Orienteering in the Forest & Garden


What different ways can we use to understand our physical place (in relationship to cardinal directions, in relationship to the different ecosystems and their relationship to histories of place)? How can we deepen our connection to native ecosystems that support our garden? How do we build a sense of teamwork, exploration, and fun through exploring the forest and garden?

Our Story:

A teacher candidate in PE helped us develop this activity that incorporates science, socials, and math and supports connections with the community and environment through participating in outdoor physical activities. Each child was given a compass and learned why and how to use them. Children connected prior knowledge about the direction of the sun’s path across the sky and the garden design (putting tall plants on the north side of the garden so that they don’t block other plants’ access to sunlight). We reviewed the cardinal directions using a poem with actions (facing North):

Orienteering Poem

Here I stand beneath the sky (hands up)

Grounded on the Earth am I (hands down)

My right-hand points to the rising sun (right-hand points right)

My left-hand points to where the day is done (left-hand points left)

My face points to the cold north star (right-hand points forward)

My back is turned to where the warm lands are (left-hand points back)

North, south, east, west (gesturing to each direction)

Where I stand I am at rest.

(Source Unknown)

Students were given a practice compass direction and then worked in teams in the forest to follow a set of directions to find a “treasure”. The hidden treasure was a native plant card with an image and information about a native plant. Each team then worked together to find and learn about the native plant and its uses.



They took a photo to show that they had found their plant.

(This one is a spiny wood fern! You can eat the fiddleheads!)

Extension Ideas & Questions

What is the relationship between these native ecosystems and the ecosystem of the garden? How are they the same? How are they different? What connects them?

Children are excited to learn and teach others about the traditional uses of native plants.

Although we led this as teacher-directed, we could also see students designing their own compass scavenger hunts, practicing their compass navigation and directing peers to plants or areas of interest in the forest.

Links to Materials

We created our own plant ID cards by scanning and printing the leaves of native plants and adding some basic information.

Here are some links to other great native plant ID resources for the Pacific Northwest

Please leave your comments and experiences below.

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