Over the last twenty years I’ve been teaching and learning outside in a variety of capacities. Both as a parent and a professional educator, I am endlessly fascinated by the power of nature to transform children’s experiences of school and learning. This post lists recommended books that have inspired my own personal pedagogical practice outdoors. Whether you are new to the idea of teaching outside, or a seasoned pro, these books might inspire, or remind you of, ways to build your capacity and relationship with the land you are teaching on. With that said, in no particular order, here are a dozen books I recommend from my professional library for outdoor educators.
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Coyote’s Guide to Connecting With Nature by John Young, Ellen Haas, and Evan McGowan
Written to become a blueprint for your own context, this guide is an essential read for anyone keen to understand the allure of teaching and learning outdoors. Read this book to learn more about how to facilitate meaningful connections by observing the edges of childrens’ comforts, awareness, knowledge, and experiences with core routines, story, and seasonal change. Buy it here.
Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv
This is the book to start with if you are unsure what all the fuss is about. Louv is widely considered the grandfather of the modern child and nature movement which has resulted in several books and an online resource which you can access here: ChildrenandNature.org
His follow up book is titled Vitamin N and is an easy to read compilation of over 500 ideas for kids and adults to connect playfully, while getting their daily dose of vitamin (N)ature
If you are a grad student, or otherwise interested in the research that is making the case for children and nature, the C&NN website also hosts an excellent research library. You can access it here: Research Library
Childhood and Nature: Design Principles for Educators by David Sobel.
Another essential read is David Sobels’ Design Principles for Educators, which describes 7 identified play themes that emerge in outdoor play amongst children of all ages. These play schemas serve to influence how we design our outdoor spaces when we intend to cultivate children’s relationships with nature. I recommend this book as essential reading for educators wanting to dig deeper into a cross-curricular pedagogy of playful learning. Buy it here.
Children learning Outside the Classroom by Sue Waite
This text is everything you need for a general overview of the rationale and justification for taking children outdoors to learn across the curriculum. From beginners to experts, everyone will find a nugget of wisdom encompassing topics as varied as methods of assessment, to global views of learning outside the classroom. Buy it here.
Learning outside the classroom: Theory and Guidelines for Practice by Simon Beames, Peter Higgins & Robbie Nicol
Dirty Teaching and Messy Maths by Juliet Robertson
These are my go-to books for inspiration and practical ideas. Written primarily for working with younger learners, experienced educators will certainly be able to adapt ideas presented to extend learning along the age span to intermediate grades. These books are perfect for establishing high yield routines that improve meaningful participation with students of all ages! Buy them here.
The School Garden Curriculum by Kaci Rae Christopher
There are a lot of books out there for school gardeners, and unfortunately, most of them won’t apply to your climate or growing conditions. If you are keen to get growing in a school garden and are looking for ways to teach across the curriculum beyond the preschool years, this book offers a framework for thinking about school gardens as a shared place of learning in our schools, regardless of where you live. The book offers hundreds of lesson plans as well as resources and is a good place to start for beginner school gardeners looking to develop an ethic of environmental care in their students. Buy it here.
Lens on Outdoor Learning by Wendy Banning and Ginny Sullivan
This book will help you see how competencies that define resilient learners, like persistence and problem-solving, are nurtured when children learn outdoors. The authors will help you understand how spending time observing and engaging in children’s play leads to beneficial outcomes for all. Mostly written for a pre-school audience, but will resonate with educators in the elementary years as well. Buy it here.