Geo-Class Mapping My Neighborhood (Classroom Cartographers)

By erica gaeta-castori, November 29, 2009

Grade Level

  • Elementary School


  • City of Neighborhoods

Subject Area

  • Social Studies

Lesson Time

250 to 300 minutes for classroom activities


This mini-unit will take place during five to six Social Studies class periods. During each period, students will learn more about Geography in relation to their school and its surroundings. Following a couple days of technical instruction (students learning about their school’s location, how it is now and how it was in the past) with the teacher as facilitator, students will begin to work independently. Students will be asked to create a map of their school and its surrounding neighborhood. Using math skills involving basic graphing and some creativity, students will utilize the steps in the Design Process to create a detailed map in order to complete a challenge of pretending he/she is a guide helping a new student learn about the school’s location and its surrounding areas.

National Standards


Students will be able to:

  • define the term “geography” and how it applies to his/her life
  • understand how to locate regions on a set of maps
  • create a simple map* to show understanding of the location of their house/apartment and other surrounding area/locations such as school, library, police department, fire department and other points of interest
*(Note: The map will include simple sketches of neighborhood locations, street names within a three-block radius, and names of stores or other points of interest. The map should be clearly labeled with street signs and stop lights as well.)



disposable cameras (Note: If school’s budget permits purchase a set of cameras for the class, otherwise students can be asked to bring in a few dollars toward a camera or a camera that they purchased at home.)

SmartBoard technology



  • graph paper
  • construction paper
  • 8 x 11 drawing paper
  • markers
  • crayons
  • colored pencils
  • pencils
  • erasers
  • rulers
  • “My School and its Surrounding” handout
  • poster board (oak tag)


  • geography: study of the earth's surface; includes people's responses to topography and climate and soil and vegetation
  • map: a visual representation of an area—a symbolic depiction highlighting relationships between elements of that space
  • cartographer: someone who makes maps
  • neighborhood: vicinity; a surrounding or nearby region
  • landmark: the position of a prominent or well-known object in a particular landscape
  • street markers: signs and other signifiers that help identify locations



1. Students will be informed of the challenge: Pretend you are a guide for a new student entering the school. How can you create a detailed map that would help this students become more familiar with the school and its surroundings? During this step, students will jot down ideas in their Social Studies notebook. Students are encouraged to list and sketch ideas. Students would also create a KWL chart in their notebook incl uding what they know about their neighborhood and its surroundings and what they want to know (in question form).


2. Students will be presented with important information about their school: its address and its surrounding locations through the use of various materials such as SmartBoard technology.

3. The mapping/geography lessons involve the teacher presenting a variety of maps of the students’ town or city, including historical maps. Students are encouraged to discuss the routes they used to get to school. Students would also get to know their school’s location and the surrounding areas (handout for in-class research).

4. Following a discussion, the facilitator reviews map reading and mapmaking skills.

5. The final step is having students use art supplies and basic knowledge to create a map of their locality.


6. Students would be asked to add to their KWL chart. Information learned during the investigation process should be included at this time.

7. Once students are well informed about the components of different maps, students will begin making the first sections of their neighborhood maps in scale, with a map key or legend and detailed illustrations.


8. Students will partake in a walking trip with their disposable cameras in hand. The expectation is that each student will take photos that will be used to create their maps once back in the classroom. Students are reminded to photograph important spots such as main intersection(s), important landmarks, stores that they may wish to include and stress or parks that surround the school’s area.

9. Students will bring along their notebooks, and the first portion of the map. Students will take photos and add details to sketches and/or notes at this time.

Edit and Develop:

10. Once back in the classroom, students will use photos and notes taken and begin to create the remainder of their neighborhood map. Students will keep in mind that someone new to the neighborhood will potentially use their map to help locate important features in the area and know how they relates to the school’s location.

Share and Evaluate:

11. Students will pair up with someone in the class and share his/her map. Students will be allowed to give input to each other. During this stage, students will carefully look over their maps and include any missing details.


12. Students will be asked to complete his/her map and create a small poster board that includes sheets used for note-taking, the completed KWL chart, and photographs.  Students can use any available art supplies and should be ready to present their map and presentation board the following day in class.


13. On the last day, students will present maps. This may take up tp two class sessions. Students will act as a tour guide and present information in the way that they would if they were speaking to someone who did not know the school and the neighborhood, so their presentations should be detailed and clear.


Students are assessed on having each step of the Design Process completed in an accurate way. For each step completed students will be awarded a check. The project is worth 10 points (8 for the Design Process and 2 for the completed project board).

Enrichment Extension Activities

The teacher may choose to ask the local library to display copies of the maps if this option is available.

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