One way to begin to show order regarding neighborhoods is to introduce maps. Children have seen maps in various forms whether as mazes to complete or on television or in movies or even sometimes on the back of cereal boxes. Treasure maps are something they seem aware of at this age, with the excitement that is attached finding something valuable. Maps are to them a way to get somewhere, a destination to reach. How do we get there? What path do you follow to get the dog to his doghouse?
Maps are created to give information. That information varies from map to map depending on the purpose and goal of the map maker. A map can show a simple set of arrows showing left and right turns for directions to your friend’s house or the borders of our United States or the weather patterns on the news forecast or track of Christopher Columbus’ ships across the Atlantic Ocean. They provide a way of letting us know what others know or have learned or discovered. We can all remember from seeing maps that the world view has changed from before it was common knowledge that the world is round to our images from space that certainly show that now. Maps have changed over time as knowledge changes, which indicates that maps are evolving descriptors of the space we use or are interested in.
Maps are everywhere in our society. We ourselves cannot see all that any map shows us; it is not possible from one vantage point. Learning that maps give us information, specifics, is necessary, not innate. Looking at a map and then transferring that information into their reality is not a natural progression for young children. Size, scale, meaning, reference, representation are just the beginning of decoding what sits in front of them.
But what great power there is in looking at a drawn image and understanding what it means!
To discuss maps as a tool for imparting information one must first realize the purpose of a map. We, many of us, have collections of maps that help us travel through the state, or the northeast, or within the city itself. There are even maps located in telephone books that identify streets and landmarks within the calling area. These getting around tools have a connection to the mazes our students work on, kind of a destination focus, from here to there.
But maps are more diverse that our knee jerk reaction to the question, “Do you have a map?” These are a few types of maps giving different sorts of information to the reader. I have selected certain categories to focus on and define to help further understand the student activities and lesson plans to follow. This foundational information will help identify the purposefulness of each activity within this curriculum unit.