Map Skills Archives - Eva Varga

November 13, 20143

I love when we can learn subjects by using real life examples, like using maps to work on geography. Whenever we travel, our first go to resource is a simple map, it helps us to get our bearings and to visualize the larger picture of how everything is connected.

My children have developed map skills to help with our vacation planning and to successfully find their way around the place we are visiting. To give you some ideas for learning on vacation, here are a few ways we reinforced map skills during our recent trip to South America.

To help us learn more about the many wonderful sites we would be visiting, we first used Google Earth to see the geological features such as the Andes Mountains where the Nazca Plate is sub-ducting under the South American Plate. We also viewed the Galápagos Islands and viewed the hotspot where new islands are forming.

We discussed the geological processes that are shaping the islands and how the plants and animals that live there are specifically adapted to life in this harsh environment. I shared with them the definition for endemic species and we talked about the species we were most looking forward to seeing ourselves.

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To add some learning to your vacation, use your guide maps/road maps as a teaching tool. Show your kids how to use them and then encourage them to navigate while sightseeing. They’ll love it and won’t realize that they’re learning too!

A map is a visual representation of a place or of information about a place. The place could be small, like a room, or larger, like a house, neighborhood, city, state, country, planet, solar system, or galaxy. – North Star Geography, Lesson 1



As a Brand Ambassador for Bright Ideas Press we have received a complimentary copy of North Star Geography in exchange for our honest insights about how this program is working in real life with our family.

While sightseeing in the Galápagos, Cristina – our interpretive guide, pulled out a bandana map at each island we visited to point out each of the surrounding islands. In time, the kids were able to correctly identify each of the islands themselves not only by their profile but by their geographical orientation as well. They were so captivated by this experience that a bandana map was their top souvenir choice.

Now that we are home, the kids are looking forward to creating an interactive map with My Maps, one of many mapping tools provided by Google Maps. They have already begun to flag the photos they wish to embed and have begun to brainstorm their storyline.

Tips for building map skills:

  • Help your children find maps before you depart on vacation.  Take some time to look over them prior to departure or while en route to get the “lay of the land” before you arrive.
  • Identify the map’s title, legend, compass rose, and scale.
  • Help your child identify two points on the map and ask them to determine the best path to travel between the locations.
  • Document your travels using a map.  At the end of each day, highlight the route you traveled and mark the things you did and saw along the way. Consider using My Maps to create an interactive map that you can share with friends and family.


Bright Ideas Press has created a survey to see what kinds of geography products homeschool moms most want. They need their feedback no later than Wednesday, Nov. 26.

As a thank you, you will receive a freebie code for an audio workshop at the end of the survey. It’s called History and Geography Through Literature, a $5.00 value.

February 24, 20112

Earlier this month, the munchkins were watching their favorite show, Oregon Field Guide and were very enthusiastic about the episode, Diving Crater Lake, and all they learned.  They announced that they wanted to focus on Crater Lake for their Passports Club presentation.
topo mapsA few days later, Sweetie took it upon herself to seek out information on the formation of the lake at the library.  She first tried the online card catalog to find a non-fiction book but she wasn’t able to find a book written at her level.  She then requested assistance from the reference librarian who shared with her the encyclopedias.  As these were in library use only, the librarian volunteered to photocopy the pages for her.
In our homeschool, we have used topographic maps on several occasions.  When we started to research Crater Lake, Sweetie suggested we create a model of the lake to show how deep it is.  Perfect!  I thereby printed out a topography map from the computer and showed her how to use a plastic sheet protector to trace each topographic line.  Surprisingly, there were only 5 complete lines.  However, there were multiple lines that were not complete circles so we weren’t sure what to do with them.  We opted to ignore them.  All models have some fault .. this is one of ours, we concluded.
We then taped a plastic sheet to foam core board and I cut out each piece as an Exacto knife was required.  The kiddos then stacked the pieces, applying glue between each layer and allowed it dry a little. Soon thereafter, the painted it to show the distinctions between land and water more easily.
As they worked, they realized that they should have shown the topography of the surrounding cliffs but as we studied the topo map more carefully, we noted that the lines were so close together it would be difficult to show the elevation changes as our foam core board is 1/4″ thick.  From what I understand, there are thinner boards, more easily cut, available upon special order but for our purposes, this was sufficient.

They had a great time working on this project.  They look forward to presenting it at Passports Club.

Linked up with The Massive Homeschool Geography Guide at iHomeschool Network.