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Lab Materials Needed

Blockey Koa Crate

from Kea STEMCrate

- 1 Springy Spring Scale per student

Student Lab Sheet

Understanding Maps: Maps Help Us Understand the Earth

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Student Edition


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Teacher Edition


Earth's Systems 4-ESS2-2:

Analyze and interpret data from maps to describe patterns of Earth's features. Maps can include topographic maps of Earth's land and ocean floor, as well as maps of the locations of mountains, continental boundaries, volcanoes, and earthquakes.


Pacing Guide:

Color Key:          Green words- Hands-on Activity      Black words- Book reading      Blue words: Revisit the Phenomenon

 Instruction day 1 (pages 163 - 164):  Read and discuss

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Summary: Preview the article, Meet the author and try the riddle


Lesson Objective: Introduce chapter to students, generate interest. Students relate to the scientists who wrote this chapter, and use clues from the riddle to solve the puzzle.

Introduction: Ask students to flip through the book and find the page that is most interesting to them. Have them whisper to a neighbor which page they found and show each other.

Ask: Who wants to share their favorite page with me? What do you see on it?
Example: I like page 170 because it has a bird on it!


Read about the authors
Ask: Where is she from? Do you live near there?
Answer: Bakersfield! 
How cool that someone from our area wrote this chapter for us!

Ask: How do you think maps have helped Beth and Jake?
Example: They can mark where they took samples on a map.

Solve the riddle:


Whisper your best guesses with a neighbor. 
Ask: Is this a hard or easy riddle? Do you have the same answer? Who would like to share their guess with the class?

Answer reveal: Compass! Thumbs up if that was one of your guesses. 

Guiding Questions:


Look at the cover of the chapter together and read the title.
Ask: What do you notice?
Example: A big bird! This label says it is the Eagle of the United States.

Ask: Can you find any names of things that you recognize? States? Bodies of water?
Example: I can see “Gulf of Mexico” and “Atlantic Ocean”, also states like “Arkansas” and “Maine”. I also notice many things are labeled “Territory” so this is probably an old map.

Ask: Can you think of any other things a map could be used for?
Example: To chart a river, to find the best route somewhere, to make sure you don’t get lost, to find the name of a landmark or road. 


Take a class poll. “Thumbs up if you have ever looked at a map for your town. Keep it up if you have looked at a map of your neighborhood. Put it up if you have looked at a map for your state.”
Ask: Can you remember a time you used a map? What did you use it for?
Example: My parent used a map to get to a new friend's house/camping spot/store/etc.
I use maps all the time! I see how far away something is, the best route to get there and what else is nearby.

Teacher Training Videos

 Instruction day 2 (pages 165 - 166):  Read, write, and discuss

Summary: Students explore an imaginary treasure map and answer questions using the map.


Lesson Objective: Students discuss how to estimate distance and plan a route using a treasure map.

Introduction: Can you describe how to travel from your home to your school? Pick a neighbor and try! What about from your home to the grocery store? Or a nearby park? You can use words to describe how to get somewhere and someone else might be able to figure it out, but what if you drew them a map instead? Would they be more likely to find it if they listened to you or if you drew them a map?

InstructionsRead the text on the first page together and look over the map. Have students answer the questions on the second page to the best of their ability.

Guiding Questions


Ask: You are starting from the castle and want to get to the red X. Just using your best guess based on the features of the map, how far apart do they look?
Example: 1 mile? 3 miles? Hard to tell!

Ask: It looks like there are a few different ways to go. Will someone tell me one route you might take?
Example: take a boat along the river or go by land, but you still have to cross the river.

Ask: One of the questions on the second page asks about terrain. What does “terrain” mean?
Example: Terrain is a type of land; there can be swampy terrain, mountainous terrain, etc.

Ask: How are you choosing your route? Are you going the safest way? The fastest way? The most exciting way?
Example: I am taking a boat along the river because maybe the water will be flowing quickly and I can sneak past the dragons! I also won’t need a bridge to cross the river that way.

Ask: This map is missing a lot of details that would make our choice of route easier. What is something you wish this map had to better help you plan that journey?
Example: Names of places, distances between objects, levels of danger like if the lake monster will give you a ride, etc.

Wrap-upWriting prompt: Take the story further! Whose treasure is it? We imagine this map corresponds to some place on Earth, what country do you think it could be? Some parts of the map seem dangerous, but some seem like they could be alright. Is the person by the fire likely to help you or hurt you do you think?

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 Instruction day 3 (pages 167 - 168):  Read, write, and discuss

Summary: An upgrade of yesterday’s map, this time with more information and teaching students how to read that information.


Lesson objective:  Students learn the important components to a map to share more information.

Materials needed:  A compass or compass app on a smart device.

Introduction:  Use your compass to find north. Put up a piece of paper with a large letter “N” on the wall so that when students face it they are facing north. (This can be done before class or students can watch how you do it or have students try to figure it out as a class depending on the level of difficulty desired.)

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Instructions with Guiding Questions:


Read the first paragraph together then read the section about a compass rose. Have students adjust their book (and maybe themselves) then label their compass rose.
Ask: What should we label our arrow pointing up?
Answer: North
Ask: If up is North, then what should down be?
Answer: South
Ask: Do you think east is to the right or to the left?
Answer: To the left.
Good! East is the direction the sun comes from in the morning and West is where it is as it sets in the evening.


Read the section about scales.
Ask: What is our scale on this map telling us? 
Example: What the distances represent. The length of one square is the length of one mile for the area.
Ask: How many squares wide is the map? How many miles does that represent?
Example: About 4 squares wide represents about 4 miles wide. 


Read the section about keys.
Ask: When we saw the map before the key was added we didn’t know which of the drawings were safe things and which were dangerous things. Now that you see the key, can anyone raise their hand to tell me one of the things listed that we should circle as dangerous? 
Example: Quicksand, angry ogre, maybe mountains.
Ask: Was there anything on this key that surprised you? Originally you thought it was something else and now you see it is something different?
Example: I thought the dragon was dangerous, but the key says it is friendly. Maybe it would give me a ride  to the treasure!


Read the last direction at the bottom of the page and draw a route now that you understand the map even better.

Wrap-up:  Pair/share prompt: Share your route with a neighbor and tell them why you choose your route from the castle to the X.