Maps are tools that we use every day to provide us with certain kinds of information about our world. We commonly understand a map to be a visual representation that shows all or part of the Earth’s surface with geographic features, urban areas, roads, and other details. Although maps are ordinarily used to show geography, they can represent any space, whether in the universe or the human body, and whether real or imagined.
We talk, for example, about a map of the brain or a map of Peter Pan’s Never-Never Land. The name for the study and practice of making maps is “cartography.” A person who makes a map is a cartographer. Throughout history, geographical maps have played an important role in exploration, commerce, and politics. [Show the students copies of maps from different historical periods and briefly discuss their use and usefulness. You may want to consult Maps and Mapmakers: Three Views of the World for a look at three ancient and medieval mapmakers who revolutionized the way maps were made.
Today, with digital technology advances, maps can provide a new depth of information and interactivity. Traditional maps, while useful, are limited to one view and can include only a limited amount of information. [Show students a historical map and point out the kind of information it can provide.] Unlike maps in the past, Bing Maps and other digital mapping programs are interactive. They can also show many different views of the same subject at once, for example, changes in scale and demographic information. [Show students one of the interactive demographic maps of census tract estimates or interactive carbon emissions maps on the Social Explorer site. You can also show students the sample Bing Maps project you created, highlighting one or several interactive features.
What benefits and limitations of traditional maps can you name? What benefits and limitations do contemporary digital maps have? What do you think is the main difference between these two kinds of maps?
In this lesson, you will learn how to make informed use of new digital mapping information and tools. [Hand out the list you created of Bing Maps tools. Using the Bing Maps project you created, demonstrate how each of Bing Maps tools on the list can be used to create a customized map. As you demonstrate the project, discuss the process you used to create the map. You may also wish to show students examples of Bing Maps projects created by students in previous classes.
Ask each student to submit an idea for his or her own Bing Maps project or assign each student a project. The following are suggestions for student projects:
Project ideas for students who are ages 5-10 years old
Using Bing Maps, locate a place your family has visited. Find out how many people live there and how far away it is from your home.
Plan a weeklong family vacation within your region. For each day, plan an activity, such as visiting an historic site, park, museum, or zoo. Try to travel no more than 200 miles each day.
Locate your favorite store or place of interest in another town on a digital map.
Label the site, and briefly describe the reasons that classmates would want to visit it. Provide directions to get there from your school, following three different routes. What are the advantages of each route?
Project ideas for students who are ages 11-13 years old
Trace the Lewis and Clark Trail on a current map. Label important locations along the route, and compare the differences between life along the route then and now, using demographic and geographic data.
Research demographic data about your town or city, comparing how the population and the number of schools have changed during the last 20 years, and projecting trends in the next five years.
Play "Where in the World Am I?" with your classmates. Find a location somewhere in the world that you would like to visit, and research its culture and attractions. Trace the most direct route to the location from your school, providing clues about the location and the route you have selected with labels along the route. Make sure classmates will uncover the labels on the map as they uncover the route and, finally, the location.
Ask students to work in teams to research different periods in the history of mapmaking, with each team presenting the following pair of maps: one showing the information mapped according to older forms of representation and the other showing how a digital map would display similar or different information about the place.
Project ideas for students who are ages 14-18 years old
Analyze examples of a topography map, relief map, hydrographic chart, and digital map. Describe the purposes of these maps and how they are created.
Research the viability of starting a business in your town or city using information such as population data in specific regions, number of competing businesses in your chosen industry, and site accessibility.
Determine the changing infrastructure needs of a major city by tracking demographic and resource trends. For instance, how does population growth affect the needs for housing, roads, and public services such as libraries and schools?
Make sure to evaluate needs within small regions or territories, rather than the city or town as a whole.
Study the history of cartography from ancient times to the present, focusing on three revolutions in mapmaking before the twentieth century and compare the current shift to digital mapping with these changes. Create maps for each major mapmaking shift studied.
Before students begin working on their projects, you may also want to do the following:
Help students develop a dialog about maps and how they can be used.
Help students set up their calendars by "backtracking" from the final project due date and setting deadlines for the separate project elements.
Assist students with the review of the set of mini-lessons you created on skills needed to complete the project.
During the project allow yourself time to meet with individuals or teams to assess progress and assist in problem solving. Make this an assessment time by checking off and scoring completed elements.