Carolina Biological OSE – April 2024


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Early Childhood

Mapping the classroom or schoolyard

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Peggy Ashbrook Margaret Ashbrook 10953 Points

I'm looking for resources about using or making maps with children in early childhood, preK-grade 2. I have shown children an aerial photo of the block the school is on, and many of the four-year-olds identified the building, the playground next to it and even the sandbox.
There is a useful article in NAEYC's March 2014 Young Children, 'Mapping the School: A Reggio Emilia-inspired Activity Helps Children Learn About Their Community' by Lauren A. McCann (Vol. 69 Issue 1, p16). I know David Sobel has written about this in Mapmaking With Children: A Sense of Place Education for the Elementary Years. National Geographic Education, Exploring Maps and Models of Earth, is a lesson for children in preK – grade 1, and suggests beginning with helping children understand the concept of a model of something real.
Do you know of any other resources, or have experiences or suggestions to share?

Tina Hamilton Tina Hamilton 12505 Points

Our school campus is across the street from Twin Lakes in Boulder Colorado. Our science question in second grade was, "Which is larger, our school, or Twin Lakes?" Many students were sure our campus was larger. We began having a discussion about ways we can gather information about how the Earth looks. One student suggested we use Google Earth. When we found the image of our school campus and the lakes many students were surprised to see how much larger the lakes appeared to be than our campus. We used a yard stick to measure the approximate sizes of the lakes and our school on the big screen. Students decided that the lakes covered about half of the screen (1/4 of the plate for each lake) and about 1/4 of the screen was actually covered by the campus. We used a variety of materials to create models of this map, such as blue and green paints for the water (covered with waxed paper for a watery effect), black paint for parking lots and roads, pieces of modeling clay for the school buildings, and we glued sand onto the paths around each lake.

Linda Ngo Linda Ngo 2775 Points

I just looked into the link that you provided and I think it is very interesting. I like the idea of having students to compare and contrast on how certain things are alike or different. Then explain why it is important to use the map.

Linda Ngo Linda Ngo 2775 Points

I think map is very useful and I noticed that there are different kinds of maps that u can you in the link. This would help students follow them by looking at the area and signs.

Peggy Ashbrook Margaret Ashbrook 10953 Points

Thanks Tina, What a wonderful resource to have near your school! Measuring the areas on the image of the school vs the lakes was a good solution to the problem you set the second graders. Were any of your students unclear on what the image represented? Do you think some of the video games and apps that children use are introducing them to the concept of a bird's eye view at an early age?

Tina Hamilton Tina Hamilton 12505 Points

Interestingly enough, one of the students suggested we use Google Earth. She knew all about this because her mother works for them!

Gail Poulin Gail Poulin 1420 Points

Good question Arlene. Even I lose the concept of scale when it is so easy to zoom in and out, distorting size. Having objects adjacent to each other on a screen can be helpful but we do need to watch the key for accuracy. Even still is the key reflective of actual mile marks or simply a possible zoom tool?

Peggy Ashbrook Margaret Ashbrook 10953 Points

I like the book, Mouse Views: What the classroom pet saw for helping children think about how the world looks from different points of view. Several reviews at

Tammy Perez Tammy Perez 2195 Points

There are some great ideas here (as well as things to watch out for)! I'm teaching a series of lessons on mapping our classroom and school to first graders this week.

Peggy Ashbrook Margaret Ashbrook 10953 Points

Tammy, I'd love to hear more about your mapping lessons and any challenges you faced and any insight you'd like to share. You can upload a file if you want to share actual documents but I'm especially interested in student perceptions and any changes in their understanding. Peggy

Patricia Rourke Patricia Rourke 45925 Points

Hi On its website, Vernier offers a free download of an activity on Mapping the Schoolyard. It uses various sensors to measure and to record data, but creative teachers could devise a similar lesson not based on specific technology. Introduction Our environment is important to all of us. In this activity you will investigate your schoolyard as an environment. Scientists study large areas by looking at samples. One way to sample an environment is to look at data along a straight line called a transect. In this experiment, you will gather data along a transect in your schoolyard. Objectives In this experiment, you will Measure ground and air temperatures at various locations along a transect. Observe and classify the living organisms at those locations. Determine if there are temperature differences between the ground and air above it. Organize and present your results. I will attach a free copy of the inquiry activity. It comes from Middle School Science with Vernier and interested teachers may view and download many other lessons to adapt and use. ~patty


Peggy Ashbrook Margaret Ashbrook 10953 Points

Thank you Patty, my preK-grade 2 students might be interested in the idea of a transect, I'll give it a try. I think it could help them understand the concept of collecting data at the same locations over time. We can set it up and then check for living organisms every day! The temperature probe and light sensors are not developmentally appropriate at this age. We have to save some things for middle school! Peggy

Patricia Rourke Patricia Rourke 45925 Points

I am glad that you found something useful from the document, Peggy.I would also urge you to think about instrumentation, a bit- even using thermometers empowers young students to measure and collect data in their world and thermometers can be digital or of a more old-fashioned variety. Not everything needs to be saved for later grades as learning spirals and measuring tools support exploration and student understanding. Your project sounds like a good one. Keep us informed. ~patty

Naomi Beverly Naomi Beverly 19130 Points

Margaret- What powerful lessons the kids are experiencing! I was just in a 4th grade class yesterday where there were some kids learning about the intermediate directions for the first time ever in life. Your students will have those down in a week, max! Please keep up the great work! All the best, Naomi Beverly

Katelyn Pages Katelyn Pages 795 Points

I found that has a lot of helpful information about specific topics. I went and searched for mapping my classroom. There are several different ideas to use but I found this one it only cost $2.00 hope this helps :)

Kiara Garcia Kiara Garcia 1170 Points

Begin in the classroom. Give them a white sheet of paper where they can begin at their desk and map out the rest of their classroom. You can also add North, South, East, and West in order to apply another concept and challenge those little minds! I have seen it work student find themselves confused but as long as you have North, South, East, and West labeled in the room they will figure it out.

Adrian Gaytan Adrian Gaytan 20 Points

I do think giving them a piece of paper and mapping their classroom first would be great. But, think about it why not allow them to take same piece of paper and map their home. BRING that into the classroom and learn about their environment at home. I have seen some apps on Itunes that allow kids to use GPS. Take pictures and create a virtual map of the class would work well.

Peggy Ashbrook Margaret Ashbrook 10953 Points

I love the idea of making it a home-school connection! A GPS app sounds great for elementary students. Many preschools do not have GPS devices and teachers may not want to use their own phones. But taking photos of the classroom and combining them on a larger map is something my 3 and 4-year-olds can do. Does anyone have experience doing this or using a GPS app with children?

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