Classroom Tips

Nature lesson plans and activities (with editable template)

If you are starting or running a nature-based children’s activity business, then you know that sharing your love and passion for the environment with the next generation is one of the most rewarding experiences. Romping around the woods, learning about the natural world, making crafts from nature or recycled materials, and experimenting are all great ways for children to expand their worlds and gain appreciation for the outdoors.

At Sawyer, our goal is to help educators run their children’s activity businesses as seamlessly as they run their classes. To help you with your nature lessons and activities, we rounded up some of our favorite nature art projects and activities for children of all ages. Plus, we’ve created an editable nature lesson plan that you can adapt for your next class!

Nature art projects

Teaching art to children is enjoyable for both the instructor and the students. It’s the perfect way to let loose, be creative, and have fun at the same time. When you get the opportunity to combine art and nature, then children will be able to see the outside world through a new lens. It’s perfect for students who might not feel as interested in nature or science because they will learn while flexing their creative muscles.

Here are some nature art projects to get you started, borrowed from our wonderful Sawyer educators!

  1. Make found art. The first step with this activity is to take a walk outside and allow your students to pick up natural items that they want to incorporate into their pieces. Think: flowers, pinecones, pine needles, pebbles, sand, and more. As you walk, teach your students about what they are seeing and the environment around them. Then, return to the classroom and ask them to create art pieces that feature what they found.
  2. DIY glitter. Traditional glitter is made of plastic and is not very friendly to the environment. Instead, work with your students to make environmentally friendly glitter! All you need to do is collect multicolored flowers and then cut them up into tiny pieces. Your students can use their new eco-friendly glitter the way they would use regular glitter, but with the knowledge that they are helping, not hurting, the environment.
  3. Twig picture frames. Another fun nature art project for students of all ages: Use sticks and twigs to make a picture frame. Just attach 4 similar shaped sticks together and then take a Polaroid of each student and put the picture in the middle. You can use yarn or magnets so they can hang or stick the picture frame to the fridge when they go home.
Photo of nature lesson plans

Nature lessons for preschoolers

With little ones, the goal of nature activities is to get them comfortable outside and interested in the environment. You probably won’t be able to go into too much depth on complicated topics like the water cycle or photosynthesis. Instead, focus on having fun outdoors, exploring with all of their senses, and getting their hands dirty!

Try one of these nature lessons for preschoolers for your next class session.

  1. Backyard or park scavenger hunt. With preschoolers, you want to make sure you don’t expand the radius of their exploration too much because you need to keep an eye on them at all times. Therefore, work as a team with your little ones to find certain items for a scavenger hunt. For example, ask them to find 5 different colored flowers, 3 pinecones, 4 smooth rocks, and more. They will get practice with counting, sensations, collaboration, and so much more!
  2. Bug observation. Many preschoolers love bugs! Harness that natural interest (get it!) and take your little ones out to find and observe different bugs out in the world. You can pepper your observations with knowledge about the different insects so your students will learn at the same time. You’ll be surprised by how much they retain!
  3. Start a garden. There are so many benefits of gardening with kids, especially when they start young. According to Michigan State University, young children who help out in a garden can practice both fine and gross motor skills as well as body management and object control. They’ll also gain important knowledge about plants and firsthand look at their lifecycle. Plus, parents will love that their children are learning life skills and growing their appreciation for fruits and vegetables.

Whether your lessons are small or large, we always recommend writing out a lesson plan so that you can keep track of your goals, materials needed, and activities planned. To help you stay organized, we’ve created an editable nature lesson plan that you can use for your next class! 

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Nature activities for elementary students

With older children, you can run nature activities that are more scientific and complex. With extracurricular activities, students get the opportunity to explore and learn more on their own terms than in their school science classroom. Therefore, feel free to have fun with your nature activities for elementary students and watch as their passions grow.

  1. Dye flowers. This is a great science lesson and art project rolled into one! Cut the end of the stems from 3 white carnations. Then, fill 3 different glasses with water and place 3 drops of food coloring in each one. Place the carnations in the glasses and observe how the colored water is absorbed into their petals. It takes at minimum an hour to see any change, but after a day or more, it is even more visible.
  2. Track the local animal life. If you have your nature activities in the same location each week or day, you and your students can work to track and report the local animal life. First, let them explore and write down everything that they see and hear (remind them not to touch or move any animal life that they find). Then, each time you meet, they can go out and see if the animals are in the same place or if they have moved. Your students will learn more about their natural neighbors and become more observant along the way.
  3. Explore with more than just sight. Challenge your students to close their eyes and use their other senses in nature. What do they smell, feel, and hear? (Remind them not to taste anything!) This is a great way to get them thinking about the outside world in a new way. Plus, we guarantee your students will have fun and discover something new!
Photo of nature activities

We hope that this guide has provided inspiration for your nature lesson plans and activities. If you are a children’s nature program and you are looking for guidance on managing and running your business, the team at Sawyer is here to help.

With our suite of tools, like custom forms to record allergies and t-shirt sizes, flexible payment options like gift cards and installment plans, and seamless scheduling and registration on any device, Sawyer saves business owners 28 hours per month. If you are ready to spend less time on admin and more time doing more of what you love, see how Sawyer can help with a free trial or demo.

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