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Lesson 1: Map your Schoolyard


Geologists do a lot of mapping. You can do the same thing in your schoolyard. This exercise introduces the concept of maps.

Learning Outcomes
  • Maps are drawings of an area as seen from above.
  • Maps have a scale and north arrow.
  • Maps have legends to explain the meaning of different symbols and colors.
  • Maps can be used to navigate.
  • Students practice the skill of navigating using a map.
  • Students gain appreciation for the fact that geology is all around them.
  • Aerial photo of schoolyard printed out from the Earth Explorer web site. (see Instructions)
  • Tracing paper for each student.
  • Tape measure (at least one for the class, preferably more).
  • Compass (at least one for the class, preferably more).
  • Colored pencils (or maybe crayons, but they are usually too big and clunky).
  • Tape (preferably transparent)
  • Scissors
  • Rulers
  • A "clipboard" for each student (something sturdy to write on while outside -- textbooks, binders, etc. all work well).
Time Requirements 2-3 class periods

Instructions Class Period 0 (optional background)
  • This lesson addresses several skills related to mapping. To begin with, make sure your students have sufficient background in mapping concepts. We recommend the following USGS resources for helping to teach basic map skills as background. You may want to integrate sections of these background activities into Activity 1, or do them as a separate activity entirely.
    • Map Adventures: (Grades K-3) Students will learn basic concepts for visualizing objects from different perspectives and how to understand and use maps. The lessons center on a girl who visits an imaginary amusement park. An unplanned balloon ride provides different views of the park.
    • What Do Maps Show?: (Grades 5-8) Covers geographic themes of location, place, relationships, movement, and regions. A map is a picture of a place. Different maps convey different information. Students will compare shaded relief maps, road maps, and topographic maps.
    • Exploring Maps: (Grades 7-12) Students will learn basic mapmaking and map-reading skills and will see how maps can answer fundamental geographic questions: "Where am I?" "What else is here?" "Where am I going?"
Class Period 1

Class Period 2 (optional)

  • Finish up the maps from the previous activity. Students will use these today in a mini-field trip to map rocks on their schoolyard. The details of this exercise are found in Activity 2: Navigating Your Schoolyard

Class Period 3

Extensions Invite a professional surveyor to come to your class as a guest. Surveyors use amazing new technology today -- much cooler than a tape measure and compass. Look some up in the phone book or search online (Using Google-Local turned up quite a few options in my area. ). Many surveyors operate as individuals with small businesses, so you can probably find someone willing to help out. Bringing their equipment for a demonstration would be really exciting for your class.

Science Fair: This activity could also make a good science fair project as students create precise maps of their schoolyard or neighborhood.

Schoolyard Geology Home  •  Lesson 1  •  Lesson 2  •  Lesson 3  •  Downloads

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