Let's Go Camping!

{Aren't they cute in their campfire hats?}

How do you and your students wrap up the school year?  This year, we went "camping" in the classroom during the last week of school.  Little by little, the classroom became a camp site, trading desks for sleeping bags, lights for lanterns, and our meeting area for the campfire circle.  We tried different types of s'mores (in the name of science... states of matter) and made crafts I've been collecting on one of my favorite Pinterest boards dedicated to our classroom camp out.  (You can check out my board at the link below... so many ideas!)

We started by talking about Girl Scouts and their tradition of having special nicknames whenever they go camping with each other.  Each child chose a camping nickname for themselves and we displayed them on an empty bulletin board (see the first photo) to make it easier for everyone to remember them (especially for me).  The students also wrote their nickname on their own campfire hat we made the first day and we all worked really hard to call each other by these fun names.  (Nicknames from the Disney movie Frozen were very popular as you can imagine.  We had an Elsa, Olaf, Anna,  and Kristoff.)

Everything we did during that week was connected to the theme of camping. Whether it was math, reading, writing, science, or social studies, it was inspired by camping.

{Here, Kate is working on decorating her sleeping bag... Olaf from Frozen, of course.}

{The finished sleeping bags include a little head and hands peeking out of the top.  It's a 12x18 piece of white construction paper, folded in half, and glued on the bottom and side to make a pocket.  All the work done during the week is kept inside the sleeping bag... like a folder.}

{Each student glued this little poem I wrote onto the back of their "sleeping bag" folders.  It was used for a shared reading lesson.}

{We did a Making Words activity each day.  Every day had a different, secret camping word.}

{We used lots of camping poems and songs during our shared reading and word study blocks.}

{And who doesn't love a fun word search... full of camping words?}

These lanterns were one of our favorite things we made during the week.  They took about 3 days to finish, but they were so worth it when we were finished.  I originally found the idea on Pinterest, but I didn't really read the directions and just used what I know about papier mache to make these.  Once they were done, we filled them with battery-powered tea candles (available inexpensively at Wal-mart) and voila... sweet and colorful camping lanterns... wonderful to read by.  Close all the blinds, turn off the lights, and enjoy the glow!

{First, the children paint the bottom half of their balloon with a glue and water mixture... just enough water to make the glue "paintable."  Then, apply cut squares of colorful tissue paper... the more, the better.}  

{Then, hang the balloons to dry.  Over the next few days, repeat the process... painting and applying tissue squares.  Teach the children to cover all parts of the bottom half of the balloon.  Any uncovered parts will make it hard to remove the balloon later.  After several layers of glue and paper have been applied and dried, pop the balloon and remove it.  What you're left with is a beautiful paper lantern.  You can string it and hang it from the ceiling or just place them around the classroom like we did.}

This is hysterical, but I'm so glad I found it.  It's just a 10-minute video of a campfire, complete with the crackling sound of wood burning.  It's on YouTube.  Not only did I use it as a timer for certain activities throughout the week, but I also played it while we were doing our quiet reading, while we made s'mores, and simply to set the mood for the day.  The kids were mesmerized by it at first... they loved it.

If you're looking for more ideas to support a weeklong classroom camping event, check out this set.  It's full of cross-curricular ideas so you can have standards-based fun in all areas (science, social studies, math, reading, and writing).  It also includes booklists of camping titles and the student copies needed for each lesson.

Your Turn:  How do you wrap up the school year with your students?

UPDATE:  5/27/15
A few teachers have asked for a copy of the "sleeping bag" poem shown in the post. It's not in the packet, but you can download it for FREE at this link:


  1. Camping in the classroom is so much fun!! Love all of your ideas. The fire video is hilarious... it's just like the yule log channel on tv during Christmas time. We always put it on to set the mood. Hehe. Thanks for the ideas!

    First Grade Garden


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