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Winter Gear Wisdom: A Practical Guide for Elementary Outdoor Education

Read this guide to about winter gear for your students to use during outdoor education time

Delving into the realm of winter gear for outdoor learning, elementary teachers often find themselves facing the challenge of ensuring their students are adequately dressed for the season. This guide aims to unravel the complexities surrounding winter gear, ensuring students are well-prepared and enthusiastic about outdoor learning during the winter season.

What is the weather in winter?

As winter takes hold, the seasonal shift occurs because the Earth receives less direct sunlight, leading to a drop in temperatures and the onset of colder weather. This phenomenon is part of the Earth’s natural rhythm, influenced by its axial tilt. The diversity of winter experiences across the Northern Hemisphere adds an interesting dimension to this season. So what is the weather in winter?

Children can get outdoor experiences that help them see the weather patterns in your local area.
Not all regions experience snow, some experience substantial rainfall.

In certain regions, winter unfolds with substantial rainfall, creating a wet and cold atmosphere. On the flip side, other areas transform into a winter wonderland, draped in a pristine blanket of snow. This iconic snowy scene has become a hallmark of winter, frequently showcased in movies, art, and cultural depictions. However, it’s crucial to note that not everyone encounters snow; the winter narrative varies, with some regions embracing rain as the defining feature of the season.

Winter gear for winter learning

Dealing with the variation in winter weather makes helping your students dress appropriately that much harder. So, what winter gear is suitable for winter learning?

Layering is key. If your students can manage layers, they can be successful outside in almost any kind of cold. For instance, when it’s hovering around freezing, a t-shirt covered by a sweatshirt, covered by a coat is a good layering technique.

This boy on a sled is covered in many layers of winter gear which will help him stay warm in the snow.
Trying to get your students to dress appropriately for winter is a very big challenge!

In below-freezing temperatures, layering could inclue a thermal shirt, covered by a t-shirt, covered by a sweatshirt, covered by a coat. However, not all students can afford such layering, so keep that in mind when planning outdoor learning durations.

Surprisingly, layering socks can make a significant difference in your students’ comfort. Warm feet contribute to happiness, allowing for the most successful learning opportunities.

Gear for cold weather

Here are some suggestions for winter gear based on the assumption that you are in a region with snow:

  • Balaclava: A head covering that includes the head and neck with a small hole for the eyes and sometimes the mouth (also known as a monkey cap or ski mask).
  • Hat: This tried and true garment comes in various shapes, colors, and materials. Younger students, such as preschoolers and kindergarteners, benefit from hats with fixtures that are easy to secure, often under the chin.
  • Scarf: Scarves provide coverage for the neck, an area often missed by children, but can provide much-needed comfort in cold temps. Infinity scarves are a great choice for younger students.
  • Coat: While everyone knows about coats, children often only have one due to their large price tags. If possible, look for grants or donations to secure extra coats for your classroom to lend to children who may have gotten their coats wet during recess or for students who can’t afford their own.
  • Sweatshirts and Other Shirt Layers: Remember, layering is key. If your students feel cold during recess or winter learning opportunities, remind them to wear more shirt layers.
Winter gear includes hats, gloves, mittens, scarves and more
Some of your students are unable to afford winter gear so consider asking parents for donations at the end of the school year
  • Gloves or Mittens: These hand coverings can go a long way in helping your students stay warm. A lot of younger children like the knit mittens that they can manipulate materials with but they often get wet, causing your students’ hands to get cold fast. If your students like to wear these types of mittens, encourage their parents to purchase rain mittens that are waterproof and thin to be put over top to provide a barrier to water but still allow for material manipulation. Many children have thicker gloves that are more water-resistant but can also end up wet, causing discomfort. Having extra gloves on hand can be helpful for your students.
  • Glove or Mitten Liners: Some gloves and mittens have enough room for students to wear thin wool liners, providing another layer of insulation for those really cold winter days but aren’t meant to be used alone for snow play.
  • Thermal Underwear: Many children find this suggestion funny, but they really make a difference. If using the term “thermals” will get your students to consider using these garments, feel free to call them that instead. Many options are made of cotton, but some are made of acrylic and polyester.
  • Snow Pants: Often water-resistant and insulated, snow pants provide a helpful barrier between your students’ pants and the snow. However, most are not waterproof and can get waterlogged depending on what your students are doing outside. Like coats, it’s helpful to have some extra pairs for those students that either get too wet or whose family can’t afford the cost.
  • Socks: Layering any kind of socks can be very beneficial to students that are outside for recess or for winter learning. If your students have the means, wool socks are the best for both insulation and water wicking, but socks of any kind layered up will help provide heat retention.
  • Boots: There are various styles of boots for children in the winter. Snow boots are water-resistant, so they may get wet if students step in puddles, however, they are well-insulated and can provide good heat retention. Neoprene boots are waterproof and will keep your students’ feet dry but they are not as well-insulated and can result in chilly feet. Having boots that are at least one size larger than the students’ feet will provide room for air circulation and will help keep your students’ feet warmer.

To ensure your students have the winter gear that will serve them best for winter learning, consider sending home a list of helpful gear to your students’ families in the fall. This gives them time to collect everything they need. When spring rolls around, send home a call for donations to see if you can snag some extra winter gear to keep in the classroom for next year’s students.

The Jacket I Wear in the Snow Book

If you’re looking for a way to help your students understand what winter gear would be helpful for them to wear during winter learning, consider reading The Jacket I Wear in the Snow book as a class. The Jacket I Wear in the Snow by Shirley Neitzel follows a cumulative storyline similar to the song “The House That Jack Built.” Each page introduces a new article of clothing that helps keep the main character warm in the snow.

The story "The Jacket I Wear in the Snow" can be helpful for students to learn what they could wear to keep themselves warm in winter
The “Jacket I Wear in the Snow” by Shirley Neitzel follows a cumulative storyline similar to the song “The House That Jack Built.”

The story begins with a jacket and then adds on a scarf, a hat, mittens, a sweater, jeans, boots, long underwear, and socks. The storyline includes rhythm and rhyme to engage the readers with the character’s experience of getting dressed and undressed with winter layers.

Activities for The Jacket I Wear in the Snow

Outdoor Activity

What are some activities for The Jacket I Wear in the Snow? An outdoor activity you can put together is a retelling hike. Gather an article of clothing to match each of the pages in the book and spread them out along a trail or sidewalk.

Spreading out clothes from the book like these mittens in a snow covered tree give the students a way to retell the story
By hiding clothes along the sidewalk your students can retell you what happened in the story

The clothing in the story included a jacket, a scarf, a hat, mittens, a sweater, jeans, boots, long underwear, and socks. You could spread these items out along the trail in order as a reminder to your students of the story. As they find the clothing, have them remind you what the main character used each article for. Alternatively, you could mix them up, and after all the clothing pieces have been gathered, work together as a class to put them in order.

Another iteration of this outdoor activity would be to put out clothing from the story as well as some other options that were not part of the story. After your students have gathered the clothing, they could sort which items were part of the story and which ones weren’t.

Indoor Activity

The Jacket I Wear in the Snow book was written in 1989, so there is room for differences in outdoor gear from that era to now. After reading the story together as a class, write a list of clothing featured in the book.

Next, have your students make a list of their gear and compare it to the story. You could do this comparison through writing or with a graphic organizer such as a Venn diagram, a bubble chart, or a T-chart.

Not all students wear the same outdoor gear and could have differences between themselves and their classmates
Use a graphic organizer like a Venn diagram, a T-chart, or a bubble chart for your students to compare their winter gear to the gear in the book.

If your students are older, you could take this one step further and have them try to write their own version of the story using the gear they use outside in winter. Their goal could be to mimic the rhythm and rhyming pattern of the original story.

In a nutshell

As we conclude this guide on winter gear for outdoor learning, reflect on the enduring impact it can have on your students’ educational journey. Educating students about proper winter gear fosters a sense of preparedness and enhances their outdoor learning experiences. By incorporating these insights into your teaching approach, you not only equip your students with essential knowledge but also create lasting memories that will resonate with them beyond the classroom. So, gear up and step into the winter season with confidence, ensuring your students are ready for enriching outdoor learning experiences!

Looking for activities to help you teach the winter season? Check out my winter seasonal resources with activities like a fall to winter sorting worksheet, a seasonal booklet, an outdoor scavenger hunt, and more!

Do you have any amazing winter gear that you suggest for elementary students this year? Describe them in the comments section to inspire a fellow elementary teacher to take action!

Looking for other articles about winter? Check out these other great reads:

“16 Wonderful Children’s Books About Winter For Elementary Teachers”

“How Do You Celebrate the Winter Solstice with Elementary Students?”

“A Helpful Guide to Teaching the Season Transition to Winter”

Read this guide to about winter gear for your students to use during outdoor education time
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