Mapping the Neighborhood

Skills are mastered by practicing, again, and again.  That’s repeatedly clear when working with the boys on many of the navigational and plant identification goals we’ve given them.  They need multiple opportunities to use their skills.  So though we’ve “done” tree identification and compasses and map reading activities before, they were still challenged and certainly far from bored with our recent neighborhood mapping activity.  We started at Edison by dividing into three groups of three boys each.  Each group had an adult assistant (thanks Caitlin and Michael), a bag of supplies (markers, tape, pencils, pencil sharpeners, etc.), directions, a photo identification page of the trees and plants in the challenge, and a clipboard and blank map for each boy.  The map encompasses Hilyard to Agate from 21st to 24th Avenues, so unless you’re in our neighborhood, you’ll probably just want it as inspiration.

The boys had a little over an hour to get back to our house, but they had to work together to accomplish several tasks including the following:

  • labeling the streets on the map
  • putting a compass rose on the map
  • putting four or more significant landmarks on the map
  • finding examples of the following plants in the neighborhood and identify them with a symbol or code on the map (Douglas Fir, false Cedar, Maple tree, oak tree, fern, rhododendron, ivy)
  • finishing off the map with a key and title
  • collecting three leaf specimens along the way and identifying where they were from on the map

The teams conquered these tasks in different ways, some making individual maps, others collaborating, some focusing on tracing their path, others on speed, but they all had a good time, practiced some tricky skills, engaged in creative problem solving, and learned some new facts.

Working together to fill in the map

Are fire hydrants landmarks? They are in our neighborhood!

matching trees and plants to photos

We were going to do a leaf print project with their samples when they came back, but we didn’t have enough time or good enough leaves rich with pigment, so we’ll do that in another season.

I would highly encourage you to make a map of your neighborhood with your son and see if he can fill in the directions, streets, and key landmarks.  Giving them a map with the street lines identified but no (or few) labels, gave them the right amount of structure.  I initially thought I would have them make the maps, but then decided that would be too challenging.  I was right!  This was hard enough!  But they were able to do it with adult support and teamwork.  Good job boys.  I especially enjoyed watching the boys shine in different ways.  New talents and individual strengths coming from each of them.  They all have so much to offer!

Debriefing the neighborhood mapping experience

About Gretchen

Among many other things, I'm a mother of three boys ages 8,5, and 2.
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2 Responses to Mapping the Neighborhood

  1. Stephanie says:

    Just found your site through a post from Whole Earth Nature School and think this is a great idea. We are unfortunately too far to be involved, but I am so encouraged to see people organizing things like this in their neighborhoods! Thanks for the inspiration!

    • Gretchen says:

      Thanks for your words of encouragement! If you have boys that you are interested in starting your own Daring Boys’ Club group for, let me know, though from a brief peek at your blog, it looks like you are already having quite a daring adventure of your own. Cool!

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