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Weekly Challenge for #EnviroEd # 51 – Environmental Word Walls

November 9, 2014

Wordle: Nature Terms

I love working with students of all ages on introducing them to the world around them in the realm of environmental and experiential education. However one of the things I do find challenging is answering questions using terminology that I am uncertain students have come across before.

Now I am the first to suggest that any profession has a plethora of strange and wonderful terminology. I recall a few years back hosting an engaging and crazy game of Scrabble with two other equally eccentric outdoor educators however we were only allowed to use words one would find in a Biology/Zoology/Ecology textbook. While words like BIOME, MIGRATE and MUTUALISM may not in and of themselves be high points in the game, it was challenging trying to stay within the rules.

But for students, of any age – the answer to an inquiry can and should lead to so many more questions. When I answer a tweet from a class in 140 characters I know I cannot explain every term I may use and I know, often it is left up to the teacher to try to explain to the students what Ranger Ridley meant by that.

I also know that students are amazing at finding links. Leave it to youth to find human examples to environmental scenarios. For example, when a student learns how a caterpillar’s metamorphosis into a butterfly works – more than one previous student has recognized their own metamorphosis as well.


This of course brings in all sorts of potential for English or Language Arts in storytelling, the use of metaphors, similes and more. Very much like the environment, no mow zone, or community forests you visit regularly, the more students are immersed in these words, their meanings and their uses – the more of a connection they feel.

In fact a single word, is almost like a single organism. By itself it can be amazing, but when put into a sentence or a story, that single word becomes an integral part of a greater ecosystem where each and every word depends upon one another.

There is also huge potential for English Language Learners as well in finding ways to emphasis environmental words. One of my favorite examples is from a passionate Kindergarten teacher I know, Lada Duric who created this simple but lovely image of a tree with how to write it in all the languages represented in her Mississauga, Ontario, Canada classroom.

treee language poster ladad2

So, this week’s challenge is to begin a word wall for the environmental work you’ve been doing. What words do your students think deserve a spot of honour? What words do they wish to investigate further? What words do they wish to share with their parents and others?

Be creative in this wall – like a good outdoor classroom, it should never be “done” but something that is always growing, changing, evolving. Make it seasonal or make it topical. Perhaps like a river delta or a growing tree create branching or tributaries where one word has led to the investigation or recognition of another.

As always, please share your results!


  1. Interesting for sure Rob. We do need to work on our language to enhance what we do as educators. I’m wondering how we can go beyond the wall. I loved your poplet idea, for those of us who work without a traditional classroom.

    • Agreed Joe. Just like a classroom doesn’t need to be inside a “room” a word wall does not need to be on a wall.

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