Spending time in nature allows children to focus, think more clearly, exercise their senses and improve their impulses. Of course, nature is also great place to get kids excited about STEM. But with so many advantages of getting outdoors, why are kids spending so little time there?
Many studies report that children spend, on average, less than 30 minutes per day in outdoor play. However, estimates vary greatly and some studies even claim that youth spend as little as four to seven minutes per day outside. That’s crazy!
Give children the outdoor time they deserve by offering exciting outdoor STEM activities. In order to excite youth about STEM learning, I’ve compiled a few ideas to turn outdoor time into an adventure!
Make it a celebration.
Have access to shade, water, tables and set up whatever workspace that’s needed to make outdoor programming easier. Provide equipment that invites children to investigate, ask questions, and experiment.
Encourage youth to ask questions.
“What will happen if we raise this higher?” “What will happen if we get this wet?” “I wonder, will this sink, explode or rot?” A great strategy to help youth reflect and process their surroundings is to develop their own questions to ask each other during a time of reflection.
Explore more than just biology and ecology.
Exploring outdoors can be louder and bigger. Take advantage of the outdoor space by challenging kids with engineering challenges using giant appliance boxes or get them to explore physics while building a playground-sized Rube Goldberg contraption.
Create an engineering experience.
Kids love to build “forts.” Using materials from the environment, allow children to construct special spaces or meeting places. Building spaces allows children to interact with natural elements, as well as learn to negotiate, problem solve, manage resources and work as a team.
Experience all four seasons outside.
Get outdoors during the most comfortable hours of the day. In the summer, schedule your explorations early in the morning or toward the end of the day. Out-of-school time programs that have the option of scheduling at night can make outdoor adventures really fun! In the winter, schedule outdoor learning while it’s the sun is out so that it’s warmer.
Going outdoors is an easy way to get kids excited about STEM, while they also benefit emotionally from the open space and time. What’s keeping you indoors?
Learn more about the benefits of the great outdoors and strategies to engage children in outside settings by checking out Penn State’s Better Kid Care on demand module, “Get Outdoors. Explore.” Find creative ideas on how to explore nature with youth with this list of more than 30 outdoor STEM activities. Learn to engage youth in outdoor programming in a low-income neighborhood by watching Click2Science’s April webinar.