Waco Gem and Mineral Club, Waco, Tx

15.5 Maps and GPS to Find Your Way


15.5: Maps and GPS to Find Your Way

Use this activity to show kids the different types of maps they‘ll find useful in pursuing our hobby, from traditional guidebooks, road maps and geographic/political maps showing locations of towns, county borders, etc., to topographic maps showing the ups and downs of our landscape and geological maps revealing the formations under our feet in colorful patterns. With that background under their belts, then turn to digital maps.

Maps have come a long way since the days we stopped at gas stations to get the bulky fold-out variety to distract us as we drove and that never seemed to fold back the way they folded out. Those maps still exist and still serve a purpose. Good sources for roadmaps continue to be gas stations, along with drug stores and variety stores, AAA offices, etc. More detailed maps and atlases are available through companies like DeLorme, Rand McNally, and Thomas Guides and can be found in variety stores, bookstores, or outdoor supply stores. To get topographical and geological maps, turn to the geological survey of the state you‘re planning to visit. Most will have a catalog or online listing of maps they offer. To find a link to your state geological survey, go to the web site of the U.S. Geological Survey.

The most exciting development with maps is how getting from Point A to Point B has been transformed in the digital age. Show your kids how they can enter start and end points into MapQuest or similar services and get directions, driving distances, and estimated travel time, along with a color map highlighting their route. In fact, skip MapQuest! Cars increasingly are equipped with built-in navigation systems that will even talk to you and tell you when you‘ve gone a road too far. On the web, mapping services such as Google Earth combine traditional maps with satellite images that allow you to zoom in for a close-up look at your destination. Gather kids around a computer and explore these neat features, picking destinations the kids throw out.

Finally, the Global Positioning System (GPS) has truly transformed how we might go about finding our old-time favorite collecting spots, even in those desert localities where the unmarked fork in the road turns out to be three or four forks, none seeming to line up exactly with the guidebook in our lap. In fact, those guidebooks increasingly include GPS coordinates for collecting spots. Some now consist purely of coordinates, entirely forgoing the traditional maps and directions, for instance, David A. Kelty‘s GPS Guide to Western Gem Trails. Other guidebooks are popping up, like Delmer G. Ross‘s Rockhounding the Wiley’s Well District of California: The GPS User’s Guide. If you or other adult members of your club or society have GPS devices, give your kids a demo of GPS in action, perhaps by doing a "geocache", or treasure hunt: hide a container or bag with enough crystal or fossil specimens for each of the kids in your group and plant it in a field or park, noting its GPS coordinates. And then play GPS hide-and-go-seek with your kids, and give each a rocky reward once the cache has been located.

Note: Kids can use this activity to satisfy requirements toward earning the Maps badge simultaneously (Activities 20.4 & 20.5).