53. Bring crafts and painting together by making your own nature paint brushes. Collect pieces of nature, like flowers and leaves, and tie them to small sticks to make all kinds of interesting brush strokes. (Messy Little Monster)

54. Build a cardboard street. Make shops, banks and other buildings you see in your local town and allocate some to the class. Shoppers can use browse the high street and incorporate some maths by buying and selling items. (Outdoor Classroom Day)

55. Use the outdoors for greater physical health in children. Play a game like freeze tig or capture the flag. Get the blood pumping and stretch those legs for all kinds of physical and mental health related benefits. (Marathon Kids)

56. Go on a spot the creature adventure. Find a longlist of birds, butterflies and minibeasts and head out into a local nature reserve. Tick them off as you find them. (Hope Education)

57. Bring the whole class closer together with some simple team building exercises. From tug of war to group a skipping rope challenge, there are plenty of ideas for using the outdoors to create a better bond between classmates. (Unicef Kid Power)

 

<a href="https://blog.hope-education.co.uk/author/william-hinch/" target="_self">William Hinch</a>

William Hinch

Hope Education writer

Will has been writing for Hope Education since July 2020, helping provide teachers with tips, advice and insight that helps them educate the next generation. Away from his educational writing, Will is a typical Yorkshireman; a lover of ale, cricket and tea!

23 February 2021

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