Lesson Plan Resources

Questions to Ask When Building a Lesson Plan

Below is a list of questions to consider when making your lesson plan. The question are tailored towards Outdoor Education and Recreation Programs.

  • What age are your participants?
    • Different age participants will have different needs and tolerances. Games are a helpful tool for teaching younger participants while longer trips may not be an option. Adults tend to want to go on longer trips and are not as enthusiastic about playing a lot of games. 
  • What are their ability levels?
    • Often outdoor education scenarios have groups with a wide range of ability levels. Make sure to have plans that accommodate all of them. Remember to spend time on safety basics like how to fall while bouldering and how to handle ski poles or a paddle with any beginner participants. 
  • How many participants and instructors will there be?
    • In a lot of outdoor spaces, specifically in the backcountry, large groups are either frowned upon or not allowed at all according to the area’s rules. In this case the group may need to split into smaller groups. It can also be difficult to keep track of participants in outdoor spaces so be conscious about the instructor to student ratios. Registered Maine guides have a max ratio of 12:1 participants to instructors. The ACA recommends the following minimum ratios:
Camper Age Number Staff Overnight Campers Day-only Campers
5 years and younger 1 5 6
6–8 years 1 6 8
9–14 years 1 8 10
15-18 years 1 10 12
  • Are there any potential concerns with specific participants?
    • Look at the participants’ medical forms. If you have any questions or concerns, reach out to the participant. You may have to change your lesson plan for the safety and/or inclusion of one of your participants.
  • How long is the program going to be?
    • Many factors go into how you plan out your time. For multi day trips, down time is important as outdoor recreation can be mentally and physically draining. Give people time to take care of themselves and to enjoy the place they are in. 
  • What are your goals for the program?
    • Before you make your lesson plan, write out your goals for the program. These goals need to match the group’s goals. I like to ask participants at the start of a course what their goals are. If mine don’t match up, I change them. You are there not only to teach technical skills but to help your participants grow and improve.
  • Do you need to meet with participants before the program?
    • Especially for full-day or multi-day trips, you may need to have a pre-trip meeting with the participants. If not an in-person meeting then an email with information may be helpful. During the pre-trip meeting you can ensure that participants are prepared for the conditions both mentally and physically. Often, your participants may be nervous about the course and pre-trip meetings are a time you can talk through their fears. It also gives you a chance to get to know the participants before you finalize your plans.  
  • Do you have equipment for the participants or are they bringing their own?
    • “Duffle shuffles” are where participants bring what they are packing for the course are common at pre-trip meetings to check that everyone has all the necessary things. This is especially important for courses with beginners.
    • Participants may not have equipment or clothing necessary for the course. For example, a beginner participant in a cross country ski clinic may not own snow pants so the instructor is able to lend them an extra pair. This type of thing is extremely common so, if possible, have extra gear available. 
  • Where are you going to run the program?
    • The place you are in will most likely be a large part of your lesson planning. Knowing the terrain is important, so is having plans for traveling between locations. Whenever possible use the place you are in as a teaching tool. Instead of using boards that you place in a parking lot or field to teach riding over raised objects while mountain biking, go to a trail with lots of rocks and roots. 
    • Recreational areas such as state and national parks often have specific rules for use. Research these rules before you arrive. There may be specific rules for large groups, rules about where you can camp, trials may be closed, etc. For example, Baxter State Park has a 12 person limit per group as well as rules about campfires and specific food storage guidelines due to the presence of bears.

Example Lesson Plans and Templates