Easy Switches: Indoor School Activities that Can Easily Be Done Outdoors

© Alyse Panitz Photography

These are unprecedented times for schools, teachers, and education in general. Many schools are operating exclusively online for the time being, but if your school is offering any in-person classes, you may be encouraged to try to teach outdoors as much as possible. This can feel daunting, especially if you are not someone who has ever taught outside the walls of a traditional classroom. While it will not be possible to perfectly replicate the classroom experience outside, there are many parts of the school day that can easily be adapted to the outdoors. In some cases, they may even be better suited to the al fresco setting! 

First, some overarching advice:

  • In general, activities that require minimal materials are best for outdoors.  
  • If you do need materials, make sure they are portable (clipboard, lightweight whiteboard easel, etc.).
  • Establish ground rules and behavioral expectations for your outdoor classroom, just as you would for your indoor one. 
  • Clearly identify and mark independent work areas for each student, a whole-class gathering space, and play areas. 
  • If possible, create a portable “learning kit” for each student containing essential materials such as pencils, paper, coloring supplies, and any anchor charts or reference materials they will need for a lesson.

School activities that are easy to do outdoors: 

  • Morning Meeting, class meetings, and Closing Circle
  • Read alouds 
  • Independent reading 
  • Book clubs and/or guided reading groups
  • Readers Theater 
  • Sight word and/or vocabulary practice 
  • Independent writing/Writers Workshop  
  • Mental math exercises
  • Number strings 
  • SEL activities/games 
  • PE 
  • Science experiments/investigations/journaling 
  • Service projects 

Want more ideas? Check out my eBook, Teaching Outside: 20 Quick & Easy Outdoor Education Activities for Children. 

What to Look for in an Outdoor Classroom Site

As schools make plans to re-open in the Fall, many are considering taking part or all of their school day outdoors. Here are a few key things to look for when selecting your outdoor classroom site.

Want more ideas? Check out the Teaching Outside ebook for 20 detailed, Common Core-aligned, step-by-step activities that are categorized by grade level, time needed, materials needed, “readiness level,” and subject.