Nim's Island by Wendy Orr is all about the adventures - and dangers - you can find when you get outside. Nim, her father and the author Alex Rover all head outside to learn new things and explore at one time or another. Here I have put together four Nim's Island related learning activities - encompassing a range of different teaching subjects - all of which can be completed outside the walls of the classroom. And they're almost certain to have minimal danger!
1. Create an Island
(Teaching areas: mapping, geography, mathematics and possibly history)
For this activity you'll need some string, yarn or rope and a large space like a field, yard or oval. You might like to use other marking tools as well, like hoops or cones, as well as measuring tools like tape measures and measuring wheels. Paper, pencils and clipboards can also be used.
Use a large open space for students to create their own island. They might like to make it 'to scale' but unless you have a huge amount of room, it'll probably be reduced in size from a 'real' island. Use string or rope to mark the outside of the island and get your students to add any features they think the island needs, like hills or mountains, sources for water, land for growing crops, a safe place to shelter, beaches and forests. Have your students use different colour string or rope or other marking tools to mark out the features. This can be an opportunity to talk about the features of real islands around the world - which might include reefs, features related to volcanoes or things required as part of certain animal habitats.
When students have finished creating their island, they can map it. They may like to think about creating coordinates to help them map it or think about what mapping symbols they might use in their map. They can use measurement tools and talk about how big the island might be if it was twice as big or ten times as big. The creation of a map can lead to discussion of historical explorers and surveyors and what methods they used to create charts and maps as well as the work of modern surveyors. (One example of a historical surveyor is Matthew Flinders who circumnavigated the coast of Australia).
Tie it back to Nim's Island - How would Jack and Nim map their own island? How would Jack have known that it was the right island for them to live on? What features made it liveable?
Stuck Inside the Classroom? Create a miniature island using clay or paper or found objects. Draw a map of the miniature island, striving to keep it as accurate as possible.
2. Observe Nature
(Teaching areas: science and art)
For this activity students might like to use paper, pencils, pens, clipboards, magnifying glasses, cameras, reference books and collecting containers - or a combination of those! A garden or nearby park is also helpful
Take your students outside to observe the environment around them. They might like to take a close up look at trees in the school grounds or see what kind of insects or birds (or possibly bigger animals!). Students can simply observe, use magnifying glasses to take a closer look, take photographs or videos of things they find to investigate further later, draw or take notes about what they see or collect specimens to investigate or display. They can discuss what impacts humans have on the local environment, look at some of the techniques used by botanists or biologists and refer to reference books to find out more about their discoveries.
Students can also take the time to sketch what they see when they are outside. They might like to create a drawing using the colours they see, draw a landscape or still life using nature as inspiration or investigate with the patterns they find in nature.
Tie it back to Nim's Island - Jack is a scientist and Nim helps him. What scientific methods and skills do we see in Nim's Island?
Stuck inside the classroom? Break out the reference books, show documentary videos about nature and the work scientists do or bring some specimens in from outside for your students to explore and draw.
3. Nim's Island Obstacle Course
(Teaching areas: physical education, reading, problem solving, design)
For this activity you might need a range of physical education or games equipment as well as space and pencils, paper and clipboard for brainstorming or recording ideas.
Challenge your students to create an obstacle course covering the key events from Nim's Island. Students may like to start by making a list of those events, then thinking about what kind of movements, activities or interaction with equipment would best suit those events. They might work in small groups on different parts of the obstacle course, then come together to test it, or work collaboratively from the beginning.
Students should think about how to lay out their obstacle course, which order it should be completed in and could reflect on how they would improve it if they had no limits on equipment. They might like to take pictures of different elements or create diagrams with instructions for participants.
Tie it back to Nim's Island - What do we know about Nim's health? What healthy habits does she have?
Stuck inside the classroom? See if you can source a hall or gymnasium and include more gentle movements. Or look for smaller movements which can be completed in the classroom, create a 'Nim's Island fitness circuit' and video the movements for participants. Students may like to use the videos to create a website or virtual classroom linking their fitness circuit back to the events in the book.
Or - if you have access to robotics, create a Nim's Island inspired robotic course . . .
4. Writing Outside
(Teaching area - writing)
For this activity, students just need a clipboard, paper and a pen or pencil as well as somewhere comfortable to sit.
A change in environment can be great inspiration for writers. Take your students outside and ask them to use their senses to be inspired to write something. They might like to explore poetry, fiction, a biographical piece about being outside or a report. Or you might like to offer some additional writing prompts or parameters. This can be followed up with a lesson back inside the classroom where students write pieces inspired by their classroom and compare their writing from both locations.
Tie it back to Nim's Island - How did Alex find inspiration and research information for her books? How would it have been different if she'd visited different locations around the world?
Stuck inside the classroom? Fill the classroom with outside prompts - videos, audio, items. You can get creative with this and choose different types of 'outside' (beach, forest, field, desert) or just look outside the classroom door.