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An outdoor classroom is an exciting way to connect the learning of science to nature and the environment. Many school grounds include gardens, grassy areas, courtyards, and wooded areas. Some even have nearby streams or creeks. These are built-in laboratories for inquiry! In the authors’ third-grade classroom, they align and integrate language-arts process skills with science-process skills through a curriculum based on nature study in their outdoor classroom. This article takes the reader through their basic format in a science unit from skill-based reading about nature to conducting outdoor inquiries to writing about nature learning. They provide three examples of units that they have completed following this model in their outdoor classroom: seeds, butterflies, and stream health.
A selection from Science and Children—February 2011
I found this article to be quite informative. Tatarchuk and Eick provided creative ways to integrate science and language arts. I like how they provided a chart to show how similar processing terms are used in both science and language arts and how they used writing to connect the two. A writing rubric, graphic organizer, and an author's purpose assignment was used to connect the writing. I would be interested in using these tools in my own classroom. They would all be helpful in guiding the students when making inquiries, as well as useful for the teacher when assessing the writing and observations. The charts provided would be very useful for any teacher looking to connect science inquiry and reading skills. Research provided by the authors confirmed the necessity of connecting reading, science, and ecology skills. What a great way to integrate and connect skills from across the curriculum!
Shawna Tatarchuk, a third-grade teacher at Yarbrough Elementary School, explores the how she uses an integrated format by having students first read a science article or story for interest and background information. They then take their conceptual knowledge and apply it to their outdoor classroom of trails, garden and creek.
Read this article to learn more about her units and methods.
Arlene Jurewicz Leighton
Outdoor integration is geared towards stimulating and exciting children to extend their inquiry based learning skills in science through use of the outdoors. Three different examples were given in this article about how the outdoors was properly utilized throughout a school year, including studying seeds, butterflies and stream health.
Taking student’s outdoors in a controlled, educational based setting (not playground/ recess style) may lead to many positive outcomes, such as creating an opportunity to scaffold on their background knowledge of a subject and creating knowledge from their natural curiosity. The goal, which is the goal of most classrooms, is to connect students to what they are doing. As Tatarchuk and Eick stated, “We hope to also connect many students Taking student’s outdoors in a controlled, educational based setting (not playground/ recess style) may lead to many positive outcomes, such as creating an opportunity to scaffold on their background knowledge of a subject and creating knowledge from their natural curiosity. The goal, which is the goal of most classrooms, is to connect students to what they are doing. As Tatarchuk and Eick stated, “We hope to also connect many students to the outdoors and nature as a place for personal exploration and appreciation” (Tatarchuk and Eick, 2011, pg 35). Since this may be the first time students are set free to explore real-world science connections, they need guiding while they do this. The use of graphic organizers was beautifully used in this article, and they should be encouraged for any lesson and activity to keep students on task. There is no doubt that their use may push the envelope in terms of digging information out of a student, and will undoubtedly create an even larger interest in their studies.
This article introduces ways to use an outdoor space as the basis for inquiry in a science lesson. The author says that first, students are introduced to the topic by reading a science article or story to get them interested and gain background knowledge on the topic. Then students are asked to make observations outdoors to apply the concepts they read about to our natural world. I like the idea of using our natural surroundings as a basis for inquiry, because that is what real scientists do, and it makes the scientific experience authentic. However, I wish that the process was reversed. If we are truly teaching through inquiry-based learning, the students should acquire the knowledge independently through observations and communication with peers. Then, once they have gained the information, they may solidify knowledge and correct any misconceptions through a scientific article or teacher support. I liked the ideas presented in this article about how to use a garden space for inquiry learning; however, the format I feel could use improvement. Of course, ideas are always subject to what works best in your own classroom!