One of the benefits of visiting the same woodland site each week over the whole school year is that we intimately get to know every part of that space. It is lovely to note when a child observes a fallen branch or some other slight change that would not register with someone who visits only once or twice. It also means that they are more in tune with the turning of the seasons as they recognise the changes to the woods as being seasonal rather than just thinking of new flora belonging to a new site.
Last week we had great fun mapping our woodland site on the forest floor using stones, rocks, ferns, twigs, seeds, leaves and any other materials that we could find. The children had a great sense of orientation and intricately mapped out ,the site in great detail, adding a leaf to an upright twig to help correctly identify specific trees, or placing one flower head to show an area lush with bluebells or wild garlic. Using these maps to then help find hidden treasure added a great sense of adventure, with the children asking to do it again and again.
If you only get the chance to visit a woods once, mapping allows you to really tune in to the landscape and take in your surroundings, paying close attention to detail that might otherwise pass you by. Next time you’re in the woods try out this treasure map activity and notice just how much more of a sense of space and place you can develop through this simple and fun activity.
1. If you don’t already know the area too well choose a small patch to start with and wander around taking in the different forms that make up this piece of the woods.
2. Split into two groups, each will work on their own map and bury their own treasure.
3. Using something on your person, a hat, glove or even a spoon from lunch, find the perfect spot and hide your treasure while the other group are not looking. Both groups need to find two separate hiding places.
4. Still in your group, clear a space on the woodland floor by brushing fallen leaves and debris to the side making a blank canvas on which to create your map.
5. Stick twigs into the ground to represent trees, find stones to mark out raised ground, leaves will help to identify specific trees and ivy vines might show running water. Be as imaginative as you can with the resources on offer.
6. Mark an X on your map to show where the treasure is hidden.
7. Each group must read the other’s map and using their map reading skills locate the buried treasure.
8. If working with younger children I find it best to have an adult who may have helped with the map stay with that map, with a new group coming to them to read it, as they will know where the treasure is buried and can be of help if it is really tricky or proving too difficult to find.
9. Once the map is made treasure can be reburied somewhere else in the site, all that you need to do is move the x.
Happy treasure hunting.