Science Outside the Classroom
Allow your students to discover that science is everywhere by holding your science lesson outside the classroom. As children are naturally interested in their environment, lessons outside the classroom provide an excellent opportunity to maximise learning through student motivation and interest.
Science is Everywhere!
As with most aspects of teaching, planning is the key. Usually the amount of planning and forward thinking determines the degree of success of any lesson or task.
- Take note of the weather forecast for the day and visit the site beforehand to ensure that examples of what is being observed are actually there.
- Request the aid of helpers. Ensure that parents/helpers understand the purpose of the lesson and know your expectations of student behaviour.
- Save time and commotion by organising the students into their groups prior to the lesson. If enough helpers are available, allocate one helper per group.
- Organise to take a digital camera with you. Photographs can be included in the student’s assessment portfolios.
- If materials are required, organise the correct amount of each into trays. Clipboards or hardcover books, pencils and recording sheets can also be included in these trays. (Note: For early learners, the teacher can be in charge of the equipment until it is needed to prevent students becoming preoccupied and materials becoming lost.)
Ensure that the students understand the purpose of the task. Sometimes one activity can encompass a number of objectives, such as developing observational skills, reinforcing a concept and creating curiosity.
- Depending on the area, give students a few minutes of controlled exploration to overcome the novelty factor of the environment and allow them to concentrate on the task at hand.
- Guide the task by preparing a list of stimulating questions to ask and recording sheets to use.
- Consider safety issues. Close adult supervision is required when students are outside the classroom. Ensure all students are visible at all times.
If students understand the instructions, are organised and focused on the task, optimum learning and enjoyment will follow.
Ensure students have the opportunity to talk about and reflect on their experiences outside the classroom. A follow-up lesson or ‘next day’ discussion will reinforce what they have seen and discovered and allow them to consolidate their ideas.
Suggested science activities for outside the classroom
- Sit outside the classroom listening quietly for sounds within the school grounds and beyond. Students can make inferences about what is making the sound.
- Investigate how snails move. Students can observe the foot and the trail left behind the path of the snail.
- Blow bubbles! Investigate the spectrum of colours that appear and how the soap and water mix together to make a ‘skin’.
- Explore ways to measure time. Students can see how many times they can bounce a ball, do star jumps, skip to the corner of the playground and run up and down steps in a specified measure of time.
- Record the ‘path’ of the sun by making a shadow clock using a pencil, modelling clay and piece of white paper. (Ensure students understand that it is the earth that is moving and not the sun.)
- Experience a windy day by holding up a handkerchief or tea towel. Make a wind catcher using a paper plate, coloured crepe paper streamers and a stapler.
- Discover the amount of ‘mini-beasts’ that inhabit an area by placing a hoop on grass. Students can record what they see, living and non-living, and sketch their favourite mini-beast.
- Walk around the school grounds and ask students to name what they see and decide if it is part of the natural or built environment. Include things like soil and moisture.
- Assign students to a tree. They draw what visits the tree, listen to the sounds of the tree, study the leaves of the tree and make a rubbing of its bark.