Two Engaging Outdoor Activities to Do With Your Students

It’s about this time of year that I have my face plastered against my lone classroom window just daydreaming about the warmth and sunshine that is one pane of glass away. I decided that I had to get outside with my students before I let my skin get any paler. But I didn’t want to just give a bonus recess and waste precious minutes that could be spent on my art curriculum. So outdoors we went, and the learning ensued!


Here are two engaging outdoor activities to try in your classroom.


Large-Scale Sidewalk Chalk Tessellations


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Tessellations are fun but sometimes hard for students to grasp. So, I decided to take them to a much grander scale in the hopes that bigger might mean easier. What I found out was that bigger meant easier and funner (emphasis on the incorrect grammar)!

My fifth-grade students rose to the challenge of outdoor temporary art. They worked in table groups that consisted of 3 or 4 students. Students were given a large piece of poster board and given instructions on how to create a tessellating shape. Once our shapes were created, we ventured outdoors where students picked a spot and got to work with their friends on creating their tessellation. Students were encouraged to explore color, blending, and shading on their creations. It was fun to see what each team came up with and fun to watch them work together. Plus, the sunshine was fabulous!


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Collaborative Action Paintings


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This isn’t rocket science. Giving your students paint, going outside, and telling them to throw it are all “winning” options in any student’s mind. Before the action painting started though, we looked at artist Jackson Pollock and his unique drip paintings. However, we didn’t stop there.

We built upon whatever color family my students were currently studying. Secondaries? No problem. We just practiced mixing our primary colors into cups and watering them down before heading outdoors. Intermediate colors? Easy. Give your students neighboring primary and secondary colors and let the mixing become part of the process.

Don’t worry about buying a canvas (unless you want to!). You can use substitutes like roll craft paper or poster board. Head outdoors and let the splattering begin. And don’t forget to give your students different tools like sticks, brushes, and squeeze bottles so they can experience a wide range of mark making.


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Try pulling out one of these activities the next time you need to get out of the fluorescent lighting and into the sunshine! Below are two more outdoor ideas from the AOE Archives.

5 (Almost Legal) Street Art Projects!

When the Art History Carnival Comes to Town!


How do you get your students outside and yet still teach your curriculum?

What’s your favorite outdoor art-related activity?


Magazine articles and podcasts are opinions of professional education contributors and do not necessarily represent the position of the Art of Education University (AOEU) or its academic offerings. Contributors use terms in the way they are most often talked about in the scope of their educational experiences.


Jennifer Borel

Jennifer Borel is one of AOEU’s Adjunct Instructors and Academic Advisors and a former AOEU Writer and elementary art educator. She runs her own photography business and is passionate about students exploring the medium.

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