Teach Outside
Resources and inspiration for current and aspiring outdoor educators and those interested in a natural learning environment.

Outdoor and Environmental Education, Contra Costa College


Outdoor and Environmental Education

I taught this class at Contra Costa College's Week of the Young Child Conference (Theme: Movement) on April 17, 2010 alongside my coworker, Sinian, and mentee, Betty.




Whatever is on hand that has been collected at work for/with the children. Today, this included:


Books for Reference

Container Lids

Eucalyptus Leaves

Glass Candle Holders

Grass, Reed, and Rush Cuttings, Bundles Tied With String

Grocery Bags



Sticks, Bundles Tied With String

Teach Outside Bumper Stickers

Tree Bark

Twist Ties

Yogurt Containers


A house was created by materials brought onto campus. Swing set included!

Art- creating with natural materials

Dramatic Play/Social Studies- human habitats

Math- logic, reasoning, working in three dimensions

Physical Development- balancing, climbing, kneeling, stacking

Science- physics


Conference Agenda:




Movin' & Groovin' with Vicki Carr-Lee




Childhood Obesity Prevention


Closing Session

Outdoor and Environmental Education Agenda


Heather (Duck's Nest Preschool Garden Teacher)

-10K steps a day, work whole body without thinking about it


-unlock the potential of the world around you


Putting the final touches on my roly-poly corral.

Physical Development- kneeling, gathering, grasping, placing, pulling

Science- caring for animals, ecology, zoology


Betty (Contra Costa County Child Care)

-sensory- manipulate small objects for fine motor development

-the way the body interacts with the environment and its calming effects


Sinian (Duck's Nest Preschool Pre-K Teacher)

-sprouting your mind and being aware of your surroundings

-seeing nature as a supply; what does nature provide?

-aesthetic awareness


Using large pebbles to create a symbol.

Art/Language- symbolism

Physical Development- lifting, placing, stacking

Science- geology



-go for a walk in small groups, see the potential of what is around you,

-list activities you think of

-create something

(Show materials present and instruct students (mostly current teachers) that they are to use if they'll add to their creations.)

(After several minutes, the instructors will walk out to meet with groups and scaffold their learning.)





-tour of creations


Sticks and flowers are used to create a natural centerpiece for a table.

Art- aesthetic appeal, assemblages, using natural materials

Physical Development- gathering, picking, standing objects upright

Science- botany, nutrition

Social Development- celebrations, dining together, working together


Assemblage of flowers, leaves, and sticks. This was the second use of the same materials. The first time around, the students (teachers) created a grid and placed different types of leaves and flowers within the squares.

Art- placement of natural objects

Math- comparing and contrasting, organizing

Physical Development- gathering, picking, placing, walking

Science- biology, botany, taxonomy


These natural objects were turned into a stunning basket that could be lifted by using the handle of braided grasses.

Art- placement of natural objects, making tools

Math- problem-solving

Physical Development- braiding, gathering, lifting, picking, placing, walking, weaving

Science- botany


Assemblage of discarded materials. We talked about the native Contra Costa Collegians, and how their diet includes much junk food and gum, and how they smoke a lot.

Art- placement of found objects

Language- discussion of meaning of materials

Physical Development- gathering, picking, placing, walking

Science- anthropology, reuse


These people were in a plane that dropped! They had to create this house to live in, and it has a driveway to get to it!

Art- creating with natural materials

Dramatic Play/Social Studies- human habitats

Language- storytelling

Math- geometry

Physical Development- balancing, building, gathering, placing, stacking


This group created many small decorations. In this case, they had started out by gathering natural materials, walking along until they found this stump. They decided it looked like they could decorate this dead thing with their objects of beauty.

Art- creating with natural materials, aesthetic values

Math- spiral shapes

Physical Development- balancing, picking, stacking, walking

Science- life cycles


This is the group's second artwork. They noticed that this tree was not offering many signs of life, so decided to create a small bouquet for it.

Art- creating with natural materials, aesthetic values

Physical Development- balancing, gathering, picking, stacking, walking

Science- botany, life cycles

Social Development- caring for others


The group's third artwork involved weaving fresh juniper branches through a cyclone fence and placing flowers at regular intervals. They noted that the juniper should last a long time.

Art- beautifying the urban environment, creating with natural materials, aesthetic values

Math- patterns

Physical Development- gathering, weaving

Science- botany, life cycles


This is the group's last artwork. Interacting with things found in the environment, they placed a dead flower stalk onto a large, round concrete thing, and made eyes with bottle caps, cigarette butts, a seed, and a hair band in the yin and yang symbol.

Art- creating with what is at hand

Physical Development- collecting, placing, walking

Science- anthropology, botany, life cycles


A diseased oak tree offers raw materials. This group of students were inspired to cover graffiti on the tree and began with a piece of gum to stick leaves over the graffiti. From there, they created a wreath from dry weeds, and envisioned this drooping artwork. How will students coming out of the Physical Sciences building feel as they see this work as they exit their building on Monday morning?

Art- aesthetic appreciation, natural materials

Physical Development- bending, entwining, reaching, picking, wrapping

Science- biology, botany, ecology, life cycles

Social Development- community service, teamwork

Everyone seemed to have a good time, lots of sociability, and worked up a sweat walking around, visiting everyone's projects!

By Heather Taylor, teachoutside@gmail.com. You are welcome to share all materials with credit to her.