My purpose in designing this unit is to build awareness and understanding of neighborhoods and the maps that explain that same space. I remember as a student being interested in maps and not really getting the guidance I needed in elementary school. At home, I would take maps and often the atlas to look up different things. I used my parents’ maps to locate cities I had heard of and places I would like to see. This became helpful only in my needs because I still found map reading in social studies classes to be difficult. As much as I enjoyed geography, I never felt that I really managed well with the information maps were offering. Because I recognize that some students are as interested as I was, I want to have the resources to give them the basic skills and hopefully inspire more students to find maps informative and engaging.
Also, I am realizing through the use of the Internet and Global Positioning System that students are getting directions differently than even the recent past. GPS is funded by and controlled by the U. S. Department of Defense (DOD). GPS provides specially coded satellite signals that can be processed in a GPS receiver, enabling the receiver to compute position, velocity and time. Four GPS satellite signals are used to compute positions in three dimensions and the time offset in the receiver clock.
Although this is helpful and certainly current technology that needs to be understood, I feel that learning to read a map, to orient yourself, and to ultimately find your way is a rewarding skill. One example from my life lately is my teenage children using the “you are here” red star on the map at the mall to get to the next place they are looking for to shop!
My ultimate goal is to map our neighborhood. Although neighborhoods are organized to create a purposeful environment, these basic standards are not necessarily or readily obvious to young children. They walk or ride in car or bus to school each day, they may not notice what their neighborhood is comprised of and why, the general and specific buildings and landscape that make up the area. I have ridden on the school bus with my young students on field trips throughout our city. Many times I have been directed to, for example, “Look over here at my grandmother’s house. She lives right next to that store.” I mention this type of circumstance because I would knew where that child’s grandmother’s house was and that was not the house, the street, or even the neighborhood. But to the child the setting was similar enough to create the illusion that we were passing a very familiar spot for her. A similar experience has occurred many times with this age group and it makes me realize that the consistency of the common built environment. For a child, her relative experience of her grandmother’s setting can be easily transferred to another neighborhood, one that seems easily recognizable.