What can a map tell us?

Over the past two weeks I’ve been working with our 3rd grade teachers on a social studies project to introduce the students to some mapping skills. Of course the USSR no longer exists, yet many atlases in schools and even school encyclopedia talk about the USSR as though you should be able to find it on a map. The left overs of social studies curriculum reviews that seem to always get pushed to be the last curriculum to be updated at schools. Funny how we want our students to be “global citizens”, “globally aware”, and communicate globally, yet our curriculum in this area seems to fall behind, math, reading, writing, and science. Maybe it’s just me and the 3 past schools I’ve worked at and where they are in the curriculum review cycle….or is it the pressure of standardize testings taking it toll. Most standardize tests do not have a social studies component and we all know that what doesn’t get tested doesn’t get………anyway. 😉 Over the last three weeks we’ve been looking at maps…and just for a second stop and think about the maps these kids are going to need to know how to navigate in their future. You’re still going to need an atlas when trying to find your way across Thailand, but a GPS is better for most parts of America. Then there is Google Earth and it’s ever constantly updated data (we looked at the typhoon off Japan today). Google Maps with its street view and pin point addresses, and iPhones and BlackBerries that let you find places on the go. Oh how the mapping world has changed yet the skills of reading a map have remained the same. On that note here are the first three lessons I’ve been co-teaching with 3rd grade teachers around comparing maps and answering the question “What can a map tell us?” Lesson 1: Google Earth ExplorationWhenever you introduce a new program/tool to students on the computer I find it well worth the time to give them 10-15 minutes to just play with the program. Of course we’re not allowed to “play” in the classroom as I tell the kids…so let’s call it explore in case the principal walks in. This always gets a couple of laughs and we spend the rest of the time with this little inside joke about “exploring” the program (picture 3rd grader making the...

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