When last month I worked with my 4th grade students on creating maps (an extension of a social studies lesson on map skills), we referred to it as our GeoLiteracy project. While we thought we had come up with the term, I have since learned that it was actually coined by National Geographic:
We have adopted the term geo-literacy to describe the level of geo-education that we believe all members of 21st-century society will need to live well and behave responsibly in our interconnected world. The following three components of geo-literacy are critical preparation for far-reaching decisions:
- How our world works
- How our world is connected
- How to make well-reasoned decisions
In social studies class, the 4th graders began the school year by expanding their knowledge of geography and studying maps. In library class, they applied the new vocabulary and skills to creating a digital map of a chosen U.S. state.
Step 1: Researching Information
Students used the WorldBook Online encyclopedia and the Worldatlas.com website to complete a graphic organizer.
Step 2: Creating a Digital Map
We used Wixie, a cloud-based software published by Tech4Learning, to create our maps. They had to include all the researched information, including a title and a legend, as well as follow a specific format. For example, the state had to be represented by a green outline map. The relative location had to be represented by black outline maps of states, if applicable, and so forth. As a final step, students used a checklist to ensure quality work.
Students uploaded the maps to their blogs and wrote a brief reflective piece (category: social studies) answering the following questions:
- What did you do?
- How did you do it?
- What would you change next time?
While my students may have just scratched the surface of GeoLiteracy with this map skills project, it helped deepen their understanding of the tools of geography in a more basic sense. The use of creative digital tools in the classroom to foster engagement with content, to support learning, and to allow students to share their learning with an authentic audience worked well for this exercise.