Take It Home
Homes are the most personal space of land ownership. Most people only think they own land if they own a house, but since everyone owns the public spaces around our states and communities, it's important to recognize the small steps we can take to understand our space and how to protect it.
A person who makes maps iscalled a cartographer. For this assignment, all of your students will be kid cartographers. First, there are two things every cartographer needs to know:
A map is a “bird's-eye” view, which means it's a picture of what a place looks like from the air.
Maps have legends — collections of symbols that represent different features of the map. They can be letters, numbers, colors, shapes, or symbols. The legend also includes a scale, which says how much space on the map (usually an inch) equals a mile in real life. It also includes a compass rose so people know which way north, south, east, and west are.
The first map your students should draw is a map of their neighborhood from memory. They'll need to make symbols for houses, other types of buildings, and any other prominent features that may be in their neighborhood. You can work together as a class to generate these symbols. Write them on the board so students can copy them onto their maps if they need them. As an example, draw your neighborhood on the board. These don't need to be exact; just be sure to capture any favorite places and major features like parks, rivers, and highways.
Have the kids imagine they are flying above their neighborhood in a helicopter. What would it look like? Where is their home? Do they regularly walk anywhere? Where and what is it? Put it on the map. Make sure to include a legend that explains any symbols used in the map and label the names of streets and natural features like lakes and rivers if you know them. The second part of this project is to take the map home and walk around the neighborhood. Is anything missing? Look for signs and write down the names of streets. Now look at the maps from an environmental perspective. How many parks, wetlands, or forests are there? Where does the wildlife live?
You can expand on this assignment by using a local street map to compare the children's maps. You can also use a mapping tool on the Internet to see how maps are different.
In any city, a rain garden can be very helpful to create a space for water to drain so it doesn't end up running off onto paved surfaces, into storm drains, and then into surrounding water bodies. This can save your local waterways from being polluted with all the chemicals and debris the rainwater would collect if it were allowed to go its own way. Rain gardens are built to have the water drain to them instead of natural waterways. Healthy soil and special plants are placed in the rain garden in order to filter and drain the water into the soil safely, naturally, and healthily. You can get started with instructions and printable guides at www.raingardennetwork.com. This site has basic instructions, but charges for regional details. If you don't want to pay for your regional specifications, contact your local Cooperative Extension office. You can find the contact info through the U.S. Department of Agriculture at www.csrees.usda.gov. Teach the children about rain gardens and their importance so they can go home and teach their parents.
If you want to be more involved, send information home and ask parents to volunteer to be a part of a rain garden club. Everyone who's interested can have his or her name placed in a hat. When a name is drawn, the whole group goes to that person's house to work together to build the rain garden. Many hands make light work. The more you do, the faster you'll all get at making a garden. Don't forget to get the kids involved! They love digging holes and planting flowers! Please remember that small residential rain gardens are fairly simple to make, but a larger garden like one for a school will need professional help and planning.