Reading the Landscape: Design a Hike

Post-Visit Activity, All Grades


Students evaluate their visit to the Nature Center and plan a class hike near school. 


  • Pencil
  • Paper
  • Compass (at least one)
  • Map of nearby area


1.  When you return to school, have students compare their courses and discuss which sections they found to be the easiest, which the most difficult, and why.  You might want to have students who completed their courses present their strategies to the entire class.

2.  Have each student write a report with 1) a copy of their course map and descriptive clues, 2) a description of the route they took to each station.  Did they take a direct compass bearing?  Follow trails? The fence? The canal? Etc. and 3) their major weaknesses and what they could do to improve their performance.

3.  Have students plan a map and compass hike to take as a class.  This could be done on school grounds, in a park, forest, natural area, or even through an urban area.  After reviewing the map as a class, tell students they will be given the chance to plan a hike the entire class will take together.  Provide guidelines as to the approximate length of hike, requirements for off-road travel, or any other goals you would like to achieve.

4.  Have students work in small groups to discuss possible routes then plot out a hike on the map.  After they have drawn the route, they should determine the total distance the hike will cover and compass bearings for off-trail travel if applicable.

5.  A spokesperson for each group should then present the hike to the rest of the class, including information on where they will go, what they will see along the way, distance, and elevation gain.  After all groups have made their presentations, students will vote for their favorite.  The hike with the most votes will be taken by the class.  If you only have one compass, make sure children gather as you compute new directions, or take turns themselves.

6.  Upon return, evaluate the hike-what might they want to do differently next time?