Universe Cycle - Geography (3)
Pre Lab 

  • Describing different types of maps.
  • Interpreting various uses of maps.
  • maps
  • physical
  • political
  • topographic

Students look at various types of maps that they bring in from home.


A map is a picture or representation of the Earth's surface. Maps show how things are related to each other by distance (both horizontal and vertical), direction, and size. Maps are a way of showing many things about a portion of the Earth's real three dimensional surface on a flat piece of paper. This two dimensional representation can be carried and transported easily.

A map is not a picture of the Earth's surface. Map can focus on one feature, such as streets or population distribution. Maps can show many things that pictures cannot show.

Maps have many uses. They are important in the appraisal, conservation, and development of natural resources; in analyzing and forecasting weather conditions; in agriculture, fisheries, and general commerce; in regional planning; and in property surveys and the demarcation of boundaries. Maps help in navigation by sea, air, and land in times of peace and especially in times of war. Maps are also important to scientists concerned with the causes and effects of Earth surface phenomena, in such disciplines as geology, oceanography, meteorology, climatology, animal and plant ecology, agronomy, economics and the social sciences, as well as geography itself. Maps record observations, aid in analysis, stimulate ideas and aid in the formulation of working hypotheses.

  1. Discuss the meaning of maps with the students.
  2. Give the students a World Placemat and ask them why is a map important. Hopefully they will point out that you can find countries, roads, cities, forests, oceans, lakes, and many other natural surfaces without going there.
  3. As a homework assignment, have students find different types of maps. Newspapers are a good source, or have them look on the Internet. Have the students determine what the maps are used for. Here are examples of the type of maps students may find:

    POLITICAL MAPS - locate a country, city, or state
    WEATHER MAPS - see how the weather fronts are moving into an area
    DISASTER MAPS - locate scenes of problem
    ROAD MAPS - help people locate a business that might be advertising in a newspaper

    After students bring in the maps, discuss what they have found. This will help the students see the broad range of uses that maps have in our society.

  4. Here are some websites that have good map resources:

    A collection of digitized maps at UT Austin. Many historical maps.

    The Color Landform Atlas of the United States. Beautiful shaded 3D maps showing surface features

    Good maps of the seafloor, from NOAA.

    The National Atlas of the United States. A great abundance of geographic information, of all types.

    A link site that connects to many commercial, educational, and government map sources.

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