Jody Dick, Shirley Volk
This capstone project explores how nature-based learning can expand fourth-grade mathematics instruction. As a fourth-grade classroom teacher, I have seen firsthand the benefits of teaching academic content in a nature-based manner. However, it is often difficult for classroom teachers to find the time or resources needed to prepare standards-based mathematics instruction that integrates nature-based learning principles. Nature-based learning benefits students by exposing them to nature. Learning outdoors coincides with a decrease in cortisol levels, translating to less stress (Dettweiler et al., 2017). Exposure to dirt and sunlight boosts one’s mood by increasing serotonin production and leads to deeper, more restful sleep (NWF, 2012, Mead, 2008). Outdoor learning settings have been found to decrease common ADHD symptoms in children ages 7-12 with a formal ADHD diagnosis (Kuo & Faber Taylor, 2004). Additionally, academic learning that occurs in a natural context provides students with real-world applications of their studies, proving that what they are learning matters (Sobel, 2020). Nature-based learning is also effective in academic retention. In comparing classroom-based instruction with nature-based instruction, a 2022 study found that both methods were equally effective in delivering content instruction (Faber Taylor et al.). This capstone project is a digital toolkit providing fourth-grade classroom teachers with supplementary nature-based learning activities that align with the most recent draft of the Minnesota K-12 Academic Standards in Mathematics, from May of 2022. The toolkit includes ideas for teaching graphing, geometry, estimation, equations, and more. A comprehensive resource guide with book recommendations, relevant research, and links to nature-based websites and blogs is also included. This toolkit will equip fourth-grade classroom teachers to incorporate nature-based learning into their existing mathematics instruction, providing their students with the numerous benefits of learning outdoors.
Developmentally Appropriate Practice, Mathematics, Nature-Based
Heide, Jordyn, "Math in Nature: Expanding Fourth-Grade Students’ Mathematics Knowledge through Nature-Based Learning" (2022). School of Education and Leadership Student Capstone Projects. 897.
School of Education Student Capstone Projects