Grade Level: 6-8
Source: U.S. Geological Survey, 2006. Adapted with permission.
Maps are two-dimensional ways of representing information about the natural
and built world from a "top-down" perspective. You are probably
familiar with road maps that show where roads go and which roads intersect
with others and where. You also may have seen weather maps, which show
weather patterns across a specific geographic area, or political maps,
which show where borders are for countries and areas within those countries.
Geologists use a variety of maps in their study of the Earth. One type
is a geologic map, which contains information about the types and ages
of rocks in an area. Another kind is a topographic map. This map shows
the different elevations in a region. For any map to communicate information
effectively, it needs to have several key features. This activity will
help you to discover some of those features as you create your own map.
For a group of three to four:
- Metric measuring tape
- Large sheets of white drawing paper
- Notebook to record measurements
- Pencils and colored markers
- Your group's job is to make a map of your classroom and its nonhuman
contents as if you were looking down from high above. The map must fit
on the piece of white paper your teacher has given you.
- Before you begin, talk over with your group what you will need to
make the map. Think about these points:
- Data. What measurements will you need to make to create your
map? What other information about your classroom can you show on the
- Scale. How will you translate your measurements into a map that
will fit on your paper? How will people who see your map know how big
your room really is?
- Legend. How will you show the contents of the room on the map,
as well as the doors and windows? If you use symbols, how will people
know what they represent?
- Labeling. How will people know what your map is supposed to be
showing? How will they know who created the map and when?
- When you have answered the questions, compare your answers to those
of another group. Make as complete a list of answers as possible from
the ideas of both groups.
- When you're ready, make any measurements you need and record them
in your notebook.
- Draw your map of the classroom and its contents, being sure to show
your scale and the legend. Give your map a title, indicate the date,
and put your group's names on the map.
- Post the maps up around the classroom. Go on a "gallery tour"
of the maps, looking to see how other groups used scale, legends, and
labels. From what you learned on the tour, how could you improve your
own map? If you have time, draw a second map with any improvements.