• When running a specific activity with the kids set official boundaries with cones or flags or landmarks. Younger children might wander while older children might take advantage of the space if boundries are not clearly defined - Natalie Elkins (DNR)
  • Have a clear signal for getting everyone's attention and gathering. Practice it before you go outside.
  • Explain to the group what to do if they get separated from each other.
  • Be ready for any kind of weather.  Making parents and students aware of clothing requirements ahead of time can help students dress appropriately.
  • Always be sure to bring a first aid kit and be aware of any allergies or medication requirements that students might have.
  • Keep young children in sight at all times. Have all the children wear bright colors and have everyone, including you, wear a whistle.
  • Find poisonous plants and hazardous items such as poison ivy or stinging nettles.  Remove from the area but, if comfortable, save an example of each (in a far removed area) that you can show to the children as an example of what to avoid while on their own - Natalie Elkins (DNR)
  • Emergency safety is very important. Make certain that you have a plan for getting help in an emergency.  Ae cell phones available and fully operational when conducting your outdoor educational plan? Is someone expecting you at a certain time? Could you signal for help if you need to?  Communicate your emergency plan to other chaperones so they too are aware of emergency procedure.
  • If you are going to be gone for a long period of time, be sure to bring snacks and water so that no one becomes dehydrated.
  • Have all of the students wear a matching color or sticker so they are easily identifiable.
  • Buddy system; every student has a “buddy” they keep track of.
  • Use wristbands on small children in case they get lost from the group.
  • Use nametags for students so adult chaperones can identify the student and become familiar with the children they are responsible for.
  • When you talk to students, try to reduce the distance between your mouth and their ears. Unless you are working with older students, this means kneeling down when talking. It keeps your voice from being lost in the wind and gives you a better perspective on what the world looks like from their view.
  • Watch the body language of the group AND of each child. Sometimes the quiet ones are scared and do not want to say it, so take the time acknowledge fears aloud.  For instance we are fortunate to have only 1 venomous snake to watch out for, the Massasauga Rattlesnake. There are only 2 venomous spiders that are considered to be harmful to humans, the Northern Black Widow and the Brown Recluse. If bitten, injuries can be treated with immediate medical attention. These species like to remain hidden and avoid interaction, so chances are we will not come in contact with any.  The quiet children may also have intriguing questions to ask, so make a point to call on different kids occasionally to keep them engaged.- Natalie Elkins (DNR)
  • Let your students know what to expect. A long car ride to get there? Will there be playgrounds? Swimming? The more they know and are prepared, the less hassle you'll have later.
  • ​If students move something in nature, remind them to put it back the way they found it.
  • Bring an attendance list of students that are on the trip, and hand out to chaperones.  This reminds you if any students were absent for the day and who is present for the day.  Also, make sure students are aware of who chaperones are.
  • Confirm arrival and departure time with someone at the school, so they know when to expect you.
  • Create a worksheet with specific things you want students to look for while they are outside.  While outside, sending a clipboard and a worksheet with each student or chaperone to work on will keep the students engaged about their surroundings. The worksheet can include specific things to look for, observations, and questions for students to answer.​
  • At first you may fear having unfocused students and not knowing how to reclaim their attention. Many teachers use a prop bag packed with focusing games (scavenger hunts), natural artifacts (seeds, leaves, antlers, feathers), tools (binoculars), and others aids to keep students engaged.
  • Before taking you students outside, visit the area and become familiar with it. Plan where your students will be during different parts of the lesson and what areas to avoid.
  • The size of your group should depend on your comfort level, the nature of the site, your field-trip objectives. Some people enjoy larger groups of 20 to 25 while others prefer groups to 10 to 15
  • Bringing additional chaperones to assist with your outdoor adventure can be helpful, and most schools have policies that require a certain ratio of children to adults. Make chaperones aware of what you expect from them and of the children.  Remember: chaperones aren't limited to family members of students.  Local outdoor accredited personnel may be available as support staff, and may also have experience teaching outdoor education. 
  • While outdoors, relay to students how different plants and animals are connected with each other in the ecosystem you are studying (example: Being able to identify different plant and animal species by physical features or by scientific name) and how they are connected to each other along with the landscape/surrounding environment). ​
  • Observe how things outdoors such as plants, animals, rocks are either same or different. You don't need to be a scientist and know fancy names for things. Just let your children discover how things can be the same or different.  Don't be afraid to acknowledge other elements that are not a part of the lesson plan while outdoors. With outdoor education there is always a new teachable moment! ​
  • Don't overlook the most obvious opportunities to get outdoors! Ask yourself, "Is this something I can teach outside?" Any subject or lesson can be converted for use in the outdoors​.  Art can be taken outside to improve observation skills and to showcase new material. ELA essays, poetry, and debates can be center around outdoor, natural or environmental topics. Water and soil samples lend themselves to chemistry. Insect collections are great for classification and adaption lessons. Study plots can be used to count and to estimate the number of living things in an area for simple and more complicated math problems. Social Studies can be covered through current news in a community about land use, wildlife interaction or proposed park/zoo/community center planning. - Natalie Elkins (DNR)
Early Childhood

  • Before going outside with your students, get to know your area's outdoor spaces on your own.  Become familiar with plants and animals within the surroundings. This can be done by self-evaluation or by asking someone who is familiar with nature to identify any potential dangers.​
  • Serious hazards should be removed (examples may include broken glass, poison ivy, etc.)
  • Lectures should be shortened (approx.5 minutes) and engage students. A great way of doing this is asking students their feelings/ comments about the topic in a non-judgmental forum - Natalie Elkins (DNR)​
  • Having spare clothing to supplement a child's clothing can be helpful if a child comes unprepared.​
  • Reading a book about a topic as an introduction is excellent. Make sure to only read 5-10 minutes; even if that means you don't finish a book. Think of sound effects or exclamations you can encourage the children to join you in making. - Natalie Elkins (DNR)
  • The first time out with children, do something simple. Let them learn their boundaries.
  • Music and movement are key learning tools for this age group, so imitate animal movements and sounds. Google for song ideas set to well known tunes about the natural world (or take a PLT Early Learner or Growing Up WILD workshop to get many examples) - Natalie Elkins (DNR)
  • Establish a consistent schedule for going outside.
  • Make sure you inform parents that their children WILL get dirty, and that they must be dressed accordingly.
  • When guiding a hike through an area they may consider "boring," give the kids something to do on the way such as following your lead (marching, skipping, stalking, tip toeing, looking through binoculars-made of paper towel rolls), searching for yellow flowers, looking for a squirrel, listening for a frog or insect etc. This will keep them attentive. - Natalie Elkins (DNR)
  • Let students play and explore. Make sure to accompany this idea with a topic that is related to the lesson being taught.
  • Sometimes all it takes is whispering a sentence or two, while on one knee at their eye level, to regain a young groups' attention. - Natalie Elkins (DNR)

Elementary

  • Remind students that being outdoors does not mean it is recess. Underline the fact that this outdoor time is a part of a regular classroom environment.​
  • Lectures should be kept to 20 minutes at a time. These lectures should involve the children by asking their feelings/comments about the topic in a non-judgmental forum - Natalie Elkins (DNR)​
  • Student notebooks act as documentation of their involvement. Teachers can use this as a resource to help gauge the success of the outdoor lesson.​
  • Creating an outdoor classroom by laying down sheets or blankets helps students translate that this time outdoors is a part of regular classroom hours. It also creates an outlined boundary for students.​
  • Challenge the children to use their senses. Look for colors, textures and smells (example: count the colors in a rock, taking a piece of paper and a crayon and do rubbings on different tree bark etc.)
  • Get as much support as you can. This includes local Department of Natural Resources staff, a nature center, community speakers, parents, and other teachers.​

Secondary

  • Train your students to be in the forest/swamp/field/school yard. It takes some time to build respect and trust.
  • Every excursion should have a well-defined purpose and well-defined expected outcomes. Having said that, the purpose of the excursion does not necessarily have to fit with the topic you are studying. Sometimes, surprises open the doors for discovery!
  • Make sure students have the necessary clothing for the environment and the weather.
  • Be motivated for the work at hand. Your passion for the topic will build passion in your students.
  • Establish a central meeting place for each event.
  • Use a signal to meet at the rally point.
  • Make use of field journals so that the students can record what they see and discover.
  • Make accommodations for less capable students. Arrange for a paraprofessional to escort students with special needs.
  • Local service learning projects are a great way to tie classroom lessons in many subjects to the students' community. Teachers and students can collaborate to build a project that will improve the student's knowledge, and even resume (examples: clean-up projects; creating a new trail at the school or community park; spending time with elementary school children to help them build a bird feeder or rain garden etc.) - Natalie Elkins (DNR)