Sharing place-based ideas . . .
With colleagues and students

Cover art, When Learning Comes Naturally, The Child Development Institute, Sarah Lawrence College.

My long-term plan is to create a nature trail on the Salt Point campus where I teach. To do this I want to find out how many teachers currently already do place based learning activities and if any are interested in the creation of a nature trail.

I also want to increase the number of teachers who include place-based opportunities for their students.

As a teacher, I know that I am much more apt to try something new if an activity or lesson is already created, so that I don’t have to recreate the wheel.

Knowing this, I plan to offer half a dozen or more outdoor lessons that I will send to interested teachers. Each one will have an evaluation piece included. Below are the short surveys and evaluation forms I will use in developing and evaluating my work. (All downloads are Word documents, which you can edit as needed.)

If you have experience involving colleagues in place-based learning or creating school trails, please call or email THV, 845-229-9116, ext. 2035, or, so they can share information with me and others.

This is the first in a series of posts sharing activities developed by participants in THV’s online book study of Learning to Make Choices for the Future: Connecting Public Lands, Schools, and Communities through Place-Based Learning and Civic Engagement, by the  Center for Place-Based Learning and Community Engagement.  The group met over the summer with Susannah Renzi  facilitating.  Martha Schultz teaches students ages 15 to 21 with multiple disabilities and traumatic brain injuries. Her class is highly individualized and provides academics, perceptual motor training, self-help skills, and vocational activities. 

Resources for getting started

When Learning Comes Naturally: A Guide for Parents and Teachers, (2009,  9 pp), The Child Development Institute,  Sarah Lawrence College.  Related video,  Exploring Nature’s Classroom (2009,  approx. one hour), part of the American Public Television’s The Learning Child SeriesRequest workshops and/or screenings.

A page from the workbook, What’s Good in My Hood.

What’s Good in My Hood, Akima Price,  2011, 56 pp: New York Restoration Project. This workbook is designed to help kids look around their neighborhoods and schools,  explore their feelings about the immediate environment, appreciate what’s good, and take action to change what’s not. PDF.

Nature Play & Learning Places, Robin Moore, 2014,  190 pp: National Wildlife Federation  with the Natural Learning Initiative, North Carolina State University, and  support from the U.S. Forest Service. This guide covers location, design, management, and implementation. Download. To check status of the print version, email

Free activities and lessons

Catskill Heritage Project: Early Grades includes two activities/lesson plans developed for the trails at the Cohotate Preserve in Greene County, but can be adapted to any school yard or nature trail.

Discoveries In Our Town (grade 5), created by Irvington teacher Susan Wallace, asks students to walk through the neighborhood, mapping the path taken and then use that map to return to school. Students then write a journal entry to record their findings. The activity is designed to show students that careful observation leads to discoveries. And, that mapping a trail and collecting date require precision.

Pathways to Ecosystem Literacy: Water Lessons (grades 2-6), created by the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, also features two activities or lessons that can be done in a schoolyard or nearby trail.