It’s that time of year again. Summer is ending and it’s time for millions of kids across Texas to head back to school. While parents are busy collecting school supplies, and squeezing in last minute summer adventures, teachers are working hard on establishing lesson plans for the year.
There are lots of resources out there for teachers to help them bring nature into the classroom. Texas Children in Nature has tried to collect many of the resources that are focused on educating youth about the animals, aquatic life, ecosystems and plants of Texas. Many of the resources are listed below, but more can be found on the Nature Rocks Texas website located in your region. Nature Rocks Texas websites can be found in- Austin, Caprock, Coastal Bend, North Texas, Pineywoods, and San Antonio. Coming soon to the Rio Grande Valley!
Educators might also be interested in starting a schoolyard habitat or natural play area on their campus this year. There are some good resources for that as well and are listed after the curriculum resources.
Looking for a cool reward to students at the end of the semester or year? Try a School Yard Campout! This is a fun way to bring the community together, engage parents and reward kids for a job well done without breaking the budget with transportation costs.
Lessons and Activities:
Texas Parks and Wildlife – lessons and activities for grades K-12. Each lesson is TEKs aligned and most lessons can be taught indoors or outdoors. http://tpwd.texas.gov/education/resources/resources/lesson-plans
National Wildlife Federation has over 1,000 lesson plans designed to introduce students to life science, ecology, wildlife biology, scientific identification and observation. All lesson plans are aligned to the National Science Education Standards.
The NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research provides a variety of learning and teaching tools designed to engage broad audiences and enhance America’s environmental literacy through the excitement of ocean discovery. In this Educational Materials section, you will find links to hundreds of lesson plans written by teachers for teachers, lessons built around specific ocean exploration expeditions across the globe.
Project WILD is "Wildlife in Learning Design," a Kindergarten - 12th grade environmental and conservation education program emphasizing awareness, appreciation and understanding of wildlife and natural resources. It can be used by classroom teachers, environmental educators, park and nature center personnel, and youth group leaders. It is interdisciplinary and supplementary and can be used to teach basic skills in science, social studies, language arts, math, art, music and physical education. More information at Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.
Looking for science lessons that are focused on aquatic life and ecosystems in Texas instead of some far away place? Texas Aquatic Science is designed for students to learn about the ponds, lakes, marshes, streams, rivers, oceans and wildlife that are in our own communities. It also has lessons about what types of careers are availble to young people in the aquatic science field. This curriculum is free and open to the public to use.
There are tons of Educational Loaner Trunks availble all around the state from Texas Wildlife Association, Texas Parks and Wildlife, National Parks, and other non-profits. These trunks are available for loan to formal and informal educators, and youth leaders. Each trunk contains activities and materials appropriate for multiple age level groups. Contact information for obtaining each trunk is listed on the Texas Parks and Wildlife website.
Texas Wildlife Association offers on-demand webinars about wildlife and conservation. You can view these as an individual or use them in the classroom or in a home school setting.
Nature is a great teacher! Try these fun and easy-to-do activity ideas from Project Learning Tree to connect the children in your life to the outdoors and nature. Suitable for children ages 3 - 15.
School Yard Habitats:
National Wildlife Federation has all sorts of step-by-step resources to guide teachers, administrators or parents through the process of establishing a schoolyard habitat on their campus. http://www.nwf.org/Garden-For-Wildlife/Create/Schoolyards/Resources.aspx
Natural Play Area Guidelines:
Play time is as important as learning time for children. Discover how your school can establish a play area that incorporates natural elements that encourage exploration, cooperation, and creativity. https://www.nwf.org/What-We-Do/Kids-and-Nature/Programs/Nature-Play-Spaces-Guide.aspx
Camping can teach kids important outdoor skills that help build kids self esteem and independence. But not every school can afford the hefty transportation bill associated with taking an entire class camping for a weekend. Why not have a campout on the school campus. http://texaschildreninnature.org/blog-notes/school-yard-campouts