Waco Gem and Mineral Club, Waco, Tx

20.3 Making Maps


20.3: Making Maps

Host a map-making workshop with your juniors to make maps of different sorts. You might start by asking them to sketch a simple map of the room they‘re in, as if they were on the ceiling of the room looking down. Sounds simple, doesn‘t it? But wait! Here are some questions to pose and to consider:

How do they want to orient the room on the map? Where will north be? What features of the room do they wish to highlight? For instance, do they only want to highlight permanent features, such as doors, windows, closets, etc., or also temporary, moveable features, such as tables and chairs? What sort of scale do they want to use to convey the size of the room to someone who might read their map? That is, will one foot of the actual room be translated as one inch, a half inch, or a quarter inch on the map? Or, for the true scientists among us, will one meter be translated as one centimeter? If including things like chairs in the map, will they actually draw little chairs, or will they use a symbol like this, Ħ, to represent each chair in the room? If so, they‘ll need to craft a legend to tell readers what each symbol stands for. At the bottom of that legend, they should also indicate the scale used for the map; for instance, 'Scale: 1 inch = 1 foot'. Finally, they‘ll need to consider labels, both a large label for the map as a whole to tell readers what room this map represents and possibly small labels within the map identifying major features of the room, like a closet or a fireplace. Begin familiarizing kids with mapping terms like orientation, scale, symbols, legend, and labels.

From this exercise of mapping their meeting room, expand out. For instance, you might lead them in making a geographic map of their own neighborhood, highlighting various features of particular interest to the kids (Timmy‘s yard or apartment, MacDonald‘s, the ice cream shop…). Or, as a group, make a roadmap showing how you‘ll be getting to your next field trip collecting locality. Make a miniature hilly landscape out of moist sand in a large tub and insert rows of toothpicks at different levels, with all the toothpicks of specific levels joined together by different colored yarn or string to give kids a better appreciation of what the lines on a topographic map help us visualize. Then have them sketch a 2-dimensional topographic map using the toothpicks and strings on your miniature 3-dimensional landscape to guide them.

But don‘t confine the kids‘ imaginations. Let them determine the type of map they want to make, be it a 'treasure map' to a tin can filled with tumbled stones buried in the backyard, a roadmap showing how to get to a mineral or fossil site from their homes, a topographic map highlighting the hills and valleys of a nearby park, etc.

The U.S. Geological Survey has neat, helpful sections all about maps and map making that you may want to explore. Go to http://www.usgs.gov and click on the 'Education' link and start exploring all the resources they have to offer for free!

Note: Kids who make a map to a collecting locality as part of planning for a field trip can use this activity to satisfy requirements toward earning the Field Trips badge simultaneously (Activity 8.2).