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Elementary Curriculum Connections for Learning Outside

Learning outside connects students to nature, helps develop a sense of place, improves health and wellbeing, and improves focus.  It also can easily be done using existing FCPS curriculum for each grade level.  Learning outside supports all Portrait of a Graduate attributes (FCPS intranet site).

 

How can different content areas be connected to outdoor learning through elementary school?  Here are some ways that the existing elementary curriculum can be connected to the natural environment around your school.

 

This is not a definitive list by any means, and we invite you to contact get2green@fcps.edu to share any additional ideas or resources you have for connecting the curriculum with outdoor learning.

 

 

 

| Kindergarten | 1st | 2nd | 3rd | 4th | 5th | 6th | Any Grade |

 

Kindergarten

Content Area

Outdoor Curriculum Connections

Reading
  • Read outside – is it a nice day?  Why not go outside for reading time?

  • Develop knowledge of letter names – walk around the school and look for different letters, upper vs. lowercase letters, and beginning and ending letters in words.

  • Discuss meanings of words – looks for different words on signs on the school grounds and discuss their meaning.

Writing
  • Written observations – write a list of observations made outside using the senses.

  • Active listening – practice listening and responding to others and following directions by doing simple actions like flapping arms like a bird, hopping like a kangaroo, waving arm like an elephant’s trunk, etc.

  • Identify and generate rhyming words – find objects outside and come up with rhyming words.  For example, what rhymes with leaf, tree, flag, or bird?

  • Use words to show direction and location – describe the location of outdoor objects as on, off, in, out, between, etc.

  • Listen to sounds outside and write them out phonetically.  This can be done in a journal specifically for regular nature observations through the seasons.

Mathematics
  • Gather data by counting and tallying – Count out loud or tally objects such as trees, birds, insects, flowers, or clouds.

  • Recognize one more/one less and two more/two less using objects outside.

  • Compare and order objects by size – use leaves, twigs, or rocks to put objects in order by size.

  • Find and identify different shapes outside.

  • Sort and classify different items according to attributes such as shape, color, size, etc.

  • Make picture graphs of types of animals and plants observed.

Science
Social Studies
  • Follow rules

  • Connections to big ideas: physical surroundings effect on a community, rules, change, location, climate, and season.

  • Practice good citizenship – talk about being respectful to the planet.

  • Identify symbols – what symbols are found outside and what do they mean?

Art
  • Make simple sticks to label plants in garden.

  • Make artwork for outside showing the life cycle of a pumpkin and/or apple.

PE
  • Weather permitting, many different forms of physical activity can be conducted outside.

  • Practice following school safety rules and being respectful.


1st Grade

Content Area

Outdoor Curriculum Connections

Reading
  • Read outside – is it a nice day?  Why not go outside for reading time?

  • Ask and answer simple questions – pose simple questions about outside surroundings and have students answer.  Let students pose their own questions to peers as well.

  • Discover unknown words outside and learn their meanings.

Writing
  • Written observations – write labels or lists of observations made outside using the senses.

  • Write a poem or story about nature, birds, or being outside.

  • Write an informative or simple report about going outside that introduces the topic, states an opinion or some facts, and provides a concluding sentence.

  • Create stories, poems, plays, skits, or songs that relate to nature or observations made outside.

  • Use words of time and position to describe objects outside (e.g., first, second, on, under, beside, and over)

Mathematics
  • Measure the length of different objects found outside.

  • Identify models of circles, triangles, squares, and rectangles in the environment.

  • Investigate data collection including counting or tallying objects found outside.  (Conduct a bird survey and create a bar graph of birds that visit certain feeders over a given period of time.)

  • Create repeating and growing patterns using objects such as leaves, twigs, or pebbles.

Science
Social Studies
  • Observe and discuss the state tree/flower – the dogwood (if you have one on your school grounds).

  • Connections to big ideas: citizenship, climate, location, physical surroundings, rules, and volunteering.

  • Observe and discuss climate and seasons.

  • Discuss physical surroundings.

  • Think of ways you could volunteer to help the planet.

  • Construct and interpret a simple map of the school grounds.

  • Compare and contrast objects found outside.

  • Identify and use cardinal directions.

  • Practice good citizenship by being good stewards of the environment.

Art
  • Bird songs – try to learn and identify bird calls of 3-5 common Virginia birds (cardinal, Canada goose, red shouldered or red-tailed hawk, mourning dove, etc.).  Can you sing like a bird?

  • Create water sources for birds, monarchs, and other pollinators (shallow ceramic saucers that can be placed in butterfly garden.)

  • Create a weather dance that shows the different types of weather present in Fairfax County.

PE
  • Weather permitting, many different forms of physical activity can be conducted outside.

  • Exhibit respect for self, others, and the environment.

  • Mimic how different birds and other animals move (walk and fly).


2nd Grade

Content Area

Outdoor Curriculum Connections

Reading
  • Read outside – is it a nice day?  Why not go outside for reading time?

  • Use a dictionary to discover the meaning of new words.

  • Ask and answer simple questions – pose simple questions about outside surroundings and have students answer.  Let students pose their own questions to peers as well.

Writing
  • Written observations – use a writer’s notebook to record observations made outside using the senses.

  • Write an informative or simple report about going outside that introduces the topic, uses facts or opinions, and provides a concluding sentence.

  • Use synonyms and antonyms to describe objects found outside.

Mathematics
  • Use objects found outside to determine if a number is odd or even.

  • Create and solve one-step and two-step addition and subtraction problems using data collected outside.

  • Estimate and measure the length of objects found outside to nearest inch and centimeter.

  • Identify objects found outside whose lengths are greater than or less than a foot and a yard.

  • Identify objects outside with at least one line of symmetry.

  • Organize data to construct and analyze picture graphs, pictographs, or bar graphs of items found outside.

  • Identify, create, and extend repeating and growing patterns using objects found outside.

Science
Social Studies
  • Discuss natural resources.

  • Connections to big ideas: communication, community, environment, good citizenship, and responsibilities.

  • Discuss the environment and how we can be good environmental stewards. Practice good citizenship and stewardship.

  • Construct and explain graphs and simple charts of objects found outside.

Art
  • Create artwork for outside showing life cycle of the Monarch butterfly.

  • Create water sources for birds, monarchs, and other pollinators (shallow ceramic saucers that can be placed in butterfly garden.)

PE
  • Weather permitting, many different forms of physical activity can be conducted outside.


3rd Grade

Content Area

Outdoor Curriculum Connections

Reading
  • Read outside – is it a nice day?  Why not go outside for reading time?

Writing
  • Practice active listening while participating in group discussions about environment or outdoor topics by asking and responding to questions, expressing ideas, disagreeing in a constructive way, and asking for others’ ideas and opinions.

  • Written observations – use a writer’s notebook to record observations made outside using the senses. Include facts, details, examples, and concluding statements.

  • Write a folktale or fairytale story that incorporates items found outside or is based in nature.

  • Write a friendly letter about an experience outside.

  • Write directions to a specific object outside (a specific tree, door, etc.)

  • Use parts of speech such as adjectives, nouns, or pronouns to identify or describe objects found outside.

Mathematics
  • Determine whether an estimate or an exact answer is appropriate when counting things outside (number of clouds in the sky, trees on school grounds, blades of grass, etc.).

  • Find the area and perimeter of something outside (a section of sidewalk or playground, bench, etc.).

  • Construct, read, analyze, and interpret line plots, picture graphs, bar graphs, charts, and tables made from data collected outside.

  • Identify the degree of likelihood of an outcome related to nature using the terms: impossible, unlikely, as likely as, equally likely, likely, or certain. (For example, how likely is it that the sun won’t rise tomorrow?  How likely is it that a tree’s leaves will fall in autumn?)

Science
Social Studies
  • Discuss natural resources.

  • Connections to big ideas: architecture, community service, relationship between environment and culture, rules, and volunteering.

  • Practice good citizenship and environmental stewardship.

Art
  • Create artwork for outside showing life cycle of a ladybug.

  • Create artwork depicting the phases of the moon.

PE
  • Weather permitting, many different forms of physical activity can be conducted outside.


4th Grade

Content Area

Outdoor Curriculum Connections

Reading
  • Read outside – is it a nice day?  Why not go outside for reading time?

  • Identify and use sensory words to describe outside experiences.

Writing
  • Written observations – use a writer’s notebook to record observations made outside using the senses. Include facts, details, examples, and concluding statements.

  • Write an informative or persuasive piece on an environmental topic such as:

    • One of the regions of Virginia (geography/topography, environment, flora/fauna, population, land use, etc.)

    • Virginia regional, state, or national park

    • Career in science that is related to the environment in some way (Environmental Science, Green Chemistry, Climatology, Zoology, Botany, Pharmacology, Materials Science, Entomology, etc.)

    • A species of plant or insect

    • A current environmental issue

Mathematics
  • Estimate and measure length to the nearest eighth inch and to the nearest millimeter using objects found outside.

  • Identify situations outside that represent parallel, perpendicular, and intersecting lines.

  • Collect, organize, display, and interpret data collected outside on bar graphs, line graphs, and line plots.

Science
Social Studies
  • Connections to Virginia’s regions (Coastal Plain/Tidewater, Piedmont, Blue Ridge Mountains, Valley and Ridge, and Appalachian Plateau).

  • Research how the ecosystems in different regions of Virginia have changed since colonial times.

Art
  • Create Most Wanted posters of invasive species at school, neighborhood, or local parks.

  • Create art depicting types of habitats and ecosystems found in Virginia.

PE
  • Weather permitting, many different forms of physical activity can be conducted outside.


5th Grade

Content Area

Outdoor Curriculum Connections

Reading
  • Read outside – is it a nice day?  Why not go outside for reading time?

  • Create age-appropriate media messages related to nature or environment.

Writing
  • Written observations – use a writer’s notebook to write a description or explanation of observations made outside using the senses.

  • Write an informative piece on any special outdoor features on the school grounds (a garden, specific plant, etc.)

  • Write a persuasive piece convincing someone why they should care about the planet or spend more time outside.

Mathematics
  • Estimate and find the perimeter of polygons and the area of squares, rectangles, and right triangles found outside.

  • Classify and measure right, acute, obtuse, and straight angles found outside.

  • Classify triangles spotted outside as right, acute, obtuse, equilateral, scalene, or isosceles.

  • Collect, organize, display, and interpret data outside on charts, tables, stem-and-leaf plots, and line graphs.

  • Describe and find the mean, median, mode, and range of a group of numbers collected outside (for example, from a group of fallen leaves).

Science
Social Studies
  • Discuss natural resources and identify resources on school grounds.

  • Connections to big ideas: climate, interdependence, interrelationships, global awareness.

  • Identify the rights and responsibilities of being a global and environmentally responsible citizen.

Art
  • Use different art materials and tools to create art based on outside experiences.

PE
  • Weather permitting, many different forms of physical activity can be conducted outside.


6th Grade

Content Area

Outdoor Curriculum Connections

Reading
  • Read outside – is it a nice day?  Why not go outside for reading time?

  • Present a convincing argument on a nature or environment-related topic.

Writing
  • Written observations – use a writer’s notebook to write a description or explanation of observations made outside using the senses.

  • Write a poem (haiku, limerick, ballad, free verse, etc.) inspired by being outside.

  • Write a narrative or friendly letter using imagery and figurative language to describe the world around you.

Mathematics
  • Estimate measurements between objects outside using benchmarks.

  • Collect, organize, compare, contrast, and display data outside in circle graphs.

Science
Social Studies
  • Connections to big ideas: exploration; human-environment interaction; and natural, human, and capital resources.

  • Calculate the amount of water one would need to carry and complete a one-mile water walk relay in groups to better appreciate having indoor plumbing and water on-demand.

Art
  • Use different art materials and tools to create art based on outside experiences.

PE
  • Weather permitting, many different forms of physical activity can be conducted outside.


Any Grade

Content Area

Outdoor Curriculum Connections

Reading
  • Read outside – is it a nice day?  Why not go outside for reading time?

Writing
  • Written observations – write labels or lists of observations made outside using the senses.

  • Keep a journal of activities completed or experiences in outdoor spaces.

Mathematics
  • Graph data collected outside (number of different bird species at feeder, number of tree species in a given area, total number of pollinators spotted at pollinator garden, daily weather conditions over a given time period, etc.).

Science
Social Studies
  • Practice good citizenship and environmental stewardship – have a school cleanup day (with your class or the whole school).  Determine what is and is not considered litter.

Art
  • Use different art materials and tools to create art based on outside experiences.

  • Reuse or recycle materials to create a piece of eco-art.

  • Create a song or dance about a plant, animal, or other nature-related topic of your choice.

PE
  • Weather permitting, many different forms of physical activity can be conducted outside.