University of Minnesota

Schoolyard Attitude is Key

Posted on Monday, January 1, 2007 at 10:43 am in Teacher Resources

Research has shown that teachers’ attitudes about the schoolyard have an impact on the attitude of students towards the plants and animals in the schoolyard.

Students are naturally curious about their environment, and adults that encourage their interest have a vital impact on student's connection to nature (Malone & Tranter, 2003). Take a moment to think about your attitude towards your schoolyard. If your students were to bing you an insect they found, how would you react? Would you ask to look more closely or scrunch up your nose? Your reaction can have a ctrucial impact on students' attitudes, especially if the students come from urban environments where their contat with nature is infrequent. 

So, rather thn read abou tthe patterns that exist in the naturalo world try taking studnets outside to discover them. There are many lessons available on the web or in our MITC and SEE curricula that utilize the schoolyard as a site to teach about numerous topics. You do not need a picture perfect garden to carry out insect sampling. Read the tips and take your students outside tomorrow!

Insect sampling in the garden can get students to think of the schoolyard as an extension of the classroom. (Photo: MITC)

Follow these tips with your students to encourage interest in the natural world: 

1. Leave your nature phobias behind! If you run screaming across the yard at the site of a bee you’ll exacerbate the fear of nature in your students! Spend time outside to acclimate yourself to the buzz and occasional contact with insects.

2. Respect the natural hesitancy of students towards insects. Use plastic tubs that keep insects contained but visible. 

3. GET EXCITED! Share in the discovery with your students, even if you have seen it 100 times. 

4. Ensure that the rogor and importance of outdoor assignments match or exceed in-class assignments. Traditionally the shcoolyard has been a place to play or gain physical skill, so your content rigorous assignments and attitude will have to break this barrier.

5. Increase the frequency of your outdoor assignments. After a number of important outdoor assignments students will begin to view the outdoors as an extension to the classroom and feel more comfortable outside. 

*Malone & Trantor (2003) School Grounds as sites for Learning: making the most of environmental opportunities, Environmental Education Research, Vol.9 No. 3 

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