4) Investigating a park
Routes around the park
Identify a prominent feature to use as the central point from which groups of children orientate. Prepare a basic plan with a photograph or illustration of the feature in the middle. Give simple instructions for children to follow, asking them to say where they end up. On the plan you could leave sufficient space for them to draw what they have found there.
Or, you could prepare a plan showing the main circulation routes and a trail for children to follow with their adult helpers. At pre-determined areas of the park children draw what they see.
Look also at how park features are positioned in relation to each other. Encourage the use of directional or positional vocabulary such as near to, close by, far away, opposite, north, south, east and west.
Talk about the terrain of the park. Is it flat? Are there high places, sunken areas or slopes?
How do people get from one part of the park to another? For example, along paths, up steps, over ramps, across bridges, or through tunnels.
Foundation Stage teachers could photograph favourite soft toys at different places around the park, then pose questions such as, ‘Is he at the top of bottom of the tree?’ or ‘Is he in front or underneath the bush?’
Sounds around the park
Stop at key areas of the park and ask children to close their eyes and listen for different sounds. Can they hear any of the park sounds they listened to in school?
Create a tick list of sounds that children listen for. You could do this using a combination of words, symbols or photographs.
Children could record sounds from around the park. For example, splashing water, rustling leaves, footsteps, a creaking gate, tapping of wood, animal sounds. Take photographs to match with sounds when you return to school.
Smells around the park
What smells can children detect in different areas of the park? What has caused them? For example, damp or wet areas, recently cut grass, decaying wood, animal compounds or pet corners, strong scents from flower or herb beds and smells from food kiosks. (Ensure that children do not have any allergies when smelling flowers and beware of bees).
What lives in the park?
Give children sheets with drawings of wildlife, asking them to tick when they see each animal. (The sheets need not be all the same).
Talk about where they found or spotted each animal. Why was it there?
Discuss why some of the wildlife on their sheets may not be found at that time.
Explore carefully different habitats, such as verges, wild areas, undergrowth, stones, leaves and dead wood. (Check that this is possible in the park you are visiting.) Write down words to describe different habitats.
Why would insects choose to live there? Is it because the place is light or dark, dry or wet, above or below ground? Or is it because the insect can hide or camouflage itself easily? Does it have food nearby? Extend back at school by researching and talking about why the insect likes that habitat.
Look at insects through magnifying lenses (perhaps brought in a helpers’ pack). How do different insects move? Crawl, hop or fly? Use paired recording, with one able child to write words?
Collect different insects in a bug box, along with some of its habitat (soil, leaves, piece of dead wood) and take back to school for follow-up work.
Park patterns and shapes
In selected areas of the park ask children to find and draw different shapes. For example in playground structures, buildings, flower beds, ponds, paddling pools, hedges, fencing, seating, litter bins and signage.
Or, you could devise a simple activity sheet using silhouettes to help children do this. Some children could take photographs of different shapes they have found.
Extend this by asking children to find examples of shapes that repeat to make a pattern. For example, fences, balustrades, gates, grilles, paving, hedge arrangements and flower beds. Use slide mounts or card masks to help children frame objects and details.
Ask children to find and draw different-shaped leaves. Use leaves that have fallen onto the ground, or hold branches from shrubs for children to look at. (Be careful not to pull leaves from trees.)
Children could draw around individual leaves or trace their silhouette using tracing paper.
Alternatively, you could ask children to find leaves that are the same shape as those they have drawn in school.
Collect leaves, petals, seeds and pieces of bark by sticking them to a piece of double-sided tape attached to a piece of card.