Professional Library for Outdoor Educators

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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.

Professional library for outdoor educators

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.

Professional library for outdoor educators

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.

Professional library for outdoor educators

Learning outside the classroom: Theory and Guidelines for Practice by Simon Beames, Peter Higgins & Robbie Nicol

This text bridges the theory and practice of teaching outdoors with practical and strategic opportunities to nurture curiosity and wonder in children. This is a great read for teachers wanting prompts for good teaching practices, they already are familiar with, that can be taken outdoors. Buy it here.

Professional library for outdoor educators

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.

Professional library for outdoor educators

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.

Balanced and Barefoot by Angela Hanscom

This is the first book you should read if you need clarity on why it is important to get kids outside everyday to play and learn. Written by an occupational therapist, this text provides you with unflinching data on the disturbing rise of sedentary childhoods, and the dire consequences that are emerging. If you are a nervous educator or parent concerned that children might get hurt playing outdoors, this is a necessary read to help you re-frame your thinking around the benefits that outweigh the risks of injury in unstructured outdoor play in our schools and neighbourhoods. Buy it here.
Professional library for outdoor educators

Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer

I’ve save the best for last! This is a gorgeous read that will leave you inspired and motivated to more meaningfully connect to your place in the world. Written by an indigenous botanist, Braiding Sweetgrass invites you to learn from the earth, look closely, and braid the connecting threads of your own lived experiences with the settler histories of your place. This book is as poetic as it is educational. A must read for any educator who wants to seriously improve their ability to teach in nature. Buy it here.
Professional library for outdoor educators
Have I missed a favourite of yours? Please message me and I’ll add it to the post. Please note, many of these books are inspiring in design, but not necessarily instructional. Stay tuned for separate posts specifically listing books from my professional library that support curricular learning outdoors with lessons and activities.
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