David Sobel’s 7 Principles for Children and Nature

Posted by on Feb 13, 2015 in The Seedling BLOG | 0 comments

David Sobel’s

7 Principles for Children and Nature

Are you a teacher who has explored Howard Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences?  Have you explored why you are SMART and weighed in on the implications of Gardner’s theory for yourselves now and as natural teachers? It’s fun to turn the mirror on ourselves every now and again.

Just as Howard Gardner had identified a set of intelligences for children, David Sobel, a place-based educator, identified a set of play themes that emerge when children experience free time in nature. He wrote the book, Childhood and Nature: Design Principles for Education.

Today, I invite Natural Teachers to use Sobel’s principles either as a guide to help plan learning experiences with children of all ages or as an assessment tool for evaluating outdoor classroom designs. The principles are not linked to any one developmental age, but will appear differently as the child grows older.

Pixie Palace


Principle 1: Adventure

This includes activities that include a  physical challenge, risk taking, and kinesthetic components. Does your Outdoor Classroom curriculum include adventure games, balancing, jumping and/or prancing through the natural world? Are there experiences in your Outdoor Classrooms that take children out of their comfort zone?

Principle 2: Fantasy and Imagination

This includes activities that inspire creative imaginative stories, plays, puppet shows, and dreams. Does your Outdoor Classroom have a stage, puppet theater and/or props?

Principle 3: Animal Allies

This includes spaces and activities that connect children to the animal kingdom. Does your Outdoor Classroom attract wildlife? Do you have a Butterfly garden? Bird Houses and Feeders? Pond?

Principle 4: Maps and Paths

This includes activities that include map making, following paths and trail blazing. Does your Outdoor Classroom have a scavenger hunt? Home-made stepping stones? Do you have activities that have children following directions, seeking and finding, and sequencing and ordering of events?

Principle 5: Special Places

This includes activities that offer the opportunities for children to hide away. Does your Outdoor Classroom have places for children to retreat in their own found or constructed areas? Is this a place where children can write quietly? Sunflower House? Tee Pee Garden? Gathering Place?

Principle 6: Small Worlds

This includes activities that center around miniature worlds. Does your Outdoor Classroom have a miniature garden that children can play inside of? Can children learn how to be creators and destroyers of these worlds?

Principle 7: Hunting and Gathering

This included activities that include hunting and gathering games, collecting treasures and climbing. Does your Outdoor Classroom’s box of tricks include treasure hunts, cooperative games, and tools for collecting?

Not all Outdoor Classroom can have all these principles because every space is different. Want to learn more? Check out the Teaching in the Dirt: Designing Outdoor Classroom E-Course.

This e-course is for educators who want to clarify their vision to teach outdoors and create an Outdoor Classroom on a shoestring budget. (1)

Now I want to hear from you. Do you have any of David Sobel’s Children and Nature Principles in your Outdoor Classroom? If so, which one’s? Do you have a favorite principle? Share in the comments below.




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