Map Making Project (indoors or outdoors)
Materials: Compass, graph paper, pencils, rulers, protractors.
Map skills go beyond basic geography. Kids learn measurements, distances, directions and problem solving with the use of maps. The map making activity is tailored to the child’s level and includes key map vocabulary and symbols to make the map educational and enjoyable. In a second session, we can use the maps to create a “treasure hunt.”
What is on the Map?
The first decision is what to include on the map. For Kindergarten through 2nd grade kids who are just learning to make and read maps, we’ll map something familiar like the classroom or recess area. The familiarity of the area makes it easier for the child to think about what to include on the map.
3rd, 4th and 5th graders should be able to expand to include the entire neighborhood, town, state, country or world. We’ll choose an area that is appropriate and interesting for the students.
Children need to know what to include on a map before they can make their own. We’ll look at some examples of maps so the students can understand a maps’ key components.
They are the: Legend (decodes the symbols), Scale (measurement), Title (gives description of what is on it), and North Arrow or compass (orients the map),
Make sure the students can identify these components and encourage about them if they are unsure. Children can often struggle with figuring out abstract symbols and understanding measurements on the map. Teaching these concepts explicitly can help even young children better understand how to use maps. Point out the compass rose and the directions marked on it.
Pick the Landmarks
With a basic understanding of what to include on a map, the children are ready to plan out the map. Help them focus on the major landmarks in the area you’re mapping. If you’re making a map of the room, that might include the door, windows and furniture. For a map of a school, the drawing might depict the different rooms, the yard and major features outside, such as trees or the driveway. Young kids typically focus on a few major landmarks. Older kids are able to go into more detail. For a map of a school, for example, an older child might include the sidewalks, landscaped areas, fences and other small details.
Sketch the Map
The child is now ready to put those landmarks on the map. Start by drawing a compass rose to indicate north, south, east and west on the map. Position the paper to line up with the actual directions. This makes it easier to put the landmarks in the appropriate spots. It may be a good idea to mark the cardinal directions on paper and attach them to each wall as a guide.
Decide on symbols for different landmarks. A square might indicate a building in the neighborhood, for example. A circle might represent trees. The child starts by drawing a representation for a prominent landmark. Help them use the positioning of other objects relative to that prominent feature to accurately map the area.
Discuss proportion of the objects on the map. A fire hydrant shouldn’t be as large as the house, for example.
With 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders, discuss scale. One inch on the map might equal one mile in real life, for example. Use graph paper to help the older kids draw the maps to scale.
Map Making Activity #1: Giving Directions and Navigation.
Pick a destination you agree on. Using your map, write directions to get to it. Take time to read and try each other’s directions. Do the directions take you to your goal?
Map Making Activity #2: Compare Symbols in the Legend.
Compare your maps to see what symbols you used in the keys. How are they alike? How are they different? Get out other maps to see what symbols are used. Make a chart showing some of the symbols you found and what they mean.
Map Making Activity #3: Map Mix-up!
Put everyone’s completed maps in one pile, face down. Shuffle and pass out the group. Reading your map, try to find the desk locations it is showing. Did you find It? Discuss what confused or helped you.