Nature Maps are a free form craft activity for small groups of preschool or kindergarten-aged children. Although we've written this out in steps, once you know the idea, you can just do a spontaneous map on any trip to the playground if you throw a few supplies in your bag. It's really simple!
Making a nature map encourages working together in a group, individual creativity, thinking about the physical world around us, engaging with nature, and playing outside.
There is no one way to make a nature map, it depends on the season and the kids you're working with. We made ours in the fall, when there are lots of beautiful nuts, seeds and coloured leaves available.
Things we liked about this project
· Easy set up + clean up
· Friendly for all skill levels of crafting. This is all about the fun of making and playing together
· A great project to bring kids of different ages together
How long this project takes:
This activity was about a half hour to set up and 1 hour and 15 minutes to make.
Where to make a Nature Map
A good space for a nature map is a large park or playground. For our map we visited a local university campus on a weekend when it's usually quiet. We found lots of wide open spaces without traffic.
Supplies for this activity
· A storybook
· A craft station area consisting of a table or bench and bins
· String, children's glue, child-safe scissors
· Selection of simple craft supplies, for example popsicle sticks and pipe cleaners
· Coloured chalk
· An open, paved space such as a wide sidewalk or playground area which is out of the way of foot traffic. (If you don't have a paved space and you are using a grassy field, instead of chalk, you might use coloured yarn and give each child a ball of yarn instead.)
Preparing for the project
We set up a craft supplies station with bins of glue bottles, popsicle sticks, pipe cleaners, string, chalk and scissors. We placed the craft station at a low height on a bench nearby.
We began by reading a story together. We chose the book "Foggy" from our first series of Windy books. We stopped in a few places to show how we'd used found objects to make our illustrations. In our books, we also include maps of the stories in our books and interactive episodes, so we looked together at the map, too.
You can choose another book. The main thing is to explore a story or idea together, before beginning your project.
Next, we introduced our project: to make a map together, using things we find in nature. Each child will make a part of the map. It can be a place, a person, or an animal, or anything they like. When we're finished, we will join each creation together to make our map.
We also introduced ourselves and asked all the children to introduce themselves, too. As we did, we each did a big jump. Then, we were ready for action!
Making spaces to work
We let everyone choose a piece of coloured chalk and asked them to draw a big circle on the ground. They wrote their names with the chalk, too (sometimes with help). This became their area to work in and also their point on the map.
Gathering our supplies
We let the children gather natural materials nearby and then bring them back to their circles. The children were also invited to choose any other craft supplies they might need from the craft station we had set up.
Making our map
We gave everyone about half an hour for making time. We saw a wide range of projects. One little girl made a specific bridge in our city (the Second Narrows Bridge), while several kids made faces.
When we were done, we gathered everyone together and visited each station. Each child was invited to talk about what they made. If they were shy, then we didn't press them, but we did ask questions, like : "Tell us about what you've made," or "What did you like about making this?"
One tip: try to avoid asking, "What is this?" or "Why did you make this?" If it's not clear, it's ok for this age group. Often we get to hear really interesting or funny things at this part. We realized later that we didn't write down what the children said, we just remember a lot of laughing!
After visiting each station we choose a new part of the map to visit. As we went, all the children drew a line between the station we'd just visited and the next station with their chalk. (If you don't have a paved space and you are using a grassy field, instead of chalk, this is where you might use coloured yarn instead of chalk.)
When we were done we stepped back to look at our map. It was great!
We had some play time before cleaning up.
Ideas for making this project your own
There are a lot of ways to approach Nature Maps — here are some maps we think would be fun, too:
· Map of a city
· Map of a zoo or an ocean with nature creatures
· Map your homes or make your neighbourhood
If you make a nature map, let us know! We'd love to see your work and feature it on our blog or on twitter!
Photography: Lori Kiessling
Thanks to our Nature Map makers: Piper, Josie, Stella, Henry, Tova, Willem, Forrest, Sammy and Rosie.
Find more nature-inspired activities on our Nature Studies board on pinterest