Background Information

Mapping and Community


This unit is composed of two main content areas: mapping and community. Once children understand their world around them better through maps and teaching about their community, then they will not only be better citizens, but feel secure in their communities. Throughout this background information I have kept the two content areas separate from one another for the sake of convenience. For some of the community activities, the map skills must be taught first. However, the two compliment each other a great deal and would be beneficial for the children to see them in light of each other. This is why I have incorporated both into this unit.




A map is a graphic representation, drawn to scale and usually on a flat surface, of features--for example, geographical, geological, or geopolitical--of an area of the Earth or of any other celestial body. Globes are maps represented on the surface of a sphere. Cartography is the art and science of making maps and charts.



People have been drawing maps for thousands of years. Over 4,000 years ago, people in Babylon (modern-day Iraq) drew maps from papyrus, a type of paper, and also developed ways of surveying the land.


The first world map was drawn by the Greek scholar Ptolemy in 160 AD. At that time he did not know that America, Australia or Antarctica existed. During the Middle Ages mapmaking progressed in China and the Arab world. The Chinese printed the first map in 1155!


People living in the Marshall Islands, over 500 years ago, came up with a type of map making in which they used sticks and shells to represent water and islands. These were found on the shores to help them get around while hunting. The Inuit people also used maps for hunting and fishing. However, they carved theirs from wood instead of using shells and sticks on the shore.


Religious Pilgrims in the Middle Ages used route maps to get from place to place. These maps would begin the journey at the bottom of the map and work toward the top. Those who used these maps would know they were on the right path if they continued to see the features of their surroundings matching the symbols on the maps. A lesson plan for making a route map is provided at this site.




LATITUDE AND LONGITUDE: To help people pinpoint locations and different places on the map, a grid of lines has been established. The grid lines are called longitude and latitude. On a globe, lines of longitude meet at the poles, while lines of latitude run parallel to the equator. On a map, longitude lines go from top to bottom and latitude lines from side to side. Every place in the work can be located using longitude and latitude.

EQUATOR: The latitude of a place tells us its position north or south of the equator. The equator has a latitude of 0 degrees. There are 90 slices or degrees, on each side of the equator, so the North Pole has a latitude of 90 degrees north while the south Pole has a latitude of 90 degrees south.

DEGREES: Lines of latitude are measure in degrees because they are angles. Each line is the angle between two imaginary lines drawn from the center of the Earth to the surface. One line goes to the equator and the other to the line of latitude. Lines of longitude are measured in degrees between two imaginary lines drawn from the center of the Earth to the equator. There are 180 degrees west and 180 degrees east of the Prime Meridian.

PRIME MERIDIAN: The longitude of a place tells us its position east or west of an imaginary line called the Prime Meridian. This line is drawn from the North Pole to the south Pole through Greenwich, in London, England. Lines of longitude divide the world up like segments of an orange.



Although children may not be familiar with the term symbol, they unconsciously interpret symbols everyday. From the letters and words on a page to the traffic lights they obey on the way to school, they are interpreting symbols. By analyzing what they already know, children can expand their understanding and create their own symbols systems. Help children to understand that symbols are simply pictures that represent some thing or some action.


For more further information and more depth about maps and features of maps, see the Atlas Maps site found at…




Community, also called BIOLOGICAL COMMUNITY, in biology, is an interacting group of various species in a common location. For example, a forest of trees and undergrowth plants, inhabited by animals and rooted in soil containing bacteria and fungi, constitutes a biological community.

Among the factors that determine the overall structure of a community are the number of species (diversity) within it, the number of each species (abundance) found within it, the interactions among the species, and the ability of the community to return to normal (resilience and stability) after a disruptive influence such as fire or drought. The growth and change of biological communities over time is known as succession, or ecological succession.

The various species in a community each occupy their own ecological niche. The niche of a species includes all of its interactions with other members of the community.


In this unit we study the community of the classroom children. Many children will know many factors of their community without realizing it. Specifics of the community depend upon the area in which the students live. Further background knowledge must be discovered and studied by the teacher in the specific area.



One of the most exciting and ambitious projects for young geographers is to build a model of their own community. It draws on all the geographic skills children have learned, from creating symbols and finding directions to calculating distance and scale. More than that, looking back and forth from the model to the map will help develop the spatial skills required to visualize a place from a map. It is this ability that will truly qualify children as map literate and enable them to enjoy reading maps for the rest of their lives.


For further knowledge about communities and structure see The Constitution Community site. The Constitution Community is a partnership between classroom teachers and education specialists from the National Archives and Records Administration. They are developing lessons and activities that address constitutional issues, correlate to national academic standards, and encourage the analysis of primary source documents. The lessons that have been developed are arranged according to historical era.

 The Constitution Community




In closing, I have included the objectives for the core curriculum requirements for the state of Utah. This will serve as further help in making educated decisions and choices when planning activities and lessons for students.


Social Studies Course Description

Social Studies - 6030 - Third Grade





COURSE PREFACE: Social Studies

Course Description

(Levels K-3) The students will be introduced to the study of self and their relationship to each individual's family, school, neighborhood, and community; basic citizenship/ character behaviors; the interdependence of individuals and groups in different cultures and environments; the world of work; and the use and care of natural resources, community governments, and local history will be emphasized. In addition, the students will begin a study of the earth, its size, shape, land masses, oceans, climates, directions, and its relation to the universe. All social studies experiences will develop listening, speaking, reading, writing, and citizenship/character skills.



The students will understand the cultural and historical development of their local community.

Discuss different cultures in their local community and the contributions made from each culture. (301-202)

Identify the past and present contributions of women and minorities to their community.

Identify land and water forms on a map such as islands, bays, lakes, etc. (303-801)

Locate the eastern and western hemispheres, the prime meridian, and the 180th meridian. (303-804)

Using a simple grid, show how a grid system works and identify local places on a map. (303-803)

Use scales and legends on maps. (303-807)

Use symbols for landscape features on a simple map. (303-808)

Identify the differences between people-drawn boundaries and natural boundaries (those which follow natural features such as mountains or rivers). (303-811)

Distinguish between towns, cities, states, countries, and continents using maps. (303-817)

Using north as a reference, identify on a map, globe, or with a compass the directional terms--left, right, north, south, east, and west. (303-818)

Locate places as being north or south of the equator on a map or globe.

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Background Information
Children's Literature
Learning Goals
Lesson Plans
Culminating Activities