"We are going to search for hidden treasure!" To keep track of it, you will each make your own treasure map. But, instead of discovering treasure at the end of the map, we are going to create a map that helps us keep track of the treasures we find all along the way. 
While taking a walk around their school, neighborhood, park, or nature trail, students (suggested ages 3-8) will be challenged to create a map of the 'nature treasures' they discover. Students will make thumbnail sketches and brief descriptive notes of what they observe.
This activity is adapted from "Nature's Treasure Map" (page 34) found in "Opening the World Through Nature Journaling" a curriculum by Jack Laws, available in OER Commons, that integrates science, art and writing for grade 4-8 classroom.
- Build their observation skills;
- Develop scientific descriptive vocabulary;
- Learn to write brief descriptions of key observations;
- Gain drawing skills;
- Understand that maps are important informational documents.
Guided by their teacher, students will move slowly along a path or trail, looking for interesting nature 'treasures' and discoveries. They will create a map as they move along, including quick sketches, name places, and brief descriptions. After the treasure hunt walk, students may stand in a circle and share their maps and discoveries with the class. Teacher will lead the conversation about the observations they made.
The Value of Observation and Documentation
Keeping a field journal develops and reinforces the most important science process skills; observation and documentation. All other parts of the process of science depend on these skills. We assume that we are naturally good observers, but learning to really see is a skill that must be learned and developed.
A journal or notebook is an indispensable tool in all branches of scientific investigation. Keeping a science journal sharpens and focuses observational skills and provides reliable documentation of past events. The process of carefully recording observations in a journal forces one to take note of things that otherwise may have been overlooked. A journal is where the researcher records and preserves what has been seen, done, and thought in the course of his or her work. Journaling, as part of a school curriculum, strengthens and refines students’ cognitive skills by teaching them to observe, to become aware of what they have observed with all of their senses, and, to exercise their imaginations and critical skills through developing hypotheses to explain what has been observed. Observation is a skill that can be taught and developed.