Second graders and maps… amazing!

Today I talked with a second grade class about maps and wikimaps.  Here’s how it went.

I asked, “What you can do with a map.”  Most hands shot up, and kids had answers. “Get directions.”  “Show where things are.” My favorite is always “Find treasure.”

I handed out a postcard with a map of Jenkintown on it, and the first thing students wanted to do was to find their house on the map.

We pulled up a wikimap that looked like the one shown and added the school, some houses, and a crossing guard. Everyone wanted to put their house on the wikimap, but I said they could do this on their own.

Miss Rizzo's wikimap

While demonstrating on a Mac with Safari running, I noticed some user experience issues.  First, the “Find Location” finds an address.  Because there’s no visual cue, it is hard to see exactly where that address is.  Second, because I was using a google base, existing google map data would show up when what I wanted was to place a point.  Third, because the text zoom level in Safari was increased, the banner initially showed up in two rows.

After the WikiMap, I handed out the Greater Philadelphia Regional Transit Map to everyone.  This was the highlight.  First kids oriented themselves, finding Jenkintown.  Then they started asking about features, like, “Where’s the long tunnel the train goes in? My dad gets off at the second station.”  They were asking about places like Roxborough and Manayunk.  And they were explaining what they knew about places to each other.

Second graders naturally seemed to use maps to express ideas as well as places to each other.  I’m really glad I spent time in the class today.  As I left, one girl asked, “But how do you make the maps.”