Here at High Trails, we hike and teach our students in three different seasons with all sorts of weather. Whether we have rain, sun, sleet or snow, the weather can either make or break our students’ experiences and our classroom lessons for the day. So how do I teach a quality class when Mother Nature is working against me? Look no further; with a bit of forethought and preparation, you can teach any class in outside inclement weather. Here are five tips on how to teach your classes no matter the conditions.
Enthusiasm and positive attitude is KEY! If you get pumped up about the weather, so will your students! Make sure to show students how fun weather can be. Remember, for some students this is their first experience with inclement weather so it will be easy for them to want to stay inside, but instead allow some freak out time for the students. Go outside and run and play in it! But be sure to use this as a carrot so you can still teach your classes.
Remind students of snow/rain play rules ahead of time, and let them know that just because you may be modifying some classes, all the rules aren’t ‘thrown out the window’. You will still be teaching every class. Also make sure you and your students are properly prepared for the weather. Do you have enough layers? Do your students? Remember, keeping students dry and warm is key to being able to keep students focused on class and having a blast!
Fill up their water bottles with warm water to warm them up! If you’re hiking outside, make sure you aren’t stopping and sitting for longer than 15 minutes with your students. #Pro tip: If you hike, do a movement song/game, or play tag every 15 minutes, then you’ll keep students warm, more focused on class, and you’ll end up compacting the snow to make it a drier and better place for your students to sit! It’s a teacher’s dream!
If your students get wet or cold, bring them inside temporarily to warm them up. You can lead discussions inside to get your students warm, and then do activities outside. But remember, we teach at an OUTDOOR Science School. Experience is part of the learning and fun. If students are equipped for it (check their layers beforehand), you can stay outside and make the day an adventure. Just don’t venture too far from basecamp, in case of wet students or worse weather.
The quality of your classes should not diminish because you have to change your game plan. You can teach good classes inside or outside, warm or cold, wet or dry. You can use the snow outside to build epic snow shelters while talking about outdoor survival, or create a decomposer from snow. How about showing students erosion and weathering with sledding down a hill, or even using snow balls thrown at a tree to show depth perception? Using the weather as a teaching tool and a carrot can help make your class a memorable one!
Teaching in inclement weather can be difficult, especially if you have a group of students who has never experienced conditions other than Southern California sunshine. However, with these five tips you, too, can become a pro in teaching in all sorts of weather. Run, play, and embrace it. You have the opportunity to make your classes some of the most memorable experiences for students!
At High Trails Outdoor Science School, we literally force our instructors to write about elementary outdoor education, teaching outside, learning outside, our dirty classroom (the forest…gosh), environmental science, outdoor science, and all other tree hugging student and kid loving things that keep us engaged, passionate, driven, loving our job, digging our life, and spreading the word to anyone whose attention we can hold for long enough to actually make it through reading this entire sentence. Whew…. www.dirtyclassroom.com