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Map Reading For Children

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This is something I did a lot when working in schools as an outdoor education provider.


Often children have difficulty understanding the concept that maps are drawn from a birds eye point of view. What I did was take some photos around the classroom and school grounds from unusual angles and then ask the children to identify where the place the photo was taken from. A few of these can be strung together to form a mini course where the next photo clue is at the location of the previous picture. This gets the mind working!


Photos of a chair taken from directly above can help show that, for example, you can't see the legs under it.


I found the concept of satellites fine to explain but the in depth detail of how it works with timings and triangulations a bit too much for some age groups. I played a game I called Bat and Moth. Make a circle with the kids somewhere safe. Blindfold two children and call one the moth and one the bat. When the bat says bat the moth must say moth. Using the sounds the bat can hunt the moth. Develop this theme of sounds helping to find something by getting two children to stand apart. The blindfolded child must get between them. When the blindfolded child waves (left for satellite one, right arm for satellite 2) the two children must say Satellite 1 or satellite 2. The blindfolded child can than listen and place themselves between the satellites. Set it up again but put a mark on the ground half way between the two satellites. Of course within the rules they can find half way when the blindfolded child hears the satellites at an equal volume. When the mark is moved away from half way it gets harder. You can then introduce 2 more satellites at 90 degrees to the first two. Of course now where the two lines intersect is where you put the mark. The blindfolded child signals satellite 3 and 4 by raising left or right legs. This signalling the satellite is of course not how it happens with GPS but without doing it the blindfolded child cannot hear where well enough the difference between the 4 satellites talking at once. Of course the kids enjoy the odd arm and leg waving! Where left and right an issue I have placed coloured hankies on the appropriate limbs to help. The downside of this activity is that you have more children doing nothing than taking part but present it well and you'll have them entralled. Of course this can lead on to a discussion as to why GPS isnt pinpoint accurate etc etc.


Hope this makes some sense and is of use to you.





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For the concept of maps being an ariel view of the ground you could use Local Live - it has very clear photo's which you could match up with your local area's OS map and your kids local knowledge.


Another technique to engage the kids is to give them map grid references and they have to name the village/town at that reference. Here's a list of rude town names that'll keep them engaged.


Good luck

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You could also show them aerial / sattelite photos from google earth:


Rude examples here and here


Although on a serious side, would the scouts association have any ideas for teaching mapping? - their website might be useful.


edit to add: Scouts PDF on 'Teach yourself mapping' and 'Train Others'

Edited by NickPick
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