7 paper-free nature play activities for the classroom

Technology and nature graph

Published: November 21st, 2021

Nurturing offline interests is just as important as developing tech skills for children. Nature play significantly improves all aspects of child development – physical, cognitive, social and emotional. It also targets a wide range of skills from maths and science smarts to interpersonal communications.

As screentime rises and outdoor play declines, we have to make sure children are getting in the recommended time of outdoor play. Here are some paper-free nature play ideas for your classroom:


1. Map it out

Using the Instant Whiteboard app on your ActivPanel, draw out a map of your school’s outdoor area. Have students go out and find a particular item (a certain type of leaf, gumnut etc.) and then come back and mark what they found and where they found it on the map.

You can then use this map for further project work, such as discussing why they may have found an item in a particular location, such as proximity to a tree or soil type.


2. “X” marks the spot

Flip the above activity and map out a certain area in your school like a sandpit or small patch of bushland, then bury/hide special items, marking their locations with Xs. Create a key for your map with a drawing/description of each different item, that students can then identify upon discovery.


3. Forager hunt

List specific items that children have to find in groups. List the items in the middle of the screen, with group names in the four corners of the ActivPanel. When the groups have found an item, they must then drag and drop the item into their group’s section. The group with the most items wins! You can then use the foraged items for teaching opportunities.


4. Living art

Get crafty with foraged finds and make sculptures or 3D scenes with natural materials! Keep things au natural by using natural twine or try these natural homemade glue recipes. This is a great, environmentally-friendly way to use free, abundant resources to create art, and encourages nature play in the process.


5. Make like a tree

Draw the outline of a tree using the whiteboard app. Have students go and find a certain kind of leaf, nut, and flower. Have them come back and draw what they’ve found on the ActivPanel, or onto a connected personal touchscreen device. Collate the images at the end and arrange onto the tree to finish off the tree with the drawings. This is a great paper-free activity that young ones will enjoy!


6. Garden goodness

Starting a garden in your school is a great activity for older children to get involved in nature play. Have students document the stages of their plant’s life, and use this information in further project work in areas like biodiversity, sustainability, and ecology. If you give students full responsibility for their own plant’s welfare also encourages independence and higher-level thinking. Take photos of the plants as they grow and create a flipchart with ActivInspire to give a visual representation of progress.


7. Hit it home

You don’t need to keep nature play confined to your school’s perimeter. Assign nature play activities as homework. This encourages children to go outside in their own time and explore the natural world around their house, which they may have taken for granted or not inspected in depth.

Nature play apps are available, which can be uploaded to the ActivPanel and to students’ personal devices to suggest and track activities.


Liked these practical teaching ideas? Check out our project-based learning blog to encourage your students to think more about the world around them.