Using and understanding symbolic representations of the real world is a skill which is often called upon in life. Whether a person goes hiking, climbing, snowmobiling, cycling, or is trying to find their way around town, an understanding of maps and the ability to read them is an important skill to have. While mapping has been downplayed at the secondary level aside from Geography 12 classes, many teachers feel that it is still an important part of a high school education. I have seen it taught in math classes, social studies, and even in English classes when a novel is studied which has to do with wilderness navigation. Mapping units are high in student interest, and are fun for teachers, too.

This unit is appropriate for students with no background in mapping or geography, and will develop a good basic understanding of how maps represent the physical world. It is focussed mainly on the physical world of the Mount Logan area, which helps students to visualize Mount Logan itself, with all of its massive sprawl and steep cliffs.

The six lessons in the unit are as follows:

Lesson One: Understanding Latitude and Longitude
- knowing where latitude and longitude coordinates come from
- learning key concepts such as the Prime Meridian, International Date Line, etc.
- writing coordinates correctly
- locating points on a large scale map

Lesson Two: Understanding Scale
- understanding scale
- doing scale conversions
- making scale drawings of comics

Lesson Three: Understanding Topographic Maps:
- understanding elevation
- understanding contour lines
- reading topographic maps
- activity: drawing profiles from contour lines.

Lesson Four: Building a Mountain and Mapping It
- using what we have learned to build our own mountain and then create a topographic map of it.

Lesson Five: Build Mount Logan Out of Cardboard using a Topographic Map
- use the topo maps to create a 3D model of Mount Logan.

Lesson Six: Play Climbers’ Rescue using map of Elias region.
- Finish with a game that incorporates latitude and longitude coordinates to fins stranded climbers.

Some of the activities are quite difficult, and you may need to modify them for younger grades. This unit is intended for grades 7-10, but may be used at the grades 11 and 12 level as well. I hope that you have as much fun with this unit as the students do!

Curriculum Links:

Western Canadian Protocol for Collaboration in Education: Common Curriculum Framework for Social Studies:

Grade 7

7-K-L-020: identify the purposes of different types of maps and other representations of the land,
7-S-029: construct and interpret maps that include a title, a legend, a compass rose, scale,
and latitude and longitude
7-S-030: use a variety of information sources and technologies in the preparation of maps,
e.g., observation, traditional knowledge, G.I.S.—Geographic Information
Systems, G.P.S.—Global Positioning Systems

Grade 9

9-S-026: construct and interpret maps that include a title, a legend, a compass rose, scale,
and latitude and longitude
9-S-027: use a variety of information sources and technologies in the preparation of maps,
e.g., observation, traditional knowledge, G.I.S.—Geographic Information
Systems, G.P.S.—Global Positioning Systems

Geography 12 BC Integrated Resource Package

This unit helps to satisfy the following prescribed learning outcomes:

The Nature of Geography (Skills)

It is expected that students will:
  • interpret classroom and field data by applying concepts of scale, area, distance, gradient, direction, grid references, topographic profiles, contour lines, and map symbols
  • demonstrate an ability to access, interpret, and present geographic information using topographic maps, aerial and satellite images, photographs, charts, diagrams, graphs, and tables
  • describe the application of current computer technologies to a relevant geographic issue