One of the strategies I’m using this fall for integrated learning is to use a specific location and do a series of projects there.

We’re going to be using Williams Park, an area whose range of stream, forest, playground picnic and other areas provides rich opportunities for understanding aspects of place. By doing various projects there, our my hope is to build a full-bodied appreciation for how various aspects of knowledge and practice fit together.

We’ve worked with both boys to brainstorm some ideas, and will continue to add to the list. I’ll also do write-ups for each project that we do.

To get a sense of the types of activities we’re going to engage in, see below. I’d love to hear your ideas, or ways you might flesh some of these out (I’ll provide my fleshed out versions as we go):


Exploration & Mapping:

A brief introduction to how maps work at a picnic shelter, then working together to measure out a small (then increasingly large) areas. Coming up with a legend, and deciding which things to put on the map. As an expansion, we might make a basic map, then do overlays for various aspects (roads, waterways, human usage, etc.)

Stream Exploring:

Spending a morning walking as far upstream and downstream in the river as we can, talking about what we notice and taking photographs of interesting things. Once home, putting the photos together with text describing our adventure.

Plant / Animal lore

Identify at least 10 plants and 10 animals (bugs included). Learn a bit about them – any stories (particularly Matsqui, Kwantlen or Katzie) we can learn about them, a bit about their environmental niches, life cycle, etc. Diagram and label them. Write stories about them (what it’s like to be a Gerridae, etc.).

Rock Collection, Categorization and Basic Geology

Collect some diverse samples of rock – different shapes, sizes, etc. Bring them home and do an initial grouping based on whatever criteria is desired. Experiment with ordering them by size, colour, shape, etc. Weigh them and use water displacement to measure their volume to figure out their density. Identify the types of rocks, and talk about basic rock types. Return rocks afterwards, talk about stewardship.

Found Object Art

Make art from the various plants and rocks found.

Animal Signs & Tracks

We have the good fortune to know a world-class animal tracker. When she’s in town, have her teach us some basics of finding & identifying animal tracks, and tell some of her stories of tracking animals.

Dam Building

Design and build a small dam in part of the stream using rocks & other found material. Design, build, test, improve. Talk about reasons for dams. Talk about human impact on the environment. Remove dam.

Leaf Categorization & Identification

Collect as many types of leaves as we can (one of each). Categorize them in various ways. Do rubbings. Learn basic leaf anatomy. Discuss adaptation. Make an art project out of the leaves. Return leaves afterwards, talk about stewardship.

Park Usage

Write down all the different things we see people doing in the park. Get a calendar of events in the park and read. Talk to staff who help take care of the park to find out what they do. Discuss how all this fits with non-human functions of the park. Discuss basic aspects of environmental ethics (intrinsic / extrinsic value, prioritization of usage, etc.).

Biome Exploration

Review the natural features (hydrological, geological, climatological, etc.) and flora / fauna present, and discuss how they fit together. Explore various competitive, symbiotic and other relationships. Discuss human impact on the biome. Talk about the different kinds of biome.


Make a documentary about what’s been learned, using footage from the park, art made from found objects, and/or any other details desired.

Nature’s Gifts

Explore the various ways that we use the materials found in the park. Try some of the edible plants and discuss any medicinal functions they have. Talk about importance of stewardship for continued use.


Our youngest son was very interested as we talked a bit about it, and he suggested we do a project where we try to rescue animals at the park! I think we can turn this into both a pro-active help approach and do a “rescue patrol” that will let us familiarize with the park and talk about what sorts of dangers different animals might face there.

The possibilities with this approach are truly endless – I’ll update as we prioritize and experiment with these and other ideas in Williams Park.