Field Trip: A Hands-On Map and Scale Activity

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Authored by

  • Wil Henninger
    Silver Creek High School
    San Jose, California

Using and Analyzing Maps

AP Human Geography students need to strengthen their map skills and develop a broader understanding of map scale. This activity, which uses between one and three class periods, is designed to help students use and analyze maps of different scales; measure, calculate, and understand scale; use a compass; compare local topography on a map and in the field; use measuring equipment to explore their immediate surroundings; and work collaboratively.

Materials needed for this assignment include a printer, rulers, tape measures, a compass, a calculator, school maps, and oranges. Students will also read the article “What Do Maps Really Do?” and make use of topographical maps. The National Geologic Map Database is an excellent resource for topographical maps. Maps at three different scales are needed to illustrate differences in scale. Suggested scales are 1:500,000, 1:100,000, and 1:24,000. This range of scales allows students to see larger areas, e.g., small scale (such as the San Francisco Bay Area on the 1:500,000), as well as more detailed, close-up features, e.g., large scale (such as the local school campus on the 1:24,000).

The student worksheet guides students through each task. Use the answer key to correct student work.