Waco Gem and Mineral Club, Waco, Tx

20.1 Learning About the Different Sorts of Maps and How to Read Them


20.1: Learning About the Different Sorts of Maps and How to Read Them

Maps are two-dimensional representations of different aspects of our world. Kids should learn about the different sorts of maps and what kind of information each conveys. For instance, here are a few types of maps kids are likely to encounter:

Roadmaps show how to get from point A to point B on streets, roads, or highways. These are what most folks think of when hearing the word 'map'.

Political maps show borders of countries, states, and regions, locations of capital cities, etc. Kids will see these in political science and history textbooks from school.

Geographic maps may show both natural features (rivers, mountains, lakes) and manmade features (cities, roads, railroads), as well as artificial, political features (borders between countries and states).

Geologic maps show the underlying geology of a region, highlighting different types of rocks and formations. These are very colorful, for a very practical reason. The colors have been standardized to tell readers specific information about the type of rocks and their ages. Geological time periods are further delineated by letter codes, for instance, capital J for Jurassic, with lowercase letters indicating formations.

Topographic maps with concentric lines allow you to 'read' the landscape. Each line corresponds to a different elevation and once you become adept at reading these, you can 'see' the landscape in three dimensions. Many hiking maps are topographic maps so that hikers will know just how steep the trail ahead will be.

Weather maps show weather patterns across geographic areas, with symbols indicating wind patterns, storms, high pressure and low pressure systems and fronts. Kids just need to tune into the local news report to see these, and they‘re also often seen on the back page of the newspaper.

Help kids learn more about maps by directing them to books about mapping and bring in different sorts of maps to show how they vary. (20.2 has sources of maps.) Many good books are available to purchase or to borrow through the library. Some can get fairly technical, but you can also find age-appropriate books at stores that cater to school teachers and sometimes at more general bookstores. Check with the store clerk to direct you to books about geography. Following are some I‘ve found.

More advanced, technical books:

Barnes & Lisle‘s Basic Geological Mapping, 2004.

Maltman, Geological Maps: An Introduction, 1990.

McClay, The Mapping of Geological Structures, Second Edition, 2003.

Books aimed at kids:

Richard Panchyk, Charting the World: Geography & Maps from Cave Painting to GPS with 21 Activities, 2011. (Ages 9-12.)

Tish Rabe, There’s a Map on My Lap! All About Maps, 2002. Cat in the Hat‘s Learning Library (Ages 4-8.)

Scott Ritchie, Follow That Map! A First Book of Mapping Skills, 2009. (Ages 4-8.)

Sharon Thompson, Map Skills, 2003. (Aimed at Grade 5.)