Practicing Map Skills: Scavenger Hunt Map Walk Activity

I like to begin our year in Social Studies by looking at the big-picture, specifically at maps and globes, before we start to delve into regions of the United States. This has helped my students be able to read and understand the variety of maps that they later see in our regions unit and beyond.

I wanted something interactive and easy to get them up and moving in the classroom, so I designed some posters and a coordinating "Map Walk" scavenger hunt to help expose them to as many different variations on five simple terms as possible.

We narrowed our focus to looking for each map's:
  1. Title
  2. Compass Rose
  3. Grid
  4. Scale
  5. Legend/Key

When they looked at the posters (shown above and found in my Map Skills packet HERE), it was helpful, but I challenged them to bring in a map from home to kick it up a notch.

Most of my students were able to bring in a map (I assigned it as "Extra Credit") and some brought in more than one. I left it very open-ended and I'm glad I did, because the variety surprised me!

Kids brought in maps from the zoo, state, city, world, USGS, other countries, ski resorts, and more! Some printed them off of Google, which is always a great choice if you or your students don't have easy access to maps. You may also want to check with libraries for additional options.

I printed off the sticky notes so that each child had all six notes at their disposal. I used a variety of colors to keep it visually interesting as they worked. Their job was to find and label a map with one of their sticky notes, each labeled with one of the parts of a map. They had to go to at least five different maps and try to label something that had not yet been labeled on that map.

Their last sticky note had a ? ! on it. They were to circle one of the symbols and be ready to explain what question they had about that part of the map (?) or what they found new, exciting, interesting, etc. (!). This turned into one of the most interesting parts of the process since there were so many varieties of maps, and they often centered around interesting compass designs or even asking what the lines meant on a topographic map.

Interesting discussions arose around mislabeled parts, or even not-so-obvious placement of titles, scales, and compasses. It was a great lesson that extended much longer than I had anticipated!

We wrapped up with a quick assessment and I felt that students not only knew these standard parts of a map, but could be true detectives when it came to looking for them in any map they come across in the future.

To pick up this packet for all of these resources, including the Map Walk observation pages, head over to my Teachers Pay Teachers Store.

Happy exploring!

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