Use nature as a teaching tool


Did you know that nature can be a tool to support your students’ learning goals? Time spent outdoors is shown to improve children’s physical and mental health, learning and memory.

With dozens of activities designed by leading experts in outdoor play and experiential, place-based education, the Nature Passport app encourages kids to learn from the natural world around them. Using technology to connect with the outdoors, it fosters children’s natural curiosity, creativity and critical thinking – skills shown to boost academic performance and learning.

The app is designed primarily for children ages 7-10 years old, but can be used by kids and adults of any age.

Nature Passport supports & extends classroom learning by: 

Helping take learning outdoors

Nature Passport activities are written to readily align with a broad range of learning and development areas. With framing, these activities can support a robust set of educational outcomes in STEM subjects, writing and literacy, and social-emotional learning. 


Helping bring the outdoors into the classroom

Activities are automatically saved to the Journal section of the app, allowing classes to reflect and build on those experiences once they are back in the classroom. Journal entries can form the basis of creative writing assignments, science investigations, research and reporting tasks, and more. 


Supporting strategies for using technology in education

Using a device can help direct students’ energy and enthusiasm while learning outdoors. The app leverages kids’ love of technology, but is designed so that the primary engagement is with nature, with the app working as a secondary support.


Supporting teamwork and shared goals

Nature Passport is ideal for small groups who work together to complete guided activities outside the classroom. Each Nature Passport account allows multiple users to work in groups on separate devices while sharing a common journal. 

Nature Passport helps students build skills in key areas identified by Common Core State Standards and Next Generation Science Standards. The chart below offers example activities in the Nature Passport app to support these skills.


Tips for using
Nature Passport

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Using Nature Passport with your class:

  1. Download the Nature Passport app onto a single device and set up an account. Use this login information to access the account on additional devices.

  2. Familiarize students with the devices and the app while still indoors.

  3. Identify your learning goals, then browse and bookmark activities from the app that support them.  

  4. Prepare a lesson plan that covers pre-activity exploration of the app, a detailed schedule of outdoor time, and how you will build on the experience once you’ve come back indoors.

  5. Put students into groups, assign roles, and communicate expectations before heading out the door.

  6. Circulate among students as they complete the activity to answer questions or refocus attention.

  7. Return to the classroom and use the app’s Journal feature to reflect and build on completed activities.   


Using mobile devices as learning tools:

Acquiring a class set of mobile devices

  1. Make an online fundraiser as a class project.  
  2. Search for educational grants from tech companies.
  3. Use the devices of parent volunteers or the student’s own devices.  


Technology tips for using the app

  • Use an HDMI cable to connect your device to a projector for entire class viewing indoors.
  • Use a document camera to project the screen of a phone or tablet inside the classroom.  
  • Project onto a whiteboard instead of a screen, then use markers to highlight/outline.
  • Disable “auto brightness” and put the display brightness on its maximum setting.
  • Use plastic bags to protect devices while outdoors. The touch screen will still work!


Additional Resources

Nature Passport Activity Lesson Plans

  • Micro Hike - Shrink your students down to the size of a bug and send them off on a miniature hike across the school grounds.  

  • Hungry Birds - Make an all-natural bird feeder and observe local birds and their feeding habits.

  • What's That Scent? - Challenge students to search for objects with noses rather than eyes - a sensory challenge that includes inquiry and observation.  

  • Nature Safari - Record nature sightings and observations made on school grounds.  Perfect for investigations, excursions, or a BioBlitz.


Managing Students in an Outdoor Setting

Extending the Learning Space Outside the Classroom