Thematic Maps of Your School

Lesson Plan, Grades 7-10

Thomas Rushford Cabot School




Introduction: This lesson develops a student's understanding of how to design, research, draw, and use thematic maps to depict geographic information and problems. It should follow fast on a general introduction to thematic maps. The exercise is a good stepping stone to a mapping of your town, and then to country maps. If it is used in a year-long geography course, it should be done early in the year.

Objectives: The students will be able to:

(I) list the essential elements of a thematic map,

(2) understand and use scale effectively to represent a geographic area,

(3) use research skills to develop a body of information,

(4) plan and draw an accurate thematic map based on her or his research, and

(5) make a set of predictions about what kind of problems or issues their map might be used to answer.

Geographic Themes: Location and Place

National Geography Standards: Number 1 (use maps and other geographical representations, tools, and technologies to acquire, process, and report information from a spatial perspective). and Number 4 (the physical and human characteristics of places)

State Geography Standard: State standard number 6.7.c (use maps. globes, and other geographical images for a variety of purposes, such as acquiring knowledge, making decisions, interpreting information, and analyzing perspectives)

Time: 3 class periods


(1) a sample map of the school, such as an architectural drawing 

(2) tape measures 

(3) rulers

(4) markers

(5) blank paper


(1) Divide the students into groups of 2 or 3.

(2) Develop and review a list of the essential elements of a thematic map (see box below).

(3) Review with students any textbook information they have on thematic maps.

(4) Provide guided practice on the steps to researching and drawing a thematic map. Be sure to review how to convert maps to different scales, so they can make their base map from the architectural drawing (or other map provided) of the school.

(5) Allow student groups to brainstorm their own ideas on what to map, and how to plan their research tasks. Visit each group to assist and review their plans and goals.

(6) Have students do the research for the map as homework.

(7) In class, have students draw their map using the data they collected, and include everything on the list of the essential elements of a thematic map reviewed previously.

(8) Have students plan a presentation of their map.

(9) Have each group present their maps to the class.

(10) Assign homework for students to do individually that asks them to answer the question "What kind of issues or problems would someone use your map to answer?" Or, more simply, "Why would someone look at your map?"

Assessment: Students will do a self-assessment, and then the teacher will assess. If there are any discrepancies between the two, a meeting is scheduled. Things to assess include:

    Map (accuracy, creativity, and completeness)

    Content (information about the school is accurate )


    Presentation Evaluation (speaking skills and content)

Extending the Lesson:

(1) Using all the maps the class produces, discuss how the maps portray the school. What does the school "look like" based on the maps? What do the maps leave out? What other maps might be drawn or what research done to complete the "picture" of our school?

(2) Have students use the same process to develop thematic maps of the town (changing the scale, the type of information used. etc.).

(3) Use both town and school maps to discuss interactions with the environment, place, and other geographic issues.