It’s easy to get your students learning outside when the weather’s sunny and warm, isn’t it? But what about when it’s cold and wet? How can you provide outdoor learning activities and experiences for your students in the winter months?
This year, it’s made even harder by the current lockdown restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Schools are closed, trips cancelled, and the vast majority of students are learning from home. Children are stuck in front of screens and desperately missing all the fun and educational benefits of spending time outside in nature.
We’re here with five simple outdoor learning activity ideas you can use to get your students learning outside, whatever the weather. All of them are straightforward and perfect to send home as home outdoor learning activities for parents to use.
Winter Outdoor Learning Activity Ideas
Outdoor learning is best when you have a plan that allows flexibility for children to create their own learning experience. You’ve structured the basic task, but outdoor learning activities are open for your students to go further and in unexpected directions.
When sending outdoor learning activities home, give enough guidance so parents don’t feel lost. Use key questions, tips, and suggestions to help them see other learning possibilities. Don’t assume that every child has an outside space. Encourage them to walk to their local green spaces, woodlands, and parks. Many activities can be done in the smallest of outdoor spots.
Sending home a long list of things to buy will not go down well with busy parents. Each of our outdoor learning activities uses as few resources as possible. Stick to common materials they’re likely to have around the house and give as much notice as possible if there is anything they must buy.
1: Scavenger hunts
Educate children about the plants and animals commonly seen in the colder months. Often children assume that all animals hibernate, and every tree loses its leaves. You can address these common misconceptions by helping them look carefully when outdoors.
- Finding examples of deciduous and evergreen trees
- Making leaf and bark rubbings
- Creating journey sticks
- Collecting fallen leaves and other natural items
- Making drawings of plants and trees
- Creating a bingo card of natural items to find on a walk
- Looking for signs of animal tracks
Check out these great scavenger hunts from the Woodland Trust for more inspiration. They have a range of outdoor learning activity ideas including texture hunts, tiny collections, and winter walks.
2: Den building
Making dens encourages children to plan, solve problems, and is excellent for developing strength and motor skills. If you’re in a rural school or close to a wild space, it’s easy to plan den building activities for your students.
If your school’s in a built-up area, children might not have access to the open spaces, sticks and other natural materials they need to make full-sized shelter. Instead, why not try making smaller dens that shelter a favourite toy?
Den building is a great design and technology outdoor learning activity to inspire instruction writing. Use tee-pee and tent style designs or let your class create their own structures. Children can take photos or draw each step of their den and explain how they built it.
3: Make a bird feeder
Okay, strictly speaking this outdoor learning activity will probably be done inside, but after making a feeder, there are a host of fun outdoor learning activities you can do using it.
- Walking around the garden and local area to source natural materials
- Identifying different birds that come to feed
- Creating tables and graphs about the number of birds that visit
- Experimenting with different foods in the feeder
The CBeebies website has three different designs of bird feeder that are all inexpensive and easy to make. They’d be perfect for Foundation Stage right through to older key stage two children.
4: Stick activities
Who needs video games when you can have so much fun with a stick! There are countless stick-based activities you can send home for students to try.
Our favourite stick activities include:
- Journey sticks: Tie on natural materials found as you walk
- Twig towers: Build the tallest towers using sticks and branches
- Pooh sticks: The classic game of racing sticks in water
- Wind chimes: Tie natural materials into beautiful hangings that clatter in the breeze
Inspire your children using the work of artists such as Andy Goldsworthy or, with younger children, use Stick Man by Julia Donaldson as a great starting point for making their own stick characters and stories.
5: Bug hotels
Creating a wildlife shelter is an opportunity to educate your class about the vital part insects play in our fragile ecosystem. Children quickly pick up a dislike for bugs and other small creatures. Help them see that insects should be treasured, not squashed.
There’s a bug hotel suitable for every outdoor space:
- This grand multi-storey bug shelter would be the perfect challenge for key worker students still in school
- Keep it super-simple with a plastic bottle bug house
- Get inspired with hundreds of designs on Pinterest
Bushcraft school trips as schools reopen
In 2020, children suddenly lost all the wonderful outdoor experiences they’d have on school trips. Their learning happens remotely over computer screens and video calls. As we start 2021, we are looking forward to the hope coronavirus vaccines bring. Things will eventually return to normal.
For many schools, long residential trips are currently out of the question. We need different options to give our children the tremendous benefits of learning outside. That’s why at Wildchild we’ve created one-day bushcraft school trips. If you have suitable grounds, we can even bring the adventure to you.
- A full day of bushcraft activities to gain a deeper understanding of our natural world
- Campfire supper with marshmallows and singing
- Two easy-to-reach locations close to London to avoid long coach trips
- An affordable alternative to longer residentials
Many schools are missing our exciting adventure residentials, so we can add a range of adventurous activities to bushcraft days. Activities like zip wires and high ropes are perfect for team building and problem-solving skills. Your class will love them.
Things feel very different for schools right now. We’ve seen how quickly things can change for you. That’s why we give you the flexibility to change the dates on any bookings affected by future lockdowns.
Whilst schools are closed, it’s easy for all learning to happen on screens and inside homes. At Wildchild, we think that’s a huge missed opportunity for our children. Taking learning outside is easy in the summer, but it’s just as possible in the colder months too. Wrap up warmly and plan activities that will get your class outside and learning from our wonderful natural environment.
At Wildchild, we’re taking bookings for our award-winning school trips. Make an enquiry about our one-day bushcraft school trips and adventure days.
- The impact of Nature deficit disorder and the preventative role schools can play
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- Six reasons why more schools than ever are staying in the UK for their school trip (spoiler alert: it’s not because of Covid!)
- School trips after the pandemic
- 5 winter outdoor learning activities for schools
- 5 ways to get more from your School Bushcraft Trip
- Residential trips to benefit learning
- Perfect Primary School Trip Planning
- How to promote Outdoor Learning in school