School forest visit

photo of student in School ForestIf you're new to teaching outside, you might feel a little unsure about venturing into the great outdoors with your students.  It's worth it-- bringing your students outside helps to increase their motivation, excitement, and learning abilities. You don't need to know everything to go outside either.  Not knowing presents a great opportunity for everyone to learn new things and inspire curiosity.

Going to the forest without students
It's important to walk the site without students first. Look for interesting features, places to sit or work, and possible hazards (poison ivy, holes, rough terrain, etc.).  If someone at your school has visited the site before or uses it often, ask them to go along with you. They probably have a good idea of ideal student spots and can point things out.  It's also a good idea to bring along a trash bag if you suspect you'll return with some souvenirs.

Bringing students to the forest
On your first trip into your School Forest with your class, what you accomplish will depend on your students. You might just walk the trails to familiarize students through a few sensory activities. Or you might complete a higher level math lesson or a whole science experiment.   Adjust your expectations according to your students' abilities and behavior.  It's all right to start small and build up to longer trips and lessons as comfort builds, but it might not be necessary.  The first few visits will allow you to identify any potential problems and opportunities for future School Forest visits, such as who came properly dressed, who is lagging behind, who is interested in bugs, or what parts of the site students are most interested in.

Read one MN School Forest teacher's story

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