Maps are important to our everyday life. We need to locate and plot data,
even if it is just locating a house or store. Students love to look at
different maps. However, they must learn how to read them. The students
should be able to look for several key elements of a map. They should be
able to find the year in which the map was made, especially if they want to
find a street in a city that may be new. They should also look at the legend
to find out what the different colors or symbols on the map may be used for,
as well as to find the scale of the map. Since maps are smaller than the
areas they portray, a scale relates map distance to real world distance. One
type of scale is a bar scale, as small graphic in the legend that may show
distances in feet, miles, or kilometers.
There are many different types of maps. You can look in any newspaper and
find different maps providing different information. Below are just a few of
the different types of maps you may want to show your students.
- SURFICAL GEOLOGY MAP - shows the types of rocks exposed on the surface
of a given area
- PHYSIOGRAPHIC DIVISION MAP - shows how an area is divided into regions
based on topography and climate
- WEATHER MAP - shows the weather patterns for a given day
- POPULATION MAP - displays different percentages of population in a
- TECTONIC MAP - displays folds, faults, and other geologic features
that indicate mountain building (tectonic activity) in a given area
- Discuss with students the importance of
interpreting maps. We sometimes look at maps, but donít know how to
use it properly. This activity will have students find a map (either on
the internet or hard copy), and interpret the significance.
- Use the online activity of the "Ethnic Groups
of Eritrea." Discuss with students where the country is and what
information you can derive from the map. There are nine ethnic groups in
this country with different customs and language. Maps provide an
overlay for information to be understood easily.
- Before you give students this assignment, go over
the example given on South America with the map on the next page.
- What kind of information does this map
provide? Information on countries and territories of South America
and bodies of water.
- How did you know this? Map index or legend.
- What can this map be used for? As a base map
to locate cities or rivers.
- You may want students to find a map, print it
out, and then write a paragraph on what that map can be used for. You
can either provide them with a map, or have them search the internet.
The following may help your students in their search.
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.
The Digital Map Library at California State University, Northridge.
Contains many cultural geographic maps for major urban areas in the