Math Activities for the Outdoor Classroom

An outdoor classroom can be any designated open-air area beyond the indoor school room.
••• kids playing outdoor image by Cherry-Merry from

An outdoor classroom is an open-air area beyond the indoor school room. Any type of subject, including math, can be taught in this natural environment, and every school can create an outdoor classroom. According to the University of Tennessee, national surveys show that children spend little time outdoors observing or interacting with nature. An outdoor classroom provides an opportunity for hands-on math activities that children will enjoy learning.

Getting Started

Any school can construct an outdoor classroom to give children hands-on math activities. Pristine woodland is not necessary for building a feasible outdoor classroom. Any area that is near the school that will benefit the most students can work. Select a committee of teachers, community leaders, parents and administrators to select a site on or off campus. Propose a budget and seek funds to support this project. Be sure to include maintenance and safety ordinances in your outdoor classroom project.

Elementary Students

Young children learn best through tactile, or touch, and kinesthetic, or movement, math activities. Math activities for elementary aged students would include sand and water measuring, counting natural objects, estimating natural objects, observing geometry and shapes in nature, and temperature conversions of an outdoor thermometer. Most math lessons that are learned in a classroom will be enhanced by an outdoor math activity. Even simple gardening can be a math activity of counting seeds, measuring soil, and counting the days before germination and growth.

Middle School Students

Middle school students are transitioning to more abstract concepts in math. An outdoor classroom is a great way to incorporate math activities where children learn by doing. A math hike can teach students about geometry, symmetry and angles. Measuring a tree's shadow can teach children how to estimate its circumference and true height. Spreadsheets and graphing air temperature or plant growth can be a daily math activity for the entire class. Also, collecting natural objects for a craft can be a math activity about geometry and angles.

High School Students

A real hands-on math activity is helping to build the outdoor classroom for the school or another local school. High school students are able to learn and use abstract math concepts, and constructing a outdoor classroom is a real world math problem. Students will learn about estimating building materials, measuring plots of land and constructing from plans. Other math activities in the outdoor classroom for high school would include maintaining the outdoor classroom, planting projects and weather charting.

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