I have been hearing the same question asked at several Outdoor School style trainings I’ve attended this year. How do we integrate subjects so that we can be outdoors, teach about the environment, foster a love for nature – and still meet standards?
There is an advantage to being an educator for almost 20 years that wasn’t bound by government reporting as I have experienced how hard it would be to stop a child from integrating subjects out of their own curiosity.
Here is a typical morning as a Voyager –
(4th and 5th grade at Neskowin Valley School)
The above is photo of my whiteboard at school from this past Thursday. We started the day with lined paper and a ruler to measure out four sections of 4.25” squares. We were using these to practice our letters to mom that would be copied with sharpie onto a Shrinky Dink sheet. The class organically talked of making four sections and asking how many they needed to use to practice. One of the four sections? Half of the sections? I smiled as they chatted.
We took a break for recess, and on the way back in I had each student pick up to 10 tiny daisies that grow abundantly in our field. I asked the students to use any strategy we have learned to count the petals of their flower. Several counted one by one, one counted by 2’s and one counted by 5’s. (This took quite a bit of time!)
The previous Thursday we were at a park figuring out how many bricks were in a walkway. They were in sections of 4 for about 50 feet. I asked the students to talk me through how we ended up counting them quickly, and they remembered that we looked at the parts, and then grouped them together, finding an amount by multiplying the parts by the groups. (Four parts by 9 groups of ten). I could see the aha looks from over half of the class, and the “I don’t ever want to count a brick looks” from rest .
I had drawn the daisy earlier, and left the paper example on the board. One student recognized that the flower could be sectioned into 90 degree angles, so we could count one right angle, then multiply by four. The students agreed and set to work. (This time they finished in less than a minute.)
We made a list of results and found a range between 9 and 14 petals. (One student used ⅓’s and had too many to make the list.) We found the average of the right angle, and multiplied it by four. One student suggested rounding it up to 15 to make it easier to skip count in his head.
We took out the watercolors and painted daisies until lunch recess.
It only 11:30 in the morning.
Through art and nature projects my students demonstrated knowledge of concepts for our end of year math exam.
- Decimals of the 4.25
- Measure with a ruler
- Fractions ¼,
- Skip Counting
- Angles (Right/90)
- Fractions again, ⅓
- Addition and Subtraction
- Dividing (Averages)
- And Mental Math
Would you like to see how the Math, I mean Art, turned out? I didn’t even ask them about the ratios of beginning size to end size . . . .
I am thankful to work at a school where my School Board and Administrators realize how much learning is happening in a room that may look like Art Chaos.
Create – Explore – Discover.
If you would like to learn about teaching 4th grade math outdoors, I invite you to check out Wild Math Curriculum. She has a new book for fourth grade. I am not an affiliate/reviewer, I am just thankful to have inspiration to use nature to teach/review math concepts.