Title: Mapping School Grounds 212

Key Words: natural environment, cultural environment

National Standard: 1 (Using maps and other geographic tools)

State Standard: 10 (Using maps and other geographic tools)

Teaching Level: Middle School

Introduction: Making and using maps that show the natural and cultural environments can lead students into discussions about land use, environmental issues, and an awareness of how they relate to their surroundings. This outdoor mapping experience is meant to give students practice at map making and detecting the natural and cultural features that surround them at school.

Objective: Students will map and analyze the natural and cultural environment of the school grounds.

Materials: Four parent volunteers or adults for outside supervision.
Clipboards for each student, authentic or handmade from cardboard and fasteners.
Outline of the school building centrally located on a sheet of white paper which will be used in the outdoor mapping activity.
Optional - colored pencils.
Optional maps - town/city map showing location of school in a greater context; gazetteer map of the part of town in which the school is located; topographic map of the area; a GIS map print out.
Optional tool - a Global Positioning System Unit to get a reading on latitude and longitude.

Procedure: Define the following terms:
Natural environment - all the features that are natural such as landforms, water bodies, vegetation, wildlife.
Cultural environment - all the features that reflect human presence such as buildings, roads, trails, power lines, boundaries, landscaping, signs, litter, parking lots.

Tell the students they will be making a map of the school grounds to show its natural and cultural features. Hand out the paper showing the outline of the school, the clipboards, and the pencils.

Divide the class into four groups. Assign each adult volunteer to a group. Assign each group to a side of the building.

Spend five to ten minutes on each side of the building making observations and sketching the natural and cultural features of that side of the building. If necessary, students should label any outstanding features. When the natural and cultural features of one side of the building have been sketched, students will move on to the next side of the building and continue this rotation until all four sides of the building have been observed and sketched.

Return to class. Allow students time to show each other their maps and discuss the features they mapped.

Refocus the class by reviewing the definition of natural and cultural environment, and asking students to refer to their maps for examples of each. Students may conclude that some features are both natural and cultural; for example, the athletic fields, may be both natural and cultural features.

Begin a discussion of the school grounds using the maps to generate questions and comments. How much does our school grounds interfere with the natural environment? With what kinds of wildlife do we share this space? Are we responsible users - what signs tell us we are, what signs tell us we could improve? (Recycle bins, presence or absence of litter, waste receptacles, planted trees and gardens to attract butterflies, bees for pollination, or shade and windblocks, sprinkler system to keep fields green or boundaries that are clearly identified to show where private property begins, etc.)

Propose a few "What if?" situations. What if students wanted to add an outdoor snack bar for use when sports events occur on the school grounds - where would it be located and why? What if the parking lots had to be enlarged - where would they extend and why? What if an addition to the school had to be made - on which side of the building should it go and why?
Consider underground features,such as water, sewage, and power lines.

What if a new school had to be built, what would happen to this one?

Ask students to think of instances when the map they made might be useful to them or others; for example, giving directions to a visitor, planning where to hold an outdoor art class, figuring out a good spot to plant trees, giving a tour to a new student, etc.

Put final touches on the map. Make sure all essential elements of a map are present: title, direction finder, scale (approximate for this activity, but could be figured out in math class), legend if symbols are used, latitude/longitude coordinates (can be found on a topographic map of the area, GIS unit, or on city planning maps). Other usual features of a map like landmarks and roads could be added if the scale is appropriate.

Draw conclusions. Some examples are: Our school grounds consist of natural and cultural features.

Natural and cultural environments can coexist when people plan responsibly and maintain both environments.
Maps help us understand our environment and our place in the environment.

Evaluation/Assessment: Maps made in the field could be given an effort grade based on neatness, completeness, and accuracy.

Write a paragraph on the value of making and using maps that show natural and cultural features of a place.

Extension/Enrichment: Obtain an aerial photograph of the school and grounds. Compare it to other maps to get another perspective of the area.

Send copies of some maps made by students to other schools in the area with a request for a map of their school and grounds. These will be used to find similarities and differences in the ways space has been used or to get ideas about changes that could be made.

Invite the school board members to see an exhibit of all the maps created by the students. Ask them to choose the one they think would be the best for the cover of the Annual Report. Student volunteers could also take the school board members on a tour of the school's natural and cultural environment with the map they chose for the cover of the Annual Report. A few students could also make a presentation after the tour explaining what they learned about how these maps could be used.

Reflection: How successful was this lesson? Did all students benefit? Were there any surprises? What might you do differently another time? Please note any changes that will make this lesson more effective and useful in the future and pass them along to the NHGA. We appreciate your comments.
Thank you,
The authors


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