Our unit on Mapping and Mapmaking: Misc.

The kids took turns playing “navigator” while we visited Korea for a couple of weeks back in April.  (Find cheap airfares from Saipan to Seoul through Jeju Air!)  Seoul is an especially visitor-friendly city, with multilingual guides in red vests and information booths placed at strategic spots around the city.  The kids even figured out the subway maps, too, and would get us from A to B fairly smoothly by the end of our time there. (It also helped that we rode alot of subways…)

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There are some great reads out there for kids on the topic of maps and mapping.  This is a great book that I do not own, but I had hoped to find it in the library here.  I purchased this one and this one and the kids will just spontaneously pick them up and browse through (especially that last one), which was what I had hoped they would do.

Val Ross’ The Road to There is simply fantastic.  With a couple of exceptions, she tells the same stories of the makers-of -maps as you are likely find in other books, only she tells them better.  She doesn’t leave out tales of the hilarious or morally horrifying, either. Such as: Henry the Navigator’s role in introducing the African slave trade to the European market. Or, on a lighter note, how very little restraint one 12th-century European monarch exhibited in dealings with his so-called Christian advisers who wanted him to do away with some of their Muslim neighbors.  He paused, then lifted up his leg and loudly passed gas: “That’s what I think of your advice, folks!” he more or less said.

I will say this for Val Ross: as an author of children’s books she certainly knew the way to a kid’s permanent memory.

Aaseng’s “You are the Explorer” is a fun read, too.  With some vocabulary help along the way, both his book and the Ross one were thoroughly engaging, even for my 2nd grader.

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One evening, as I was preparing dinner, the eldest was inspired to draw up a treasure map for me.  She left this chart as a reference for me and then guided me to my first of many tiny paper clues with coordinates of longitude and latitude on them.

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In case you wondered, the final clue led to a Mother’s Day card and such priceless gifts as free neck massages and snuggles.  Best ever!

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We not only studied standard mapping practice, what legend and scale are about, and how much bias there can be in map projections, but we also considered that mapping can be used for many purposes outside of physical geography.  For instance: maps of places that have never existed, such as Narnia or The Shire, or not-to-scale maps that make a political statement, or the role of tourist maps in guiding visitors toward a place’s “best face.”

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It was fun.  I love this stuff.  I could read about maps all day.

On a more reflective note, I believe that the time and effort I invested before moving to Saipan on crafting the direction and scope of each of our “Expedition” studies really paid off.  Not surprisingly, I suppose, choosing topics that I love meant that it was so much easier to “infect” the kids in a really natural way with their own curiosity and affection for learning.  They each came away with a version of their own appreciation for maps and mapmaking, in particular, and I love that.

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