Outdoor Technology: Activities for Using Digital Technology Outdoors with Elementary Students

Outdoor Science

Today’s children are exposed to more technology than any other generation before them. The school day is packed to the brim with information and information technology. The resources are vast, and the potential to use new technologies in the classroom is nearly limitless. In the race to maximize test scores and minimize downtime, students are spending less time on the playground and more time online. Teachers trying to combat this nature deprivation strive to give students more time outdoors, but the loss of instructional time can be frustrating. Why not combine time outside with the technologies that students find exciting? You don’t have to look far. Below are a few suggestions that incorporate technology and nature you can find around the playground or school landscaping.

Get Digital

Take students on a nature walk. Give students opportunities to photograph things in their outdoor environment and bring this information back to the classroom. Early elementary students could make an alphabet book or assemble a display about colors in nature. Upper elementary students could monitor changes over time by photographing plants or trees at different times of the year. Older students could use digital cameras to collect data about the amount of litter in given areas to use in math or science lessons.

Digital Recording Device

Record environmental sounds in a variety of areas around the school. Replay them in the classroom and have students use the information collected to construct a sound map. Or interview several children about a playground event and use the recordings to discuss point of view in writing. Or collect opinions about improving the playground and use the data to construct a variety of graphs. Expand the lesson to teach persuasive letter writing and have students synthesize the data and report it to the school community or leadership.

Microscope With Photo Eyepiece

Inexpensive microscopes with photo eyepieces can be taken outside to discover elements of nature in a new and exciting way. Many of these devices come with their own software and suggestions for classroom use. Students will be more engaged with information they discover and collect themselves than with a pre-packaged slide. Students could learn about anything from insects to cells of plants with this technology.


Many schools have digital camcorders available for students and teachers to use. Students could plan and create short films about topics such as appropriate behavior on the playground, bus safety, or favorite field trips. Lessons could incorporate important aspects of literacy making a plot line storyboard, adjusting for audience or creating dialog that moves the story along.

Don’t let the pressures of high stakes testing stop you from exposing your students to nature. Give your students the best of both worlds! Teach hands on science, math, literacy or art lessons using technology outdoors.

To learn more about how nature-deficit disorder could affect your students, check out this interesting article:

Nature Deficit Disorder