Take it Outside! Practical Strategies for Being Active Outside
Feeling cooped up? Need a change of scenery? We all do from time to time; so why stay in when you can take it outside? Using outdoor facilities is an excellent way to include a wider range of activities in your physical activity programming and introduce students or campers to places they can go to be physically active when not at school or at camp.
To make planning your outdoor and off-site activities easier, here is a list of things to keep in mind before you take it O-U-T-S-I-D-E!
Organize and Communicate
- Communicate with school or camp administrators, parents and participants before taking your students or campers outdoors if required.
- Identify the outdoor opportunities at your school, recreation centre and in the community. Post a list of these outdoor areas along with a list of potential activities and safety concerns. Some outdoor spaces (i.e. school playgrounds, fields and parks) may have more than one area that can be used or may be large enough to be shared.
- Schedule the outdoors into your timetable or plans. Make connections to other subject areas and take lessons outside if you can. By allowing kids to experience the outdoors, you are making them aware of potential opportunities to be active in their community. If you are using your scheduled gymnasium time to go outdoors, inform other staff in order to give another group the opportunity to use your scheduled time.
- Locate outdoor facilities that can be used in the community. (i.e. swimming pools, wading pools, outdoor arenas, tennis courts and baseball diamonds) Let them know how they may continue on with the activity outside of camp or class time (i.e. provide them with registration information and facility activity schedules). Be sure to find out if the facility requires you to book ahead of time or if a fee is required, and make sure all offsite safety policy and procedures are followed.
- Ensure you have all of the necessary equipment and materials for your activity, especially if you have to travel to get to your facility or outdoor destination.
- Before you leave make sure you are aware of the individual needs of your students or campers (e.g., allergies, asthma, etc.) and your school or camp’s emergency action plan.
- Familiarize yourself with the facility or outdoor space and conduct a visual inspection prior to the start of the activity (i.e. a walk around of the ground) to identify any potential hazards. This is especially important in public areas such as parks, beaches and fields, where hazards can be hidden in the grass or sand.
- Review Ophea’s Ontario Physical Education Safety Guidelines to identify safe practices for the planned activities and outline the possible risks associated with the activity, demonstrate how to minimize these risks, and set procedures and rules for safe play.
- Ensure supervision is adequate for the type of activity and the size of the outdoor facility (i.e. child to adult ratio).
- When possible, review the rules, procedures and behaviour expectations, and define the boundary lines with your students and campers at the facility or outdoor space before you leave.
- Provide a variety of outdoor experiences. Each week/month provide a new activity or focus and provide students or campers with the necessary knowledge and skills to apply the lessons taught at school or camp to their daily routine.
- Teach students and campers the skills they need to organize their own games. Encourage them to lead some of the class or group activities to help them become more comfortable initiating and leading activities on the playground.
- Establish common meeting areas for students to come to for instruction and direction throughout the lesson, or if they get separated from the group.
- Start an equipment lending program and make sports and fitness equipment available during breaks or lunchtime (e.g., if you teach the students to play flag football have some footballs and flags available for them to play outside during recess or lunch).
- Plan outdoor activities early in the morning or late in the afternoon. Avoid being in the sun for prolonged periods of time, especially during the hottest times of the day; usually between 11 am to 3 pm.
- Ensure participants stay well hydrated and watch for signs of heat stroke and dehydration.
- Remind students and campers to bring hats, sunscreen, a water bottle and sunglasses.
- Schedule water breaks and have a first aid kit with emergency numbers on hand.
- Consider smog levels if you plan on being outdoors.
- Develop strategies to maximize participation for students of all ability levels.
- Plan activities and use equipment that will provide opportunities for all students to achieve success.
Develop Alternate Plans
- Be prepared to adapt your activity to the conditions (e.g., wind, heat, cold, wet) when you arrive, or if the weather changes.
- Prepare a “Plan B” activity just in case your original plans fall through.
- Use the outdoors to plan school or camp wide events which require a larger space. Be sure to find out if permits are required for using public space, and make sure you prepare a rain plan ahead of time.
Check out these great physical activity resources from Ophea. Activities are suitable for children and youth (Kindergarten - Grade 12) and are great for camps too!
This online resource includes over 1,000 lesson plans and supporting materials for subscribers
A great reference for physical activity leaders who want to learn more about risk management and safe practices.
- Daily Physical Activity (DPA) Kits - Ophea’s DPA resources are great for getting children and youth up and moving! Kits include: 90 Activity Cards, Activity Card Supplement DVD, 2 Music CD’s and 2 instructional DVDs.
This online resource includes high quality, easy-to-implement activities, using everyday materials/equipment, and information on safety considerations, learning goals, and curriculum links.
This educational website offers a wealth of great games to encourage fun, free play while helping kids develop the skills needed to participate in sports and to be healthy and active.
This is a resource designed to increase the skills and knowledge about asthma management and its prevention and provide asthma education materials to those who have a role in the prevention and management of asthma.
Designed to support inclusive physical activity for children and youth living with physical and intellectual disabilities, this FREE resource can be accessed online,