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Backyard Sensory Map

In this activity, students use their senses to explore life in their environment.

From a small backyard to an entire neighbourhood, we can find many different kinds of plants and animals living in our community. We use different senses to observe life around us—we may pay attention to the sound of a birdcall, the colour of an insect, or the smell of a skunk roaming the neighbourhood.

Objectives

  • List common organisms found in local neighbourhoods and describe how we can use our senses to observe these organisms.

Materials

  • Per Student or Group:
    pencils
    journals or scrap paper

Key Questions

  • How else could you look for living things?
  • How many signs of living things did you find?
  • What types of wildlife are in our community and how do we notice them?

What To Do

Part 1: Discussion

As a class, brainstorm a list from the following questions:

  • What kinds of plants do you have in your neighbourhood? (Answers may be general like grass, tree and moss.)
  • What kinds of animals can you see in your backyard? (Answers may include coyotes, raccoons, sparrows, robins, insects, worms, etc.)

Part 2: Outdoors

Teacher Tip: Avoid locations near busy streets, as the noises will make it difficult to do the sensory mapping activity.

  1. Go outdoors. Sit in a circle.
  2. As a group, take 30 seconds to sit completely silent with your eyes closed. Listen for sounds around you. Try to think of what might be making those sounds.
  3. Have students draw/write out what sounds they heard and where they were coming from. Try to write down if the sounds came from a human or not.
  4. Next, as a group, take 30 seconds to quietly move around within the circle. Sniff for smells. Try to think of what might be making those smells.
  5. Have students draw/write out what smells they smelled and where they were coming from. Try to write down if the smells came from a human or not.
  6. Then, have students sit down. Take 30 seconds to look for interesting living things.
  7. Have students draw/write out what they saw and where the items were found.
  8. Have students use cameras, sketchbooks, or notebooks to record the living things they observe in the schoolyard.

Extensions

  • Listen for bird calls. Imitate what you heard and point to where you heard it.
  • See if others heard the same sound and ask them what it sounded like to them.
  • Research your favourite backyard animal.
  • Go to a different location and compare and contrast your sensory map.