Spatial Thinking And Maps Skills In Young Children
Spatial thinking allows students to comprehend and analyze phenomena related to the places and spaces around themand at scales from what they can touch and see in a room or their neighborhood to a world map or globe. Spatial thinking is one of the most important skills that students can develop as they learn geography, Earth, and environmental sciences. It also deepens and gives a more complete understanding of history and is linked to success in math and science. Young students also enhance their language skills as they collaborate and communicate about spatial relationships. Students who develop robust spatial thinking skills will be at an advantage in our increasingly global and technological society. This collection can help you teach an assortment of map skills through activities that address the spatial thinking abilities of young children and developmental appropriateness. The collection is not intended to be a complete map skill program, and the activities can be adapted for higher or lower grades. for a downloadable summary of all activities and the learning objectives and spatial thinking concepts targeted in each activity.
The Basics Of Mapping
Maps are representations of the world created by people called cartographers to help other people navigate the world. Maps contain information tailored to a specific purpose.
- A road map, for example, contains information that helps the reader get from one place to another using a vehicle.
- The maps found in a geographical atlas will contain information of less interest to a road user, such as how the land in a place is used, the population density and the political boundaries that exist between regions, states and nations.
There are five fundamental things you need to be familiar with to read a map successfully:
- compass directions
Three Contexts For Spatial Thinking
Spatial thinking occurs in different contexts. On a daily basis we think spatially when we navigate between home and school or when we arrange papers and books in a backpack. We might think of this as thinking in physical space.
Studying human geography provides examples of a second type of spatial thinking. Learning about the shapes and structures of urban areas, the diffusion of cultures and agriculture, or the organization of the world economy, that is, learning human geography, is learning about physical space. Maps certainly are essential to researching these topics.
Using space as a metaphor or analogy, thinking with space, is a powerful strategy in problem solving, learning, and communicating and is the third context. There are many examples in human geography of taking nonspatial information and putting it into a spatial context to display, summarize, and stimulate analysis. Illustrating the taxonomic relationships of language subfamilies through the analogy of a tree is an example of thinking with space. The physical proximity of the languages on the tree branches provides a memorable way to observe relationships. Graphics such as concept maps, population pyramids, and climate graphs also take nonspatial data and spatialize it into a form that facilitates thinking with space.
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Put The Map Into Practice
1. Point Your Map North
To point your map north, place your compass flat on your map, pointing towards the top, and rotate yourself until the compass needle points north. Simple!
2. Find Your Location On The Map
Identifying your surroundings and relating them back to your map is the most important thing when trying to locate your position. You usually wont know your exact grid reference starting out, so a good idea is to start at a grid reference that you do know.
If you began in a town or village and drove to the start of the hike, then start there on your map and re-trace your steps. Once youre confident that youre in the correct general area, you can begin to look around for landscape features.
These can be mountains, rivers, walls, spurs, saddles, roads the list goes on. If you can identify 3 surrounding features in real-life and pinpoint them on your map, you can be quite confident that you have located yourself.
3. Reading Contour Lines
Contour lines are the small black lines that wave around the whole map.
Each contour line on a 1:50,000 scale map represents a rise of 10 metres above sea level. Every 5th contour line will be slightly bolder, to make it easily countable when youre counting many contours at a time.
The closer the contour lines are together, the steeper the gradient. You can use this information to plan routes on gentler slopes to ease the difficulty of climbing.
4. Identify Features Of The Landscape
Finding The Absolute Location Of A Place
- Graticules are the numbers at the edges of the map that gives the coordinates for each line .
- Latitude graticules are marked along the east and west edges of the map, while longitude graticules are marked on the north and south edges.
- The map must identify where the latitude and longitude is in relation to the equator and Prime Meridian, respectively .
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How To Read A Weather Map
There’s method in the madness of your local TV weathercaster when he/she is rambling on about curved, studded lines hanging from a little red L. The fronts on a basic weather map were devised by Bergen School meteorologists early in the twentieth century. It took years for them to be accepted by scientists in much of Europe and the US, and they didn’t become part of pop culture until TV and newspapers made them a fixture in the 1950s. Here’s a meteorological phrasebook to help you interpret surface weather maps.
? Ldenotes low pressure,H high.
? The thin lines sometimes shown as wrapping around Hs and Ls are isobars lines that connect points of equal surface pressure. By and large, the surface wind blows along the isobars, but it tilts slightly inward toward low pressure. Because winds are driven by pressure contrast, they’re almost always strongest where the isobars are most tightly packed. Quickly intensifying lows or strengthening highs may induce the wind to cross isobars at a sharper than usual angle from high toward low.
? Lows, highs and isobars are drawn on a map only after the pressure at each station is adjusted to a sea-level equivalent.The idea is to keepthe lower pressure that’s always present at high-altitude stations from skewing the entire map .
Understanding The Symbols On The Map
Since maps are representations of the real world, cartographers will use symbols and colors to indicate to the reader what they are mapping.
What the symbols on the map mean are defined in whats known as the map legend or the map key.
The point of a map legend is to describe what all symbols on the map mean. Maps with a complete map legend or key can be used without the need for additional interpretation guides.
The map below shows the General Plan land use zones for the City of Santa Clarita in California, the map in the lower right corner lets the reader understand the meaning of the different colored areas.
The US Topo maps can contain a lot of symbology that isnt defined on each individual quadrangle. If you look for the map legend on our example Half-Dome quadrangle map, you will notice the legend is very sparse:
If you look at a small section of the Half-Dome map, you will see that there are a lot of symbols that are not included in the very small legend on the USGS map. There simply isnt enough room to include all the symbology on these very detailed maps.
To understand what those symbols mean, you would need to reference the USGS Topographic Symbols guide to look them up.
Some symbols are meant to be intuitive. For example, the green symbol with the picnic table lets you immediately understand this point on the map is a rest area where you could stop to eat food. The light brown symbol with the hiker lets you know that path is a hiking trail.
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Maps From Specialty Companies
Several companies produce enhanced topographic maps. They highlight key features and update details regularly. These maps are more likely to be available for popular areas.
Additional features that can make a map more valuable include:
- Highlighted trails
- Distances between trail junctions and landmarks
- Primitive trails
Increased Interest In Maps
Over time, maps have become an important part of society at large. To paraphrase a common expression, maps are not just for geography anymore. Maps are more widely available than ever before. The new technology of geographic information systems has expanded the ease and ability by which maps are produced. We find maps in newspapers, television weather forecasts, automobile navigation devices, the internet, and handheld PDAs. Mapping systems are being used to track repair technicians, to share information about environmental issues, to sell houses, to manage 911 services, and for homeland security. Animated maps and other visualizations have become a key tool in studying a range of scientific phenomena. Because of the widespread use of maps today, learning how to read, interpret, and produce them has become a new essential skill.
Geographers, psychologists, and cognitive scientists are becoming interested in the kind of thinking, termed spatial thinking, that underlies map reading and interpretation as well as forms of analysis in geography, other social and physical sciences, and mathematics. Spatial thinking is defined as the knowledge, skills, and habits of mind to use concepts of space, tools of representation like maps and graphs, and processes of reasoning to organize and solve problems .
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What Can Geographers Learn From Examining Maps
Geographers use maps and global positioning systems in their work. Geographers study the Earth and the distribution of its land, features, and inhabitants. They also examine political or cultural structures and study the physical and human geographic characteristics of regions ranging in scale from local to global.
How Contour Lines Describe Terrain
Simple trail maps are useful for trip planning but NOT for navigation in the field. Topographic maps go further, giving you the power to visualize three-dimensional terrain from a flat piece of paper. The feature that makes this possible is contour lines:
Contour lines indicate the steepness of terrain. Contour lines connect points that share the same elevation: Where theyre close together , elevation is changing rapidly in short distance and the terrain is steep. Where contour lines are wide apart, elevation is changing slowly, indicating a gentle slope.
Contour lines also indicate the shape of the terrain. Roughly concentric circles are probably showing you a peak, and areas between peaks are passes. Studying a topo map of a familiar area is a great way to learn how to match terrain features with the contour lines on a map.
Index contour lines: Every fifth contour line is a thicker, index line. At some point along that line, its exact elevation is listed.
Contour interval: The change in elevation from one contour line to the next is always the same within the same map. Many maps have either a 40- or 80-foot contour interval: An 80-foot interval simply means that each contour line is 80 vertical feet away from the next closest line. You find the contour interval for your map in its legend.
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Using A Topographic Map
Topographic maps come in handy when you want to go camping or hiking. This is a map that can make your entire journey quite a simple just by the fact that any potential occurrences of unpleasant surprises are reduced to the minimal. Even though most campers and hikers usually prefer to use GPS nowadays, technology can disappoint you in one way or another so this is a skill that is more of a necessity. This is owing to the reason that you will acquire the essential knowledge required in understanding the terrains that you are in hence know what steps to take in various circumstances. In addition to this, you will also be more familiar with the details of the area such as elevations for example. Another great benefit of the topographic maps is that they are normally readily available online and are offered by the USGS .
How To Read Latitude And Longitude On A Map
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Latitude and longitude are measurements of location on the globe. If you know how to read latitude and longitude on a map, you can determine the geographic coordinates of any spot on the map. While online maps make it easy to determine latitude and longitude with the click of a button, sometimes it is helpful to know how to do it on paper. In order to read latitude and longitude correctly, you must first understand the basic concepts behind these measurements. Once you have the basics down, learn how to identify latitude and longitude markers on a map and pinpoint exact locations.
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Why Are Maps Useful To Geographers
Map reading and map drawing are important skills to learn in geography. Maps also help us to know distances so that we know how far away one thing is from another. We need to be able to estimate distances on maps because all maps show the earth or regions within it as a much smaller size than their real size.
How To Read A Map
This article was co-authored by wikiHow Staff. Our trained team of editors and researchers validate articles for accuracy and comprehensiveness. wikiHow’s Content Management Team carefully monitors the work from our editorial staff to ensure that each article is backed by trusted research and meets our high quality standards.There are 9 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page.wikiHow marks an article as reader-approved once it receives enough positive feedback. This article has 15 testimonials from our readers, earning it our reader-approved status. This article has been viewed 589,291 times.
If your GPS is on the fritz and you need to know how to get from point A to point B without getting lost, theres no need to admit defeat by stopping to ask for directions. Just pull out your trusty map! Whether youre hiking the Swiss Alps or planning a cross country road trip, knowing how to read a map is practical skill that everyone should possess. And contrary to popular belief, it isnt particularly difficult. Once you understand what key markers like scale, longitude and latitude, and topographical lines mean, youll be able to travel just about anywhere with a few quick calculations.
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Choose The Correct Type Of Map
There are different types of maps to choose from. You want to be sure that you have the right one for your purpose. A tourist sightseeing map will be of no use to you if youre in the remote parts of the West Highland Way. Below is a quick list of the types of maps and the situations that theyre useful for.
- Topographic Map
- Knowing how to read a map, especially topographic, is the most important thing for hikers. It shows detailed information about the terrain, roads, points of interest and distances.
- Road Map
- Road maps are a great accessory to bring on a road trip. Theyre very useful if youre going on a GPS-free trip, however they do often require a passenger to be your map-reader.
- Tourist Map
- A tourist map is useful for city breaks. They generally show the attractions and points of interest around a city. They are usually available in tourist offices or in lobbies of hotels and hostels.
- Choose The Right Scale
- The right scale of a map very much depends on what your purpose is. Well focus on topographic maps, as this is normally where the scale is important. The most common scale to use while hiking is 1:50,000. This means that for every centimetre on the map, there are 50,000 centimetres in real life.
- Maps are broken up into grids, with each box of the grid measuring 2 centimetres. That means for every full box on the map, it covers 1 kilometre in real life. This is useful for quick estimation of distances at a glance.
How To Learn Geography
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Learning geography can be a daunting task. Geography is such a broad subject that involves many different areas, and memorizing names of places without much context can seem tedious and difficult. However, mastering geography can give you a rich sense of accomplishment and help you know much more about the world that you live in. You may even find that you have a passion for traveling and learning about new cultures as a result of your study of geography!
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Geography Resources: Free Printables Maps And More
Geography is one of those subjects that I admittedly dont focus on much in the early years. We start small with learning how to read maps and understanding just what geography is the layout of the world, our country and state.
Once I feel they have mastered that, we move on to more in-depth geography studies, such as a state-by-state study or country-by-country/region studies. There are many different ways to study geography and no one way or path is right or wrong.
But I will be honest, I dont spend a lot of money on curriculum in the elementary years. For one, because my kids often fly through it at lightning speed and two, because I have multiple children. So my favorite is to find cheap or free curriculum online that I can print as many times as needed.
So I scoured the internet looking for some great printables and curriculum to use in your geography studies. And the best partthese are all FREE!