Supporting Map Literacy for Grades K-12 in a High Need School District

Friday, 11 December 2020
Kathleen D. Johnson1, Bruce T Anderson2, Donald DeRosa1, Caleb Farny3 and Peter Garik1, (1)Boston University, Curriculum and Teaching, Boston, MA, United States, (2)Boston University, Boston, MA, United States, (3)Boston University, College of Engineering, Boston, MA, United States
Maps are essential tools for organizing information in the sciences and social sciences. Learning to read maps to determine spatial location and to interpret maps to understand the spatial distribution of geographic features, climate variables, and weather phenomena are essential skills for students to understand the complex interdisciplinary challenges facing our planet. As such, we should expect students to regularly practice these skills beginning in the elementary grades. The Common Core Math Standards reference coordinate geometry for grades K-12 without any focus on mapping skills. The Next Generation Science Standards (ESS2-2) and the Common Core Literacy standards (CCS.ELA-Literacy.RI.3.7, CCS.ELA-Literacy.RI.6-8.7) sparingly refer to map reading and creation beginning in elementary school. Nevertheless, these references are eclipsed by the topics in which they are embedded (Earth Systems and English Language Arts, respectively). Our research has found that in high need districts teachers no longer have time or materials for basic geography instruction when the emphasis is on basic skills of reading, writing, and mathematics. We have developed a set of map readiness activities to create authentic STEM experiences including interpreting map-based data representations like those from My NASA Data, situating data collected using hands-on GLOBE (globe.gov) protocols, and exploring climate-change variables in cities, states, and countries, around the world. These activities are entry points for learning to interpret map legends (grades 3 and 4); identify specific countries, states, and cities using latitude and longitude; and learn how to assess NASA maps for seasonal patterns and geographical distributions. Students in high need districts are especially motivated to identify and explore their family’s home country in map activities. We will provide examples of this work and the outcomes of our conversations with grades 3-12 teachers regarding students’ map skills and the place and importance of these skills in the science curriculum.