Incorporate Math and Science with an Outdoor Camping Day Event

By Victoria Jasztal on May 12, 2010

In my parting weeks as your grades 3-5 teacher advisor, I want to advise something important to all teachers: DON’T EVER BE AFRAID TO TAKE RISKS. Last year, I envisioned having a day of camping with my fourth grade students on our school’s nature trail. Today, it became a reality as my students participated in the first outdoor camping event I ever hosted. I am grateful I took the risk. Read on to see the ideas I came up with for this year's event.

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Of course, I did not expect perfection, and there were glitches from the very beginning. I planned several different activities that incorporated math and science concepts, making predictions, metric measurement, unconventional measurements, adhesion, cohesion, and diameter. The class also sewed pillows, participated in a traditional three-legged race, embarked on a nature walk where they had a check-off list and collected items that were interesting to them, played kickball, and either read books or played games in two tents that were set up. Three families came to assist, and though everything was planned in advance, it was still a different kind of experience than my students ever had at school.

When I came up with the idea of camping day, I thought about what I wished to experience growing up. I always thought it would be neat to learn outside, though I never had the opportunity. Also, there are so many outdoor activities that incorporate math, science, and teamwork. If you want to try this type of event with your students, here are some ideas I used.

  • Banana Rama: Students measure different objects on the playground with bananas: lengths, perimeters, and heights. They split into groups of 2-4.
  • Water container relay: In this competition, the class splits into two groups. In each group, students take turns placing a one liter soda bottle on their chest, one at a time. Students race with cups filled with water to pour into the soda bottle (as much as they can without spilling). The group that fills up the container with the most liquid wins. The students measure the liquid to find out exactly how many milliliters of liquid they were able to pour into the container.
  • Bubbles with the largest diameter: Students blow bubbles on a Styrofoam plate surface and then measure the diameters of their bubbles in centimeters.
  • Discus Throw: Students toss a discus (Frisbee) and predict how many centimeters their Frisbee soared before measuring the actual distance.
  • Who can squeeze the most liquid: This activity, from Mini-Metric Olympics, is where students will dip a sponge in a container and then squeeze it as much as possible into a second container to determine the amount of liquid in milliliters they were able to squeeze.   
  • Water Bridges/Water on a String Activity: This activity from PBS Zoom encourages students to get water to travel down the length of a string from one cup to another cup on an angle. This activity reviews adhesion and cohesion. 
  • Making Pillows: Sewing does not cover any standards, but it is a life skill. I purchased several different types of fabric for $1.00 each as well as fiberfill for this activity. 

What went well:

  • Parent involvement makes a tremendous difference. Without parents, an event like this can be extremely difficult. 
  • I was able to find activities that addressed a variety of math and science standards. 
  • Hold the event starting from the beginning of the day. Students began to stare at us in the second half of the day after lunch, and we eventually left.

Advice I give that I will follow next year:

  • Do not purchase all the items yourself, if possible. Ask your parents at least a week in advance to help provide the materials. 
  • Make sure you split your students in groups and have rotations, like centers. That did not go well this year because one group of students spent a long time sewing pillows and some students have not had the chance to sew them as of yet. Perhaps have a tent for each group of students.
  • Consider setting up before school or even the day before, as long as nobody comes to the camping site to disturb it. We did not set up until thirty minutes into the school day today, and it may have been better if we set it up more in advance. 


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I encourage you to investigate Mini-Metric Olympics from AIMS as well as visit PBS Zoom and look for different camping activities on the Internet to come up with a camping event for your students. It truly is an interesting opportunity.

Comments

Thank you, Wendy! What have you done or what do you plan on doing for outdoor activities? It was a very interesting event that I enjoyed yesterday, and I know it will certainly improve the more I do it in future years.

I will continue to maintain my own weblog on my domain next year, by the way! Thank you.

What a fun day! You will see this event will continue to grow and get better each year. I have been working on an event similar to this for my GA third graders. :)

I have very much enjoyed your posts throughout the year. It is easy to see that you are an enthusiastic and inspirational teacher. Great job on here and thank you. ;)

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