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Teaching Cartography
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Teaching cartography was always a major wintertime social studies unit in my classroom. Each year it was fun to teach it. Not one single student (8 and 9 years old) in all the years I taught came to me with any kind of basic map skills beforehand.

And the best way to teach map skills is to teach cartography. Make your own, and you've made it your own.

I was fortunate that my classroom flooring was linoleum squares, black and tan. Scaling was easy. We pushed the desks back out of the way and counted how many squares this way, how many that way. Now, how many inches on the ruler shall we choose to equal a square?

I did the first, quick one on the chalkboard, with everyone participating, pacing off floor tiles (of course, everyone wanted to do it), counting how many desks, windows, doors, coat closet, etc. Got a bit noisy

Then we started to draw. At first, after setting out the rectangle on the board to represent the classroom floor, they figured out where the desks and chairs for 36 children went, and the teacher's desk and so on. Naturally, their inital attempt was to draw each and every single desk (4 legs) chair (4 legs) window pane (16) and so forth.

Whew! I said, I wonder if we could just choose a symbol to represent a desk (scaled of course). Yes, yes, good idea they said. But we still have all those pesky chairs...How about another symbol, they said, catching on quickly. And not just the door, but the arc to show where the door opens/closes.

But, but...what if a stranger comes in, how will he or she know what the symbols stand for? And so a legend was born.

After it was clear that each child had grasped the basic concepts, I handed out graph paper and said, now make your map for me.

Oh, did I get maps. I got maps of the classroom, maps of their homes, maps of the grocery store, and of every other place they could think of. [next part of project was to walk around the block where school was situated and map the block, but that part had to wait until spring].

I do believe they got it. And we had a great time.

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