Channel spring fever into creative outdoor learning fun

It’s that squirmy, fidgety, gaze-out-the-window time of year. Spring fever strikes grown-ups, too, but this budding, blooming, blue-sky season can definitely make it harder to for kids to sit still and concentrate.

An article in the Pierre (SD) Capital Journal titled “Students Dealing with Spring Fever,” perfectly captures the essence of spring fever in quoting Mike Fugitt, a high school principal, who notes—with near-understatement—that “the season tends to sift students’ attention away from books.” 

On the good news front, recess becomes even more popular with younger kids during these last few weeks of the school year, and outdoor sports get into full swing for older ones. Restless kids are more likely to finally trade some screen time for what many are terming “green time.” Getting active outdoors (for both kids and adults) tends to burn calories, enhance mood, and improve sleep. It also puts a whole new spin on learning.

In a post geared toward homeschool moms but valuable to all parents and teachers, Real Life at Home blogger posted “5 Ways to Combat Spring Fever.” In short, her 5 tips are: “take the school books outside,” “get active as a family,” “go on field trips,” “delve into nature study,” and “hold group classes outdoors.”

Similarly, two years ago, the founder and content creator of the Mess for Less blog posted “25 Outdoor Learning Games,” compiled from a variety of sources, urging that “kids will be jumping, running, throwing and having so much fun that they won’t realize that they are learning about things such as math, reading and science.” The activities include Sight Word Basketball from Coffee Cups and Crayons, which calls for writing out some sight words on the driveway using sidewalk chalk, then calling out a word and challenging kids to dribble to it while also displaying their fanciest moves.

Or consider an extremely easy way for mom or dad to get in some sunshine and a few extra cardio steps, while little Sam or Suzy gets some ABC and observation practice: Take an alphabet walk around the neighborhood. Look for objects that begin with specific letters. Take turns choosing a letter. When your child discovers an object that begins with the letter, praise his or her efforts before choosing the next letter. For an added challenge, keep score to see who finds the most matches

Getting outside in spring is a natural time to develop early STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) skills. True Aim – The Blue Manor, a Christian homeschool blog, last year posted “Top Outdoor Science Activities” culled from multiple sites. For example, Keeping It Simple Crafts shows how to create some “explosive” (but harmless) fun by adding Mentos to Diet Coke. Or get kids charged up by making a Dirt Battery, with direction from Teach Beside Me, using an ice cube tray, galvanized steel screws, copper wire, LED pin lights, and yes, dirt. Rhythms of Play, a blog dedicated to “raising creative, nature-loving kids,” introduces the Human Sundial Shadow Science Experiment, describing it as “a hands-on way for kids to learn about how shadows are created and measure the earth’s rotation.” It’s a good paired/ partnered activity, with one person serving as shadow tracer, and the other, the trace.

On a related note, the Giant Science workbook for grades 2-3, makes for great indoor-outdoor learning. Travel a maze to the eye of a hurricane. Study bugs up close or look inside a seed. Label the parts of a plant or identify mammals by their tracks. Simple experiments such as Condensation on a Can or Fantastic Cloud Maker teach kids the joy of hands-on discovery. Science also gets paired with creativity: “Suppose you have a restaurant just for spiders. What do you serve?” Next up? Decipher the Lizard Code. Along the way, find handy definitions, supplemental reading lists, and fun facts, such as how birds repair their ruffled feathers after a rough flight. Learn at the kitchen table on a rainy day or take it outside and apply the lessons when the sun breaks through.

Put spring fever to good use by heating up clever, energy-burning learning activities.

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