Outdoor Learning Activity Ideas for Upper Elementary Classrooms

11 Outdoor Learning Activities for 3rd, 4th, and 5th Grade Students

Outdoor Learning Activity Ideas for Upper Elementary Classrooms

A change of scenery - especially when it involves learning outside - is a great way to reengage your 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade students.

Below, find 11 different example activities for taking your classroom outdoors!  All of the activities are educational - you will find ideas for taking ELA lessons, math lessons, and science lessons outside.

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Outdoor ELA Activity Ideas

 1. Vocabulary Review With Chalk

Most of these no prep vocabulary review ideas - like vocabulary tic-tac-toe -  can be done with chalk!  Liven up your review by simply taking everyone outside!

 2. Let Nature Inspire Student Writing

Give each student a writing journal, go outside, and have them write!  You could let students free write or give them nature specific writing prompts:

  • Tell a story from an ant's point of view
  • Describe something you see outside using all 5 of your senses
  • Describe the weather
  • Write similes about a tree, the sun, an insect, etc.

Being outdoors can also inspire poetry writing!  Have your students write a haiku about their experience outside.  You can use this No Prep Haiku Packet to help.  It teaches students about haiku, provides plenty of examples, and has templates to scaffold their own writing.

 3. Go On A Parts of Speech Scavenger Hunt

Have students head outside with a clipboard, a sheet of paper, and something to write with.  Take a walk through the neighborhood together, or let students simply explore the playground.

As they explore, have students list nouns that they see, and then list adjectives that describe those nouns.  Then, have them list verbs inspired by what they see, and adverbs that could describe those verbs.

If your students have not yet been introduced to parts of speech or need a review, this mostly no prep Parts of Speech Resource might help.

 4. Read Outside

Never underestimate the power of a change of scenery!  Have students do their independent reading outside - or let them relax and enjoy a good read aloud. The Great Kapok Tree makes a great read aloud for Earth Day - and these questions and activity ideas can help make lesson planning easier. 

These teacher recommended chapter books are a great read aloud option, or choose one of these books about showing kindness and empathy. 

 5. Go on an ABC word hunt

Send students outside to see if they can find a word for every letter of the alphabet!  No prep, fun, and vocabulary building!  This is one of my favorite reusable activity ideas that can be used for a variety of different topics.
Introduce probability to your 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade students with these low prep activities.

The end of year is a great time to introduce and review probability - the hands on activities are fun and engaging for students. This Low Prep Probability Resource makes it easy on you. It includes:

  • no prep worksheets
  • an introduction to probability vocabulary - certain, likely, equally likely, unlikely, and impossible
  • hands on probability games and graphing with spinners, dice, and a coin toss
  • 32 task cards

Outdoor Math Activity Ideas for Upper Elementary

 6. Measurement Activities

There are endless outdoor measurement opportunities.  You could:

  • Find the perimeter and area of different objects like garden beds, blacktop courts, fenced in areas, etc.  (measuring tape might work better than a ruler)
  • Measure the length and height of different objects in the playground
  • Use chalk to draw lines of a certain length
  • Measure the length of your shadows
  • Find the circumference of different trees

 7. Equations With Nature

Use this free lesson plan and printable from Learning Through Landscapes for a fun math lesson.  Your upper elementary students will use rocks, sticks, nuts, and other outdoor objects in the place of numbers to create equations.  A great lesson to get your students thinking algebraically!

 8. Math Hopscotch

Teacher Amanda Anderson has her students create multiple hopscotch courts with different numbers.  Each court focuses on a different math skill, like:

  • even/odd numbers
  • fractions
  • finding products, sums, or differences

Students spend a little time at each hopscotch court to review a variety of math skills!

 9. Math Races

Get a set of cones and write numbers on them.  The numbers you will write will depend on what skill you want to practice - see the ideas below for reference.

Spread the cones out around the blacktop or playground, and then split your classroom into small groups.  Have groups work together to grab as many numbers of a certain type as you can.  The team with the most correct cones wins!

You could have students grab cones that:

  • are greater than or less than a certain number
  • add up to a certain number (let them use multiple addends!)
  • are factors of a certain number
  • are multiples of a certain number
  • are even/odd
  • are prime numbers
  • put numbers together to form large numbers
  • make a pattern

The possibilities with this are endless as well!  If you want, you could set this up more like a relay race.

 10. Go on a Geometry Scavenger Hunt

Take 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade students outside and assign them the task of finding:

  • different 2d or 3d shapes
  • objects with certain angles (obtuse, acute, right angles)
  • parallel and intersecting lines
  • objects with lines of symmetry
  • patterns in nature

Outdoor Science Ideas

11. Trout in the Classroom

A teacher that wished to remain anonymous shared this amazing national program with me.  Trout in the Classroom has all sorts of resources, free lesson plans, and more to help your students connect more with nature while learning.

Below, see some students enjoying a Trout in the Classroom lesson and exploring insects.  Watch more about the program here.

students examining insects using Trout in the Classroom- an outdoor learning idea for 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade

12. Camouflage Caterpillars

Use this free lesson plan from Learning Through Landscapes to help students think more carefully about how camouflage works - and practice finding spots that provide the best camouflage!

13. Compost With Your Students

Teacher Annemarie Holmyard composts with her students and shared this idea with me.  

Students can read articles explaining what composting is, weigh food waste and graph results, journal about the process, learn the benefits of recycling food waste, and more.  This lesson plan that includes a reading passage might help you with the process.

14. Build a Nest

Use this free lesson plan from Learning Through Landscapes to help your students think about what bird nests need - and then build their own nest using natural objects they find outside.
For a quick filler activity, have students list everything they can think of related to one of your classroom procedures in one minute.

15. Grow Plants

See if your administration will let you use a section of land to grow a classroom garden!  You can have 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade students plant a variety of seeds, and then journal and observe their growth (or lack of growth).

16. Playground Physics

Use this free lesson plan from Learning Through Landscapes to observe and make predictions about how different objects will travel down a slide.

Never Stress Over Sub Plans Again!


Make copies, find a fiction book, and you'll be ready for any emergency that comes your way!