How Many Sticks?

Teaching in the outdoors in Western Maine often has it challenges when it comes to inclement weather. Though we try to go outside in both good weather and bad weather, sometimes it is simply just too wet or too cold. This is often a nearly devastating moment for our students as they look forward to going to the woods so much! 

One of my biggest goals this year was to incorporate nature in my students learning more and more! Ideally, that would be done outside, but when it can’t be done outside, we bring it inside! So, when we were recently faced with some bad weather on a day that we were supposed to go to the woods, we brought the woods into our classroom! 

We had previously done an activity in the woods where students were asked to fill a provided container with as many sticks as they could. This lesson engaged students in the idea of space and measurement. We had happened to finish that activity in the classroom and I had on a whim saved all the sticks for a rainy day! 

In math we just so happen to be learning about efficient counting strategies for large collections. This work focuses on hundreds, tens, and ones.  Students were tasked with finding out how many sticks there were in all! Small groups were given random amounts of sticks and they worked together to find out how many groups of ten and how many ones they had. From there groups combined and then turned their groups of tens into groups of hundred! 

Students were so engaged in this hands on activity that allowed them dive deep into the concepts of place value and counting! It wasn’t quite the same as going outside, but all my students were so excited to still be working with natural objects. I heard excited statements like “I can’t believe Ms. Virgin is letting us have all these sticks in the classroom!!” and “If there is THAT many sticks here, I wonder how many there are in our whole outdoor classroom…”

Whether inside or outside learning with nature continues to be the best way to engage my learners! 

Kaitlyn Virgin, Meroby Elementary School, Second Grade Teacher

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