In this challenge, students learn about Alberta's diverse natural features and the value of maps by using selected techniques to extract information from various maps. If students are already familiar with basic mapping techniques, e.g., colour, shading, scale, symbols, legend, compass rose, you may proceed more quickly with independent work on formal maps. Otherwise, begin with whole class interpretation of very simple, fictional maps and proceed gradually as students' fluency with maps increases.
Ask students, in groups and then as a class, to brainstorm everything they know about maps; e.g., purpose, kinds, what is included, how to use a map. Display a simple map you found or prepared that illustrates several basic mapping techniques. After going over the map, play a mystery clues game by asking students questions that require them to interpret each of the techniques found on the map. For example:
- Where would I be if I travelled five squares north from the shopping centre?
- In what direction would I travel to get to the lake?
- Is it farther from the forest to town or to the mountain?
You may want to give students their own copy of the map to use during this game.
To assess student understanding, have students work in groups to create a fictional island. Ask students to use at least three map making techniques to draw features on an outline map of the fictional island and then explain the information communicated through the techniques they selected. Consider adapting the chart and strategies for Reading Maps (Support Material) to structure and assess this activity.
Display a large wall map, such as a simple political map of Alberta, with towns and cities. As a class, look for techniques used to communicate information, including colour, shading, compass rose, scale and symbols. Review the purpose of each technique and how these help the map maker tell the story of the land. Illustrate techniques, e.g., colour, compass rose, with examples from the map, such as blue represents water, N represents North. Play a clues game, as in Part 1, using the techniques on this map.
Organize students into groups of three. Provide each group with three different maps of Alberta, e.g., road map, relief map, climate map that shows rainfall or snowfall, geological map that shows types of rocks, vegetation map, that use a variety of mapping techniques. Maps may be found in student atlases or online (see References).
Choose a particular technique, such as colour, and ask students to:
- summarize the information this technique provides; e.g., colour identifies different natural regions, such as lakes or forests
- find a specific example on one of the maps; e.g., green identifies the Boreal Forest
- draw conclusions, based on this example; e.g., we can see all the land that makes up the Boreal Forest; the Boreal Forest is smaller than other areas.
Share each group's information with the rest of the class, encouraging students to locate more information using the featured mapping technique. Repeat this procedure with the other techniques introduced, such as the use of symbols in a legend.
Assign each group a specific mapping technique and ask students to learn as much as they can from their map, using only the assigned technique. Ask each group to indicate what it learns about Alberta and what clues or symbols suggest this information; e.g., Edmonton is bigger than Red Deer because the dot is larger. Finally, have each group summarize, for the rest of the class, the most interesting pieces of information it learned about Alberta, using its technique. Consider adapting the chart and strategies for Supporting Conclusions (Support Material) to structure and assess this activity, particularly the chart that focuses on direct observation, conclusion and evidence.
If a large outline map of Alberta has been prepared, ask students to select useful or interesting information from their research and create two- or three-dimensional symbols that represent this information, using learned mapping techniques. Help students paste these symbols in the appropriate places on the map.