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Nature Mapping (FBCEC)

TopicOutdoor Skills - Map and Compass (Orienteering
Outdoor Skills - Nature Mapping
Participants will map areas on the Fred Berry Conservation Education Center property, recording details that could include a section of lawn, part of a trail or part of a garden. Other techniques such as relief mapping, contour mapping or grid mapping may be used.
Grade LevelK - 12
Recommended SettingIndoor and outdoor classrooms
LocationFred Berry Conservation Education Center, Yellville, AR
Education Program Coordinator, 870-449-3484
Duration45 minutes - 1.5 hours
Suggested Number of ParticipantsUp to 12
Special Conditions
Weather permitting
  • Increase awareness of sense of place and geographical relationships.
  • Use mapmaking to represent experiences.
  • Apply mapmaking skills such as scale, direction and perspective to create a nature map.
Key Terms*

Contour map

Grid map



Relief map



Line and clothespins for displaying maps


Pencils, markers, crayons

Samples of maps


Explorers for eons have mapped new locations to record not just routes but features and events along those routes. Mapmaking can be valuable for exploring and defining one’s place in an environment whether it is a schoolyard, the world or even the galaxy. David Sobel, author of “Mapmaking With Children, suggests that children’s maps begin as an expression of their experiences and can gradually focus more on scale, location, direction and geography. 

  1. Discuss samples of maps.
  2. Explain mapping terminology such as perspective, scale, direction and legend with age-appropriate examples. Use examples from the FBCEC curriculum file, children’s books, brochures, etc.
  3. Distribute large sheets of paper and pencils, crayons, markers and paints to individuals or pairs.
  4. Help participants select an FBCEC site for their map. The type and size of the site will depend on the age and/or mapping experience of the group.
  5. Allow time to map their sites.
  6. Display the maps on a clothesline and share as time allows.
  • Materials for modeling three-dimensional maps can be provided for younger children.
  • Incorporate literature by reading an appropriate book to the class. Next, have participants write a story with a setting on this property. Then they can create a map to accompany the story. 

  • Compare contour maps, grid maps and relief maps.
  • What is the purpose of a map legend?
  • How can a map be used to represent experiences?
  • Garrett, Mary E. (2004). Orienteering and Map Games for Teachers. United States Orienteering Federation, Forest Park, GA.
  • Sobel, David (1998). Mapmaking With Children – Sense of Place Education for the Elementary Teacher. Heinemann; Portsmouth, NH.

Contour map – a map that uses contour lines to show elevations above sea level and surface features of the land


Grid map – a pattern of regularly spaced horizontal and vertical lines forming squares for locating points on a map


Legend – an explanatory list of the symbols on a map or chart


Perspective – the appearance of objects in respect to their relative distance and positions


Relief map – a map showing the variations in land height, usually by means of contour lines or different colors


Scale (mapping) – a ratio which compares a measurement on a map to the actual distance between locations identified on the map