Winter Challenge 2023 Activity Guide
Welcome! This is your guide to the 2023 TMO Winter Challenge ☃️
Every day throughout the #TMOWinterChallenge, we’ll be suggesting different activities to join in with your learners. We hope this inspires you to try something new, get creative, and get outside. But most importantly… have fun! If you’re looking for even more ideas, check out what we did during each day of the 2022 Winter Challenge here.
Share your photos and videos on social media or email us for a chance to win $100 to MEC every single day of the Challenge, from Feb 13th – 24th! Follow along on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube. Signing up ensures you receive our communications and gear discounts to both our social enterprise store and the Outdoor Learning Store!
Additionally, you can browse our online resource database, and the vast library from the Children & Nature Network for the latest research. We’ve also hosted virtual workshops around winter outdoor learning in the past. Check out “Get Outside: Learning Outdoors in Winter” with Pamela Gibson of Learning for a Sustainable Future and “Game of Groans: Winter is Coming!” with Dave Quinn for some great ideas in video format.
After participating, please take a moment to send us your feedback! We appreciate your input and the chance to learn and improve each year. Thanks!
❄️ Mon Feb 13th:
Get Ready & Get Moving!
It’s the first day of the Winter Challenge! Use your excited energy to try out some lesson plans from Ever Active Schools using their ‘recipe cards’ phys ed plans that range from grades K-12.
If you’re easing into the challenge and are using this day to get prepared, check out our online resource database for tons of ideas. Or use this quick-start guide from COEO, available in both English and French.
- Winter Daily Physical Activity Ideas from Windfall Ecology Centre in Aurora, ON (20 pages of info to get started and lots of activities and adaptations for all abilities!).
- Dressing Kids for Winter infographic from Active for Life.
❄️ Tues Feb 14th:
Arctic Games Recap
The Arctic Winter Games (AWG) have been happening since 1970, showcasing Northern and Arctic athletes competing for gold, silver, and bronze medals. This year, the Circumpolar sport competition saw thousands of people in Woof Buffalo, Alberta participating and supporting the athletes from Jan 29 – Feb 4.
There are 20 sport categories to learn about, some of which are unique to the cultural history of the Dene and other indigenous peoples native to higher latitudes. It’s not too late to try some yourself!
This year, teachers from four local school boards developed fun learning opportunities to connect to the AWG. The lesson plans will engage students in both the sporting and cultural aspects of the Games.
- Need simpler movements for your learners? Read up on building physical literacy from an early age (resources included!), and check out this starter guide to mastering movement skills on ice and snow.
- Inuit Games Circuit from Health in Action Project.
- Inuit games lesson plan for grades 8-12 via We Stand Together.
❄️ Wed Feb 15th
Campfires & Picnics
Tonight, we have a special event for educators! As part of our ongoing series, our seasonal campfire connections continue, but this time with a special guest.
Pull up a log and come join us to learn, share and connect around all things related to outdoor learning. We would love to chat about all of the AMAZING things going on in and outside of your classrooms. Like most campfire chats, we are hoping to have a very open mic forum around outdoor education topics and format.
On the 15th, we’ll have Sarah Ketcheson leading a discussion about our own relationship to the outdoors and how that bridges into your teaching practice. It’s sure to be an engaging and thoughtful conversation. And there are prizes, as always! 🔥
And why not have a campfire with your learners today and roast some marshmallows? Teaching kids about building a fire and how to stay safe around it are valuable skills. There are many resources available for the topic – here is one to try. Have fun!
- No fire is necessary for a good ol’ winter picnic. Bundle up, grab your snacks, and enjoy the fresh air!
- Incorporate a mindful eating exercise into your campfire or picnic.
❄️ Thurs Feb 16th
Scavenger Hunts & Maps
Winter is a great time to slow down and notice the changes both between the different seasons, and what’s happening as the season progresses. Beyond what changes, what stays the same? What do our surroundings tell us? Which senses feel sharper, and which ones are harder to tune into?
A scavenger hunt directs us to focus on our unique surroundings, and can incorporate more than just our visual senses if you get creative while making your own. Of course, there are ready-made hunts for you to use, such as this one from Burlington Parents with a focus on frozen conditions or another from Active for Life that will get you moving!
Older learners can design a scavenger hunt for younger buddies, or can move into the world of mapmaking. David Sobel has talked extensively on this topic, especially in the context of elementary years.
- “Map-making impacts our perception of the world” lesson plan from C. Lim, OCT Toronto District School Board.
- Mapmaking resource for older learners using technology in their projects.
❄️ Fri Feb 17th
Meet Your Local Neighbours
In some ways, winter is a quiet, sleepy season. February 2nd was Groundhog Day, which acknowledges hibernation as we pass the middle-point of winter – half-way between the winter solstice and spring equinox.
But have you noticed any creatures who are active during the winter alongside you? Trying out animal tracking with guides from NCC or Step Outside can be a great way to meet some animal neighbours without ever having to see them!
February – AKA “Feed the Birds Month” – is also a great time for birding! Learn how to be a Bird-Friendly School, craft a bird feeder with your learners, or participate in the Global Bird Count from Feb 17-20th!
- What else can you learn about hibernation and who may be nestled underground (or underwater!) this season near you? Step Outside Nature Guides is a great read to dig deeper.
- Bird Day resources from Nature Canada.
- Birdability website – working to ensure the birding community and the outdoors are welcoming, inclusive, safe and accessible for everybody.
- “Animal tracks and traces field guide” from the Outdoor Learning Store
- Heading back inside? Make a plaster cast from animal tracks in the snow!
❄️ Mon Feb 20th
Family Day Activities
In many places around the country, today is a Stat Holiday and there’s no school! If you’re at home with younger folks in your life, why not dive into a new book together then head outside?
We love this idea from Therese, a Kindergarten teacher in BC who reached out to us earlier this year:
Read “How to Catch a Yeti” as a group. Then, take building materials outside to work collaboratively and build ingenious devices to show how one might trap a yeti!
- Participate in the Nature for All “Love Fest” Storytelling Festival: Share your own story, or check out others’ online – #NatureLoveStory conversations will be happening today and tomorrow on YouTube via #NatureForAll!
- 10 Outdoor Winter Activities for Preschoolers from Project Learning Tree.
- Bring some foraged treasures back home and make Tree Potpourri.
❄️ Tues Feb 21st
The Canada Games Begin!
Catch the Spirit! The Canada Games kicked off on Saturday in Charlottetown, PEI. The events runs until March 5th and feature 20 different sports.
There is a resource guide available for educators in both English and French, where learning outcomes are provided for Kindergarten through Grade 9. The activities focus on five themes that run through the Games: Arts & Culture, Goal Setting & Leadership, Healthy Living & Sport, Official Languages of Canada, and Unifying Canada.
- Even more games to play, inspired by Inuit people and the northern landscape
- “Indigenous Games for Children” from High Five
❄️ Wed Feb 22nd
Campfires and Sculptures
Did you build a campfire last week? This week, try constructing a campfire sculpture out of snow, or try your hand at other creations. Be sure to share the process – we can’t wait to see what you come up with! Find some inspiration to get started here (the first one is an epic fire sculpture 🔥).
And now it’s time for another virtual campfire! Francophone and Francophile educators, join us at 3:30pm PT, 6:30pm ET for another engaging conversation hosted by Julie Gagnon, a fantastic outdoor educator currently teaching in PEI.
Nous serions ravis de discuter avec vous de toutes les choses INCROYABLES qui se passent à l’intérieur et/ou à l’extérieur de vos salles de classe. Comme la plupart des discussions autour d’un feu de camp, nous espérons avoir un forum de micro très ouvert autour de sujets et de formats d’éducation en plein air. Nous voulons juste avoir la chance de vous connecter avec d’autres enseignants incroyables au Canada !
- Taking it one step further and building a snow fort? We can’t wait to see it! Check out this video for some ideas to strive for.
- No snow? Sticks can be used to make all kinds of amazing houses and huts!
❄️ Thurs Feb 23rd
Winter presents some unique opportunities to appreciate the beauty of the season. And we can turn that reflection into art by using the natural world to source materials, act as our canvas, or tell our stories.
Nature mandalas are an easy, scalable project that are perfect whether there’s snow on the ground or not! This lesson plan example is for younger learners, but we’ve seen this activity engage folks of all ages.
This can be a great opportunity to build in some nature journaling too. Start with simple prompts such as “I Notice, I Wonder, It Reminds Me Of” and go from there!
- Snow paint is easy to prepare and can be accomplished with food colouring or tempera powder or liquid paints.
- Nature Inspired Ice Art from Megan Zeni of Room to Play Consulting
❄️ Fri Feb 24th
Snowball Fights & Snow Tag
Did you know snowball fighting is an international sport, also called Yukigassen? Team Canada explains the official rules here, including how to stay safe. Want to try it yourself? Lots of details are available online as you plan out your court and have fun after finishing two weeks of the 2023 #TMOWinterChallenge!
- Try snow tag! It’s a new take on a classic game (video version here).
- Snowflake tag will keep you warm, burn some energy, and bring the fun!
❄️ Mon Feb 27th (bonus!)
This marks the end of Take Me Outside’s 2023 Winter Challenge! Make sure to upload any photos or videos you haven’t yet onto social media using the hashtag #TMOWinterChallenge or #DéfiHivernal. Alternatively, you can email us at email@example.com.
Reflection is an important part of the learning process for both educators and learners. This resource provides a number of activity suggestions that could happen after or before your planned outdoor lessons.
Today, we suggest heading to a sit spot with your learners and taking some time to reflect on the past couple of weeks. March begins this week, and along with that comes the promise of spring. What signs do you notice that the seasons are changing? Looking for more entry points of inquiry? Here are seven engaging ways to observe ice and snow with learners.
Lastly, we’ve launched a feedback survey and would greatly appreciate your contribution in helping improve the Winter Challenge for years to come. Those who complete the form will be entered to win five additional $50 prizes to spend at MEC. We hope this illustrates at least a portion of our big feelings of gratitude towards your participation, enthusiasm, and dedication to outdoor learning in your community.