Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Teach kids how to read maps by having them make a 3D model

Kids can learn to read maps by making 3D models
of them. Photo courtesy of Jungwen/Photoree.
Kids of all ages easily can learn how to read maps with an adult helping them make the connection between real objects and symbols on the map. One way to do this is to have children construct, on the ground, a 3D representation of the map, either at home before the hike or during a rest break while on the trail.

The 3D map need not be anything fancy. Found objects in nature work well. For example, a large rock can represent the highest mountain point, upright twigs can symbolize forests, and a line etched in the dirt can serve as a stream or river or perhaps as the trail.

While the 3D representation won’t be perfectly to scale, have the children try to make it as close as possible to what’s on the map. For example, a mountain peak that is a half-mile from another mountain peak might be a half-foot apart in the 3D representation.

Another element to consider is compass directions. Have the children orient the map to the actual north-south-west-south directions that the compass shows. Then have them create the 3D representation with the same orientation.

Once done with the model, have them compare it to the map and especially to the actual sights on the landscape.

Learn about trail guidebooks available in the Hittin’ the Trail series.