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Giving "I'm a map maker" talk to grade school kids, need ideas...

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#1
David Medeiros

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My sons 3rd grade class has been learning about maps and geography over the past few weeks. I think they are currently all working on a hands on map projects creating 3d maps of the Bay Area with modeling clay and other materials. The teacher knows I'm a cartographer and has asked me to stop by and talk to the kids about what I do. 

 

Although I have no problems talking about GIS and map making to graduates, post docs, and faculty at Stanford, I'm totally intimidated by doing the same for a bunch of 9 year olds!

 

Anybody here ever given the "I'm a map maker" speech to their kids class? What did you talk about? Any good ideas for questions or demos to engage the kids?

 

 


GIS Reference and Instruction Specialist, Stanford Geospatial Center.

www.mapbliss.com
@mapbliss

#2
Charles Syrett

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I've done this several times over the years, the most recent being last week, when I did it one-on-one to a 10 year old whose Mom brought him to visit me right in my office. Usually it's done the other way, as you describe, where you go into the classroom. One way to prep for this is to have a conversation with the teacher, preferably after hours and in the classroom, where you can get a feel for what the kids are doing. That in itself will give you ideas. If possible, bring physical paper maps and/or globes that can be passed around. (For example, I brought in a jigsaw globe I had done, in which many of the puzzle pieces are country shapes, so that I could take Chile off and stretch it across USA to show how long it is.) Of course, if there's a computer rigged up in the classroom with a large display they can all see, it should be easy-peasy!

 

Charles Syrett

www.mapgraphics.com



#3
Dennis McClendon

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I've done quite a few through the years.  The main thing I try to leave them with is the idea that mapmaking is "intelligent tracing," always working from a source (like an aerial photo) with more detail than you'll actually use, and that your job is deciding what to label and what to leave out.  I generally try to persuade the teacher to do an exercise where they use tracing paper and an aerial photo of the block where the school is.  Or I've had them make a map (floor plan) of their classroom by counting floortile squares.  But the point is for them to decide what features get shown.

 

If you've done any sort of field-checking, that's usually pretty interesting to kids.  (I had in one PowerPoint a picture I took of a sign in rural Wyoming saying "No Trespassing; You Will Be Shot At" and that's all they could focus on.)  Drawing a couple of buildings in OpenStreetMap and a few minutes later having them show up on the website is also an impressive demo nowadays.

 

I also work a bit on the concept of symbolization, and how that changes from scale to scale (runways and taxiways with planimetric detail-->just the runways-->a mere airport symbol-->airport not shown at all).  I used to talk about symbols that can't actually be seen on the ground, such as contour lines, but that might be a remnant of the past and is a bit much for third-graders.

 

Another thing I've sometimes gotten into with older kids is how we could make maps before airplanes and satellites, and I'll show how a 19th century map of the Iberian Peninsula compares quite favorably with a satellite image.  How could we do that??  I just talk about how a plumb bob on a protractor at noon tells you your latitude, and how if you set an accurate clock when you sailed from London, you must be a quarter of the way around the world, or 90ยบ west longitude, when it reads 6 pm at local noon.  Put enough lat-longs together and you have a coastline map.


Dennis McClendon, Chicago CartoGraphics
chicagocarto.com




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