It’s so hard to stay inside this time of year. Weather is warming back up, we want students to get moving and away from fluorescent lighting, and we simply want ourselves and our students outside. But, you need to make the time outside educational and enjoyable for everyone and a research walk is the perfect solution.
Getting Students Outside
Teenagers can find themselves inside and attached to a screen on their own, so getting them some Vitamin D in the great outdoors is a huge win. They might grumble a little bit about their hair getting blown around or not liking the sun, but the sun is proven to boost their mood and you’ll all be looking forward to the next “outing”.
What is a Research Walk
Honestly, I sort of came up with this title (but it’s catchy!) while on a trail walk of my own. The idea is that students will complete research on a topic (more on this below) and will present it in either a video, written, or poster format. These will then be posted around an outdoor area that your students can access and they will take to learning from each of the presentations. This can be done in a few ways that we will get to.
(An alternate version would be where you could link videos, slides, or photos you would like your students to view and take notes or answer questions on. This would be similar to classroom stations inside, but moved outside)
Research Walk Prep
To prepare for the research walk, you will need to select a theme or topics for students to complete research on and either offer them to choose a format for their presentation or assign one.
Possible topics/themes: Wonder Wall Research Questions, Famous scientists, Plant and Tree information, How This Technology Works, Student Poetry, Summary of the War of 1812, etc.
I suggest either a 1-2 minute recording, summary paragraph(s), or visual poster for their final presentations. These are easiest to complete but you can always get creative with others!
Then, I would suggest you get students outside to complete their research before they finalize the project themselves, giving them even more chances to enjoy the spring weather.
Low-Tech Research Walk
For a low-tech version of a research walk, you would want to make the final presentation format something that can be printed/viewed in hard copy format. Teaching students how to use a program like Canva to make full sized posters is a great way to have them learn a new skill while creating a visual that can be posted.
Then, for the research walk day, you can take letter sized paper and clip it on a clipboard or slide into plastic page protectors (I would laminate larger pieces if possible). These can then be placed on outdoor tables or hooked to fences and buildings fairly easily without being permanent. It also makes them easy to collect and swap out for the next period if you need.
Students can then take clipboards or their own notebooks around to view, take notes, or comment on the different presentations they see.
Tech Savvy Research Walk
For a more tech-savvy research walk, I would suggest having students film/edit short videos of them presenting their research or linking their written work. These can then be put onto a classroom website, Google Drive, or YouTube and a QR code is all that is needed to share the information.
To create a QR code, simply go to https://www.qr-code-generator.com/ and drop the file or link to the file to generate a unique and easily scanned QR code. These can then be printed out and posted almost anywhere outdoors since they’re so small.
Students will then need their phones or a tablet to view the media, but this method is easier to share with virtual students or absent students who need to make up the work.
Grading a Research Walk
There is a bit of student freedom when it comes to research walks, so I encourage you to take a small grade for their participation to make sure they’re completing everything.
Typically, I like to ask for 2 sentences per short presentation, or have them complete these Peer Review TAG forms for each longer format presentation.
If you are looking to go a bit farther with this idea, have your students guide younger students on a research walk where the middle or elementary students can view the presentations as well and ask questions!
Use this as a replacement for indoor or online stations, setting up anything the students need to read or watch to a QR code.
Create a scavenger hunt or escape room type puzzle from QR code to QR code. One answer will lead them to the next location!
Let me know if you head out on a Research Walk, what you did, and how you liked it! This lesson can be so flexible and fit any topic, so it’s a great excuse to return outside over and over again!