Teach English in Nature [Tips for Teachers and Parents]

So, you want to teach about nature and sustainability to English language learners?

Great! Then you’re in the right place!

Just in case you’re wondering: no, you don’t have to be an experienced language trainer to teach a language successfully, nor do you have to be a seasoned naturalist to share what you know about nature. Although having practical experience in at least one of these areas would be a great place to start, it’s enough just to be interested in learning both sides. Everything here is learnable.

Here is your starting place for learning how to:

  • integrate experiential, outdoor nature and environmental education with content-based, experiential language learning, and
  • lead your own successful English in Nature integrated learning program in the near future.

Why teach English in Nature?

Let’s face it, for many people, learning a foreign language is hard, joyless work. If you have ever tried and been unsuccessful, you may already have some ideas as to why it didn’t work for you.

Failing to learn a language often has more to do with teaching methods than with your ability or (lack of) motivation to learn.

Your own experiences of learning a foreign language will help you on your journey to becoming a teacher of English in Nature. However, this may involve a little bit of unlearning as well.

For people who enjoy being outdoors, it’s a no-brainer: the best part of teaching English in Nature is that you get to spend more time outdoors, while doing incredibly fun stuff!

My goals here are to:

  1. tell you that there are real opportunities to make it your job to do exactly what you love doing,
  2. give you practical ways to provide your learners (or your own children) with meaningful opportunities to reap the health benefits of spending more time outdoors, and
  3. shed light on all of the many, many facets of the English in Nature teaching-learning experience.

This introductory post simply explains the path you can take if you want to expand your skill set and start teaching English in Nature.

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What is English in Nature?

Briefly put, just as the name suggests, English in Nature is a program that combines nature and sustainability education with English language learning.

From the learner’s point of view, it might be seen as “English for nature lovers”. But, of course, it’s more than that.

To get really specific about it, English in Nature is a program that combines:

  • raising awareness of nature, wildlife and sustainability
  • raising self-awareness and self-confidence
  • building practical and creative skills, science skills and language skills
  • building valuable life skills, including teamwork and self-reliance
  • improving English language proficiency and language learning skills

As you can imagine, English in Nature is ideal for hobby naturalists, outdoor adventurers, nature photographers, conservation scientists, hobby gardeners, foresters, hunters, wildlife biologists, educators of all kinds, artists or activists, or anyone thinking of becoming one of these.

But your learners don’t have to become, any of these. To participate, your learners need only be curious about nature, interested in using and improving their English, and willing to try learning outdoors.

Sound complicated? Well, in some ways it is and, in others, it isn’t. Trust me, it is a lot easier to do than it is to explain!

You’d like to lead your own English in Nature Program?

Awesome! Then keep reading!

You may be wondering how your existing skills and knowledge are going to help you. You may also want to know what kinds of materials and equipment will be needed. We’ll get to that in a bit.

But, let’s just consider for a moment where it is you’re coming from.

You may be:

  • a naturalist, outdoor educator, conservation scientist or environmental activist engaged in some form of nature awareness or sustainability education or outreach, and you want to reach out more to international audiences, English learners or both.
  • a language trainer or school teacher who wants to bring more hands-on learning of nature and sustainability into your ESL/EFL lessons, as well as expand your repertoire to include experiential outdoor nature, wildlife and sustainability education.
  • a school teacher who wants to bring more English into your biology, geography, gardening, physical education, environmental science, or art lessons.
  • a parent, perhaps managing a homeschool, who would love to coordinate more fun, practical, multi-purpose outdoor adventure learning as a family.

Wherever you’re coming from, you’ll find that some aspects of English in Nature will look and sound very familiar to you and some parts that may be totally new.

No matter which side of this dual-focused area of education you’re already familiar with, even if you are just starting to do any of the above, I promise you that all you need is here.

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Getting Started

We’ll start your journey with a brief, easy to read orientation, which includes details on the four essential items listed below.

Four Essentials Items You’ll Need to Teach English in Nature:

1. A nature calendar or journal

Logically, teaching or learning English in Nature requires you to spend time outdoors as well as some form of organized communication. For this, your Nature calendar or journal will be your best friend.

2. Basic essential equipment and supplies

The next thing you’ll need is the basic equipment for conducting outdoor English lessons. Many of these essentials are possible to make by hand, others you may prefer to buy from a reputable manufacturer.

3. Lessons designed for outdoor classrooms with English- and Nature-integrated content

Just as you would assume, content-based language learning requires above all: CONTENT.

4. Methods & Skills Self-Assessment

Putting it all together requires your basic set of skills and methods, much of which you may already have under your belt. Your skill set will expand over time, this depends only on you.

The Methods

The methods used in English in Nature programs are the secret sauce. Sign up for the the free webinar to get a thorough introduction to the English in Nature style of teaching.

Your Self-Assessment

This includes assessing your basic life skills along with your teaching skills. For example, one life skills is knowing how to learn a new language when you’re in a crash-curse situation. Your past success (or failure) is not what counts! In this case, it is the experience of how it feels.

By the way, if you’re worried about being totally over your head, don’t be. Again… Yep, you guessed it: everything is learnable! Skills courses will be offered from time to time, sometimes directly, other times per recommendation of another provider.

Expanding your own knowledge, experience and skill set is part of the magic of this journey!

As you’ll see, the methods used to teach English in Nature will be quite different to the methods you may have used or seen in a conventional language classroom, and not only because the lessons take place outdoors. There might also be a few things to unlearn. These courses also differ somewhat from experiential education programs designed for native speakers. In the end, the experiential aspect is the most important of all.

If you can learn it, you can teach it.

What to do now:

These four steps–keeping a nature journal, getting the list equipment essentials, gaining access to quality content and assessing your own skills and knowledge–will all help you to get a better understanding of how these methods work and why, and get you on your way. All four of these are components of the Starter Guide for Teachers

Join the newsletter now and you’ll be in!

Again, all updates will be announced in the newsletter CoyoteSong that I send to my subscribers. So, stay tuned!

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In Summary

Invest the time it takes to go through the four steps mentioned above–once you’ve subscribed, you’ll receive updates on:

  • starting a nature calendar or journal
  • getting your equipment & supplies checklist
  • free sample lessons and other free resources
  • the skills and knowledge self-assessment

and soon you’ll be one HUGE step closer to being ready to teach English in Nature.

What’s next?

Sign up for the newletter to stay informed. In the meantime, feel free to send me your questions in an email! I look forward to hearing from you!

Did you find this article helpful? Please leave your comments or questions below, or send me an email directly via the form on my contact page.