Mapping your site
Whether your site is buzzing with life or a little greyer than you would like, understanding your starting point is an important first step in your Nature Park journey.
Mapping your learning site will enable you to understand what habitats and resources your site currently has, and help you to focus your efforts where they will have the greatest benefits for nature and for people. It will also help you measure your progress towards boosting biodiversity. These mapping tools will help you to see those nature gains as they happen.
The idea of mapping the habitats might be daunting if you've never done something like this before, but we’ve designed the process so that it is easy for you to deliver.
Educators and learners will work together to map their site one habitat type at a time, and these resources guide you through that process. For each habitat type, together you will carry out activities to explore the habitat and develop learners’ understanding of key concepts. Learners will then follow a flowchart to identify that habitat, and educators will map it on a mobile device using the Habitat Mapper app.
There are eight sets of habitat mapping activities for you to work through or choose from.
Make sure your site is on the Nature Park map (less than 10 minutes)
Before you get started, an educator needs to add your school, nursery or college site to the Nature Park map using the site boundary creator tool.
Plan how you will involve learners in mapping habitats on your site (up to one hour)
Education sites vary, so tailor the habitat mapping process to your setting. Sites with lots of natural areas may have all eight habitat categories, others may only have one or two. You can spread these habitat mapping activities over a half-term or whole term.
Each habitat category has a dedicated resource page, with instructions for educators, activity sheets to download and print, and a printable flowchart to identify the habitats. They can be found using the links below.
- Grass and wildflowers
- Ground without plants
- Hedges and bushes
- Flowers and food
- Vertical features
- Microhabitats: Homes and help for nature
Mapping your site is a collaborative process between educators and learners. Regardless of their age or ability, young people can explore and map the habitats on site. Our planning tool will help you to consider:
- which habitats you have on site, therefore which resources to print
- how long this unit of learning may take
- which learners to engage in which task
If you are involving multiple classes or year groups, liaise with colleagues to agree how to divide up and schedule the activities.
Top tip: To reduce printing, you can laminate the flowcharts so that they can be wiped clean and reused.
Top tip for EYFS: For Early Years, we suggest staff create the map independently of the children (it’s still very important to create this map, to measure your success at boosting nature on site), but involve children in exploring simple concepts around nature and habitats using the dedicated Early Years resources.
Practise using the Habitat Mapper tool (up to one hour)
The Habitat Mapper tool is intuitive to use, but it will be much easier in lesson time if all relevant staff have practised using the app and ensured it is loaded on the right devices and logged into your account ahead of time.
Download the free Esri Field Maps app on to each device, then open the Habitat Mapper tool on each device via this webpage (whilst logged into your Nature Park account).
You will draw around areas of habitat on a digital map of your site and assign a habitat category to it. Your learners will have determined this habitat category by working through the activities and flowchart provided.
Then spend 15 minutes outdoors practising drawing around habitat areas (e.g. an area of grass), drawing habitat lines (e.g. for long thin features like fences), and adding microhabitat points to the map (e.g. a log pile). Familiarise yourself with the options under habitat area, habitat line, and microhabitat point. The flowcharts include an icon to remind you whether to draw an area, line or point.
Gather what you'll need for sessions
- One mobile device logged in to the Habitat Mapper tool on the Esri Field Maps application
- The printed activity materials for the habitat activities you will be carrying out
- Any additional equipment the activities require, such as measuring sticks or water bottles
How to map your site (multiple mapping sessions)
Now for the fun bit! Time to head outdoors with your learners.
- Select which habitat you want to work on in this session from the Preparation section. Each has a dedicated resource page, with instructions for educators, activity sheets to download and print, and a printable flowchart to identify the habitats. They are linked above.
- For your chosen habitat, introduce the session and set the context, guided by the instructions for educators. Discuss why you are carrying out this activity and why it's important. Outline what young people are going to do and what they will learn in the process.
- Explore your site to find the first example of the habitat group you are surveying (e.g. grass) and ask the young people to identify where this area of habitat starts and where it stops. Learners can split into small groups and spread out within this habitat area.
If the boundaries of the habitat are simple this can be done by observing and discussing from a distance, but where the boundaries are more difficult to distinguish we recommend walking around the habitat in its entirety and discussing where it starts and stops, as a group.
- A series of short 5 to 10-minute activities support learners to build the skills, confidence and knowledge, to answer the questions in the flowchart correctly.
- Use the flowchart to identify the habitat. Learners should answer the questions in the flowchart, referring to the ideas they learnt in the introductory activities. Ask learners to note their route through the flowchart as they go, so that they can discuss any differences with other groups, in the next step.
- Reach an agreement. Within their small groups, or as a whole class, come back together to discuss their findings and any differences, then agree on a habitat identification.
- Add to your map. An educator should then use the Habitat Mapper tool to draw the shape of the habitat onto the Nature Park map, as accurately as you are able to. Ensure learners see you do this and understand their observations are being submitted to a national map.
- Move to the next patch of this habitat. Continue around your site until all the areas for the habitat activity have been identified and mapped. You may need to come back and finish off in another session.
- Reflect on what has been learnt. Finish the session by showing the students the digital map and use the reflection prompts in the instructions for educators to discuss together. You could also reflect on:
- What did we learn about our site today that we didn’t know before?
- What new skills did we learn today?
- What do we think are the benefits and downsides of the habitats we have on our site?
- What things might we want to improve for wildlife, for the climate and for ourselves?
- What are our next steps in the Nature Park?
If you wish your learners to be more hands-on with mapping and you have devices available, we have produced a Map Viewer tool that learners can use to view the map that is being produced by the educator in real time. The young people can extend their mapping skills by using a function called ‘markup’ to add drawings and labels to the map (but this will not be saved or shared with the Nature Park database).
Map Viewer uses the same Esri Field Maps app you have already downloaded. Access it via this webpage when logged in.