3. Working together to create a map

Developing knowledge and understanding of the standard symbols that are used on maps worldwide will help your pupils explore physical features of any area in the world. It will also help them understand the way maps are constructed and their value in daily life, especially as they grow and travel to new areas.

However, it is important to use ways of working that involve pupils actively in exploring their surroundings and thinking deeply about the problem they are trying to solve. Using local resources and experts helps pupils understand more as the context has meaning for them. It may be possible for you to find someone who is knowledgeable about maps to come and speak to the pupils about how maps of their local area were drawn and explain the meaning of the symbols that depict local physical features.

Case Study 3 shows howone teacher worked with his pupils to understand local maps. Read this before you start the Key Activity.

Case Study 3: Analysing a map of the local urban area

Mr Banda is a teacher in an urban basic school in Central Province. He wanted his pupils to be able to study a map and recognise the physical features in any area.

Mr Banda decided to use a real map of Lusaka and so, two weeks before he planned to do the work, he visited the city planning council to obtain a number of maps of the local area. He drew up a worksheet for his pupils to use based on the maps. Because this work would involve symbols, he also drew up a chart of symbols, which he planned to display in the classroom.

As the city planning council was only able to give him five topographical sheets or maps, he divided his class into five groups. Mr Banda showed his pupils the chart that identifies the symbols, and handed out a map and one of his prepared worksheets to each group. He had identified a number of roads, a park, a hospital, some hotels and a petrol station, all of which the groups had to find on the map.

Next, he asked the pupils to work out the scale. He explained that map scales compare the size of the map with the real size of a place. Mr Banda showed his pupils how to read the information shown on the scale statement and the scale bar.

When the groups had finished analysing the maps and completed the worksheets, they swapped their worksheets with other groups, and checked to see whether they had found the same answers. Where there were inconsistencies, Mr Banda asked the groups to confer and agree on an answer.

At the end of the lesson, he went through the symbols with the whole class. Where groups had come up with different answers, they discussed the reasons and agreed on a final answer.

Resource 2: A map of an area in Lusaka and Resource 3: Questions for maps give examples of the types of resources that can be used.

Key Activity: Creating a big picture of the local area

  • Tell the class that you are going to draw a large map together of the different routes they take to school and the physical features around the school.
  • Divide the class into four groups according to the direction they take from their homes to school (N, S, E and W).
  • Ask each group to list the physical features that they see on the way to school (see Activity 1).
  • Mark four spaces on the ground – or on a large piece of paper or plain cloth – N, S, E and W.
  • Ask pupils to volunteer to be the first to draw the features of their direction on the space provided.
  • Then each group adds to what was not drawn by their fellow pupils.
  • Once the big picture is completed, discuss with the pupils how they now have a large map of the whole area around the school in front of them.
  • Ask the pupils from different groups to look at a map from another route and see if they can identify what the symbols mean.
  • With younger pupils, you could first discuss the symbols to use and draw them on the board. Then ask them to use the symbols on their maps.
  • Finally, ask pupils to draw their own small maps of the school and its surroundings, using the larger map as a guide.

2. Using a game to introduce maps

Resource 1: Map symbols