A fun hands-on activity makes clear the purposes of different map projections.
map, geography, projection, Mercator, Robinson map, globe
Students might complete this lesson in pairs.
In a Christian Scienc Monitor article, How Can We Fix the World If We Can't Read a Map?, David J. Smith, author of If the World Were a Village and Mapping the World by Heart, presents a simple activity for introducing students to the concept of map projections.
To paraphrase the article, here is the "grapefruit lesson" idea that Smith shared:
Next, challenge students to create from the sphere (grapefruit) a map that is flat and readable. Alas, as students attempt to create their flat, readable maps they come to understand the difficulty that geographers have in creating an accurate flat representation of Earth. There are many map projections of Earth and none of them is a totally accurate depiction of Earth; each of them is distorted in some way. You and your students can explore some of the many map projections at Map Projections, a resource from the U.S. Geological Survey.
See these online resources for more detail or information about presenting this lesson.
Additional Map Projection Lessons, Resources
Round Earth, Flat Maps
An excellent tutorial from National Geographic.
Map Projection Overview
An overview from Peter H. Dana, department of geography, University of Texas (Austin).
A National Geographic lesson plan for grades 6-12.
Map Projections and Careers in Geography
Another lesson from National Geographic. (Grades 9-12)
A middle school lesson plan from National Geographic.
Have students write in their journals a reflective response about what they learned from this lesson. Check for understanding of the concepts taught.
Lesson Plan SourceEducationWorld.com
SOCIAL SCIENCES: Geography
GRADES K - 12
NSS-G.K-12.1 The World in Spatial Terms
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Copyright © 2010 Education World
Originally posted 09/20/2005
Last updated 04/29/2010