Universe Cycle - Geography (4)
Post Lab 

  • Comparing different types of maps.
  • Deriving information from maps.
  • legend
  • map

Students examine a variety of U. S. Geological Survey maps.


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.

  1. SURFICAL GEOLOGY MAP - shows the types of rocks exposed on the surface of a given area
  2. PHYSIOGRAPHIC DIVISION MAP - shows how an area is divided into regions based on topography and climate
  3. WEATHER MAP - shows the weather patterns for a given day
  4. POPULATION MAP - displays different percentages of population in a given area
  5. TECTONIC MAP - displays folds, faults, and other geologic features that indicate mountain building (tectonic activity) in a given area
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Before you give students this assignment, go over the example given on South America with the map on the next page.
    1. What kind of information does this map provide? Information on countries and territories of South America and bodies of water.
    2. How did you know this? Map index or legend.
    3. What can this map be used for? As a base map to locate cities or rivers.
  4. 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 United State

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