Cambridge Outdoors

playing, learning, and being outdoors in Cambridge, Mass.

For Teachers


If you are a teacher, whether or not you’re a Cambridge teacher, I hope this section of the Cambridge Outdoors site will enable you to take kids outdoors and the outdoors in a bit more, or in ways you had been imagining. I welcome feedback about how this site can help you get what you want, as a teacher, out of your students’ explorations in parks, nature reservations, and school grounds.


Example of a circular calendar on which kindergartners can record and review seasonal observations. In this case, Tobin Montessori School “children’s house” students wrote their observations about Fresh Pond Reservation.

Since 2011, I’ve been involved in various projects that connect kids in Cambridge to the wildlife habitats within the city limits, sometimes as a parent volunteer, sometimes as an OST coordinator, and sometimes as an outdoor STEAM program developer. In the process I’ve built the collection of links, ideas, and resources you see here.

Here is an example of how one school in Cambridge has developed an array of different nature-related programs.


Encounter with a Showy Evening Primrose in fall. These flower stalks can grow so tall they tower above young children and even some adults!

Regular and frequent experience with, and in, urban wildlife habitats, both in school and after school contributes to the wellness of  students. Such practices support the viability of the open spaces in our city as habitats to important wildlife—the birds that eat mosquitoes, the trees that contribute to air quality, the fungi that support soil health and thereby plants, trees, and megafauna. Kids’ true engagement with science via place-based learning begins where they already are—at school, at home, in their own places.

I hope you find this collection of resources useful for yourself and your students.Share your own story of connecting your classroom or school to urban wildlife.—Julie Croston, Cambridge Public Schools parent

Phenology Guide

Here is a sample page of the Tobin Montessori School Children’s House phenology guide for the habitat at Fresh Pond, a collaborative effort of parents at the school. While it is keyed to a particular open space, many of the same species are found in other large open spaces and even in some parks in the city and elsewhere in Massachusetts and New England. Request a PDF of this document.fresh-pond-phenology-guide-page-002

Resource Pages

Here is the current (in progress at this time) menu of resources for teachers related to plant and animal species in Cambridge, Massachusetts and to Environmental and Outdoor Learning in general.


Young children can wonder: is it an animal or a plant? Is it alive?

  1. Botany Resources and a special page about Moth and Butterfly Host Plants 
  2. Arthropods
  3. Fish
  4. Amphibians
  5. Reptiles
  6. Birds
  7. Mammals
  8. Energy Cycle Resources
  9. Phenology: See Project Budburst
  10. Environmental Education and Outdoor Learning: BioKids
  11. Environmental Education and Outdoor Learning: Top Twitter Chat (Weds. 9 pm EST HT #EnviroEd)

Selected Curricula & Educational Models (for reference only)

Interested in reading more about the whys and hows of connecting and reconnecting children to nature? Start here:


Watching a caterpillar can require a little bit of crowd control—a great opportunity for a conversation about animals’ needs and human needs.

Children’s love of nature is essential to any progress to be had on climate change:

Post by Richard Louv on this topic (July 2013).

Children need natural environments for refuge, independence and the invisibles of wellness:

The San Diego Children and Nature network’s manifesto on nature play

Post by a young Romanian-American woman about her childhood time with a tree

Environmental illiteracy is rampant:

Position paper by the No Child Left Inside campaign

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