Year 2, Arc 3: Maps

The spring of our second year brought us to the topic of Maps. Brightworks traveled the globe and explored small places, used compasses and legends to figure out where we were, discovered that mapping is more than about finding out where you are located. The students read books about maps during literature circles and documents about how people have made maps of the places they discover. We saw the world through the help of Google maps – and without it, all the while asking questions: What is a map? Why are maps important? Do we only use maps for directions? Are paper maps obsolete in this day of GPS and Google maps? What can you learn about the mapmaker from his or her map? In the end, we realized, a map is another way to represent data and find a new way to look at the world.

image_3The Rubber Band took the world on without the help of Google Maps, using landmarks and sense of direction to figure out where they were in the city. They studied the most efficient way to move between places and measured degrees of longitude in the Mission district. They looked at representations of data using maps from Mission Possible, Stamen Design, and Infinite City: A San Francisco Atlas. Their explorations resulted in expressions of data collection and presentation, stories of maps that silently unravel lives, how a city layout contributes to people’s quality of life, and a role-playing game that brings players through a radioactive earth.

maps2The Sand Leopards dove deep into the locavore food movement and tracked where their food comes from on the map. They looked at changes in the land made by the various peoples who lived on it, explored California agriculture, and discovered habits of animal migration. Their projects included role-playing games, informational displays, and research projects.

The Phantoms explored their heritage through family stories and visited Angel Island and a naturalization ceremony to better understand immigration. They examined the structure of San Francisco and oriented themselves in the city with hand-drawn maps. Their projects were expressions of their interests in mazes and labyrinths, displaying a collection of data about pigeons and bread crumbs, and issues surrounding immigration and citizenship.

maps1The Coyotes explored topography, scale, perimeter, and area, told stories about fantastical maps that they drew themselves, traced their personal histories, read folk tales from around the world, and learned about the fifty U.S. states. They took journeys around the city and created treasure maps with clear directions about how to navigate them. Their projects brought their perspectives down to the tiniest movements of mice and the biggest questions of how Erastothenes discovered that the Earth was round and how the tectonic plates moved to form our continents.