Urban Green Spaces and Personal Well Being - Connect, Explore, Engage

Connect, Explore, Engage Template

Unit Title:

Urban Green Spaces and Personal Well Being


This unit helps students explore the role green spaces play in personal well being through observation, writing, community engagement, and shared mapping technology. 

Grade Level:


Lesson author(s):

Alicia Steiner asteiner@highlandcommunityschool.org

Instructional Materials Needed (if applicable):

Technology for Siftr experience (digital camera, smart phone, iPad, or similar device)

Venn diagram master 

Wisconsin Standards for English Language Arts Addressed (ELA Full Document or Literacy in All Subject Areas Full Document):

Grade 4, Writing: Write opinion pieces on topics or texts, supporting a point of view with reasons and information. a. Introduce a topic or text clearly, state an opinion, and create an organizational structure in which related ideas are grouped to support the writer’s purpose. b. Provide reasons that are supported by facts and details. c. Link opinion and reasons using words and phrases (e.g., for instance, in order to, in addition). d. Provide a concluding statement or section related to the opinion presented

Grade 4, Writing: Write routinely over extended time frames (time for research, reflection, and revision) and shorter time frames (a single sitting or a day or two) for a range of discipline-specific tasks, purposes, and audiences.

Grade 4, Speaking and Listening: Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacherled) with diverse partners on grade 4 topics and texts, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly. a. Come to discussions prepared, having read or studied required material; explicitly draw on that preparation and other information known about the topic to explore ideas under discussion. b. Follow agreed-upon rules for discussions and carry out assigned roles. c. Pose and respond to specific questions to clarify or follow up on information, and make comments that contribute to the discussion and link to the remarks of others. d. Review the key ideas expressed and explain their own ideas and understanding in light of the discussion.

Wisconsin Standards for Environmental Literacy and Sustainability Standards Addressed (Full Document or searchable spreadsheet):

ELS.C1.D.i Develop goals to promote personal wellness, mindfulness, confidence, and self regulation, and stretch mental and physical limits through activities in and about nature. Compare and contrast creativity, personal wellness, and academics in indoor and outdoor environments. Identify areas in the community that promote well-being and explain why. 

Evidence of Need:

Students express fear, anxiety or discomfort with outdoor spaces. Students cannot express the positive benefits of time in natural spaces for people's well being.

Evidence of Success:

Students can express the potential positive impace of green spaces on personal well being. 

Inquiry Experience 1

Setting and Estimated Time: Classroom and Schoolyard/Playground, 45 mins 

Learning Target:

I can observe, and compare and contrast my emotions in indoor and outdoor settings. 

Formative Assessment:

Students will document observations from indoor/outdoor experiences and use a venn diagram to compare and contrast. 


Prerequisites: Silence games, introduction to mindfulness, introduction to emotions


Begin with a whole-group discussion: 

Ask children to think of a time when they felt angry, upset or unfocused.

Ask them what things make them feel better.

Tell children that one thing that makes some people calm down and focus their emotional responses is being outdoors.

Tell children that today we are going to spend time practicing mindfulness both inside and outside and reflect on how it impacts our emotions.

Begin with indoor mindfulness. Ask children to suggest a silence game or a mindfulness exercise we have done in the past. (see https://annakaharris.com/mindfulness-for-children/ for simple ideas to use)

Engage children in the exercise in the classroom.

Ask children to record their observations after the exercise. Ask them to record the effect the exercise had on their mood, focus, energy level, etc.

Take children outside and engage in the same exercise.

Ask children to again record their observations after the exercise.

Ask children to reflect on their experiences afterward and share observations, either in partners, small groups, or as a whole class. Did they notice a difference in their emotions when inside versus outside? 

After dicussing, ask students to use a venn diagram to compare and contrast their feelings indoors versus outdoors. 

Note:  Be mindful while discussing not to push a personal agenda - being outdoors may initially make some children anxious rather than having the opposite effect.

Opportunities for Follow Up Explorations:

Children can create a mindfulness “menu” with indoor and outdoor options for sensory/mindfulness breaks

Children could experiment with indoor meditations that use nature imagery or nature soundtracks

Inquiry Experience 2   

Setting and Estimated Time: Classroom, and preferably nearby community green space (park, public plaza, etc.). 1 hour classroom, community time dependent on location and travel times. 

Learning Target:

I can use opinion writing to explain why urban green spaces are important for people's well being. 

Formative Assessment:

Students will create an opinion paragraph explaining why public green spaces are important for people's well being. 


Remind students of previous experience comparing and contrasting indoor/outdoor experiences on emotions. 

Ask students to name other natural spaces where they spend time besides the school playground.

Discuss the amount of time we spend in indoor versus outdoor spaces. Dicuss how living in a city can limit access to natural spaces. 

Ask students to discuss in partners or small groups the benefits of green spaces in urban environments. Share and record students' ideas. 

Share and discuss the following resouce on the power of parks in cities. (Site contains a video, a PDF and a Prezi of the same content)


Add to student-generated list of benefits of urban green spaces new ideas learned from "Power of Parks" presentation. 

If possible, take children to a nearby public green space to make observations of how people use the space. Ask them to reflect on what they observe as well as discuss posibilities for improving the space. 

If physical travel to a public green space is not possible, ask children to reflect on their own experiences in public green spaces. 

After discussion and reflection, ask students to write an opinion paragraph taking a stance on whether urban green spaces are important for people's well being, supporting their claim with facts, details, and personal observations. 

Inquiry Experience 3

Setting and Estimated Time:  Classroom: 30 minutes, Siftr assignment outside of class time

Learning Target:

I can identify areas in the community that promote well being. 

Formative Assessment:

Students will use Siftr to document their work. 


If this is your first time using Siftr, use the WISELearn "Introduction to Siftr" lesson to learn how to use the resource and create your Siftr: https://wlresources.dpi.wi.gov/courses/introduction-to-siftr. Access the Siftr project, "Urban Green Spaces": https://siftr.org/36386 for a model Siftr for this lesson. 

Link to previous lessons - ask students to share observations from their opinion paragraphs. 

Tell students they are going to have an opportunity to identify and share green spaces in the community that people can visit to promote well being. 

Project "Urban Green Spaces" Siftr and demonstrate use. Ask students to visit a community green space with their family and document the visit using the Siftr tool. 

Alternatives for completing the Siftr assignment: 

Have digital cameras families can check out for the project and assist children's Siftr entries on school computers. 

Plan small group trips to local green spaces to complete the project.

If students cannot travel to a local green space, ask them to research one on the internet and create a posting without a personal visit using the mapping feature on Siftr. 

Possible Follow Up: 

Review Siftr and discuss the "condition" ratings for each green space. Generate action plans for improving a local green space. 

This is a sample Siftr entry for the Urban Green Spaces Siftr exercise.
siftr.pngThis is a sample Siftr entry for the Urban Green Spaces Siftr exercise.

This is a sample Siftr entry for the Urban Green Spaces Siftr exercise.

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