Summer Arts and Crafts #4 – Map Maker

(Thanks to David Sobel – who first got me thinking about Mapmaking with his book, Mapmaking With Children: Sense of Place Education for the Elementary Years. Heinemann: Portsmouth, NH. 1998.)

Have you ever made a map? It could be a map to your house, a map to your school, a map to a park – or even a treasure map! Chances are it wasn’t much more than a line on a piece of paper winding between buildings or streets or trees, but it was enough to get you – or your friend – to where they wanted to go.

Maps have led people to many places throughout time, and being able to read and create maps has long been regarded as an essential skill. It also puts people in touch with the natural environment, the world around them. Map makers know where the trees are, where the creeks flow and the fences run. What better way to learn about the place where you live than to create a map?!

Today’s activity is for all ages. Age will determine how complete your map is, and even the angle at which it is drawn, but anyone who can draw can create a map.

According to Sobel, in Mapmaking With Children, there are three types of maps. The earliest form drawn by young children (5-6) or inexperienced map makers may be the pictorial. This is the straight on viewpoint of a house and yard. There can be a lot of detail, but the scope is very limited because the map maker is depicting only the front view of something. This type of map is more like a sketch or drawing, and may include people, the sun and rainbows, and very rough trees or bushes.

Next, slightly older children (7-8) may make the type of map that is slightly elevated – showing a row of houses or shops, a row of plants, a house on a hill. The drawing may include roads, as well as trees, paths and bushes. The map will have a sense of depth to it.

Then, children of 9 or 10 create the most elaborate maps. Sobel calls children of this age the “explorers of childhood.” These maps are not yet abstract, haven’t yet gone to the aerial view. But these maps can be complex, including woods and lakes and streams, houses and shops, streets, flower beds and parks. These maps may even run off one page of paper and onto another!

Then, mapmakers graduate to the aerial view, and maps that adults are most familiar with. These maps look down on the world below, depicting everything in lines and small squares or circles, like an architect or geographer would.

For today’s activity, create a map! It can be a map of your yard, or your neighborhood. It requires that you get out and explore, look at things in perspective to one another.
 
For very young children, start by having them draw a picture of their house, and then a picture of their school or a nearby park. Ask them to draw themselves in a picture, walking or riding in a car. Finally, ask them to draw two of the places they pass as they go from  home to the second location. Is there a church on the way? A store? Their best friend’s house? Then arrange the drawings in the correct order. They’ve created a map!

For older kids, a map of your yard could include many things: the anthills, the trees, the bushes, a bird bath, a large rock. Map making requires observation and personal experience. It requires getting out in nature and checking out the world. This week – make a map!

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