Top 6 Ideas for Teaching When It’s Cold

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Minnesota is the home of Learners Edge and cold winters. The largest school district in the state closes schools when the wind chill is -40 degrees or the temperature is -25 degrees, and occasionally, the Governor will close all schools. We know how long winter can be when students are stuck inside. They get restless, are full of energy, and may struggle to regulate their behavior. These factors can make teaching and learning challenging.

There are times we can get students outside, and times when we can’t. Below are our top six ideas for teaching when it’s cold. 

  1. Teach students a new outdoor, winter activity. 
    Snowshoeing, skating, cross-country skiing or hiking are a few wonderful activities that can be done in the snow and cold. If you need assistance with funding equipment purchases, check out this link to help you locate and apply for grants. You can even have older children teach younger children how to do these things as a mentorship opportunity. Mentors and mentees mutually benefit, and mentoring is research based!  

  2. Teach students survival skills.
    “Survival skills” might include dressing appropriately for winter or how to follow GPS coordinates. Some books that highlight survival skills are The Hatchet Series by Gary Paulson and these books from Imagination Soup. A new book about surviving an avalanche called Avalanche! Survivor Diaries is an exciting read! 

  3. Let them play!
    Play is beneficial for all of us! Play increases social-emotional skills, academic learning, and boosts our “happy chemical” levels of serotonin, oxytocin, and endorphins. Unstructured free-play encourages the use of our imaginations and provides practice getting along with others. What great life skills! Review this list of inside recess ideas from We Are Teachers, then learn more about play from 2011 Minnesota Teacher of the Year Katy Smith, in this free webinar on the importance of play from Learners Edge.

  4. Study nature!
    Winter is an excellent time to find and identify animal tracks. Students can look for nests in trees or discover how animals in their region survive winter. Hang a bird feeder outside your classroom window, and let the students watch their new feathered friends. There are many other science connections that can be made outdoors in the snowy season. 

  5. Use winter as an inspiration for art!
    Students can collect winter items on a nature walk for a collage. Studying the shape and differences in snowflakes with a magnifying glass might inspire a great drawing or multimedia project. Children would also have a blast just painting the snow. After a fresh snowfall, flocked trees or sledding children could offer some great artistic opportunities for photography students.

  6. Assign Winter Wonderland Bingo for homework over a long break or during a frigid month!
    This BINGO board has a great variety of activities for your students and includes options for service and spending quality time with family and friends. This activity is available for download here!

As long as schools are open (and it’s not dangerously cold), we encourage time in the great, brisk outdoors to explore educational opportunities and learning fun!

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