New Ways to Look at Map-Making
These maps, all done by a girl in high school, highlight the possibilities in complementing assignments in history or geography. Some are quite simple; others are more complex. All show evidence of an imagination kindled through arts-infused learning.
The maps in this file are made using sculpt-a-mold, a fast-drying plaster widely available. These were class projects, a fourth grade map of Michigan and a fifth grade map of the continental USA. They are large projects, roughly 2 1/2 by 3 1/2 feet. Smaller, individual maps could also be done. Once students have molded the contours of a region’s topography, they can paint it in beautiful colors. Watercolor works very well with sculpt-a-mold.
By the end of grade school, every kid should be experienced with making grid maps. Students could do them as early as third grade if they are making their own grids. By the end of middle school, they should be very efficient with this technique; and by the late middle school/beginning of high school, they should be able to plan their own maps by proportion.
Here are some of the stages in creating grid maps, beginning with the teacher’s model on the blackboard (unfinished, so students might still be able to see the grid) through to completed student work.
Here’s a fun technique for not only map making, but for a variety of artistic applications.
First, draw a map using wax crayon (parafin or beeswax). Then, using a rag with a spot of mineral spirits on it, gently “paint” over the map, blending the colors while making sure not to blend them too much. It creates a luminous quality in the color which students–and teachers–find very satisfying. Make sure to do this activity in a well-ventilated room, preferably when the students will not be back in the room for an hour or so.