Garden Nature Maps

April 10th was my first day back at Withrow school, my first day since the fall teaching in French, and my first time trying out my Garden Nature Maps activity.

It was nice being back at Withrow and seeing lots of familiar kids.  And as I’ve said before, I’m amazed by how they’ve all grown!  And the French went relatively well.  I think I managed not to throw in any Swedish or Norwegian words, and though I forgot a few basic French words, it went fine.  And it’ll come back with practice.

And my Garden Nature Maps activity was a hit as well.  This is an activity that was originally inspired by an anthropological methods course in university.  (How many times have I had people question the links between what I studied and what I’m doing now?  Well, here’s direct proof they’re connected.)  In the context of anthropological research, it was called community mapping.  In that case, a researcher gets community members to map out their community/neighbourhood, either on paper, or using whatever is around.  It allows the researcher to see what aspects of the community are important to different sub-groups (often divided by gender, age, occupation, etc.), and acts as a good introduction to a community.  The summer after I took this course, I did a similar activity at the camp where I was working teaching campcraft (i.e. maps/compasses, making fires, going on hikes, tying knots…).  The first time a group came to campcraft, I would tell them I needed help getting around camp and finding the different places, so I asked them to make me a map using whatever they found in nature (sticks, stones, sand, pine cones, etc).  It was pretty interesting to see how for some groups, the pools were the most important thing, for others in was the playground, for others it was the archery range, etc.  Plus, the kids tended to really enjoy the activity!

One of the garden maps.

Last fall, when I was working on linking my garden activities more directly to the Ontario curriculum, I found that in the Math (Geometry and Spatial Sense) section, they have to “describe the relative locations of objects on concrete maps created in the classroom,” which reminded me of this old camp activity.  So my school activity was somewhat more structured than the one at camp, while still leaving room for creativity.  I started with an introductory discussion about maps (what they are, how they are used, what kinds of things/places we might have maps of, etc).  We then headed out and checked out the garden (which they would be making maps of) and observed some of the most important features of the garden.

And another, slightly more detailed, garden map.

The students then collected whatever materials they could find, and made their maps.  We then took a tour of the maps, with each group explaining their map.  The teachers took some photos – which they can refer to later in class – before we dismantled the maps and returned the items to where they’d been found.  The maps tended to include the same features (which we’d discussed in the garden): compost bins, fence, trees, large rocks, plants, etc.  But it was interesting to see how some students were better at mapping things in relation to one another, while others just placed all of the features on their map without noticing their relative locations.  Both of the grade 1 and 2 teachers whose classes I did this activity with are starting a mapping unit next month, so it was a good introduction.  (As I discovered today, mapping is a part of the grade 1 social science/history/geography curriculum as well.)  It’s really rewarding to find out how teachers are linking the garden activities to their classroom activities!

Happy growing!


6 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by catherine on April 20, 2012 at 10:27 am

    LOVE this activity!


  2. Thanks, Catherine! It was a lot of fun (and relatively simple to run).


  3. Posted by Monika on April 20, 2012 at 10:43 pm

    Today, after weeks of anticipation (and hoping for a few ‘free’ non-teaching hours) I was out collecting materials from around the site and starting to build a herb spiral. It has been a while since I’ve had the chance to work for so many hours alone on such a rewarding task. As I sawed, drilled, shoveled and moved rocks around, my mind wandered to the self-guided garden scavenger hunt/tour that I’ve been working on. We do a mapping activity with our Grade 2s which is similar to your’s in that it is student directed and represents what is meaningful for them in the landscape. Your garden mapping idea really helped knit the strings of my mental tangents together!
    Thanks so much for spending time writing about your awesome garden ideas and activities!


  4. What a great idea! Sounds like things are getting off to a good start this season too! I enjoy reading what you’re up to even though I don’t comment much 🙂 keep up the good work 🙂


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