Social Studies, Visual Arts & Language – Mystery Map Activity in Grade 2
Our class has explored the local school community through neighbourhood walks, with Google Earth and with printed maps. Since many of my students enjoy hands-on experiences & needed some extra practice with understanding and using cardinal directions, we built our own neighbourhood using the Create a Town printables.
I printed the map in colour and assembled it at home and then the students put their designer touches on each building by colouring and constructing their own structure for the community. We looked at local buildings made of bricks, concrete or siding as well as roofing materials and how we could use line, shape, colour and texture to make them look realistic. Some students added chimneys to their homes as well.
Once all of the buildings were in place on the map, I asked students to compare it to the community around the school and to think about what was missing. Students decided that we needed a Fire Station, a hockey rink, swimming pool, and high school. The class was divided into 4 groups and each group had to come up with the best place for 1 of the missing buildings and then explain to the rest of us why this was the best spot.
Next up was the Map Mystery which would give students the opportunity to practice using cardinal directions, listening, speaking and writing. I told a story about buried pirate treasure, then read my Map Mystery instructions (students could follow along on their own copy as well). The instructions used co-ordinates and cardinal directions to provide directions from one place to another. Some students were able to visualize the steps, while others moved an eraser around to represent a person walking in our 3D community. When students arrived at the mystery destination, they lifted up the building to find a red cardboard X.
We co-created success criteria for a Map Mystery story and directions. Students assessed my story and directions and provided me with feedback on how I could have made my story more interesting and my directions more clearly.
Then it was their turn to create a Map Mystery and story. Many students wanted to make it difficult for their partner to solve but they didn’t realize that the more difficult the mystery, the more writing and practicing they would be doing, which was ok by me. Some students used an X and worked with a partner and/or sentence frames, while others worked individually to create a different paper prop to hide under the secret building for a unique mystery story (such as a lost dog, stolen money or a location giving away free video games). Students wrote directions themselves and others dictated their directions to me while I scribed for them. Finally, they read their story and directions to a peer who had to solve the mystery and find the item. If they didn’t find the correct building & solve the mystery, the pair of students worked together to fix up the directions OR discussed where they might have taken a wrong turn.
Our local community looks a lot like the Create a Town community. Next, we will be looking at different houses around the world and comparing them to ours. One resource that we will use is Wonderful Houses Around the World by Yoshio Komatsu.
FYI, the new Social Studies curriculum document has a nice blurb about spatial literacy on page 24 and a Continuum of Map, Globe and Graphing Skills in Appendix C beginning on page 191.
I would definitely do the Map Mystery again. There were many opportunities to integrate technology, so I’m hoping it will be even better next year when we have school iPads.