I found this excellent resource a few years ago that I have used countless times in the classroom. It is called Nikki’s Map Adventures.
It is a great resource to use in the first few weeks of school. There are seven lesson plans that are easy to follow and really engage students. The unit is designed around a story about a young girl Nikki who goes to a theme park with her mother.
I like to start off the year with a simple mapping unit for Social Studies because it is accessible and the students don’t feel threatened by it. I really like how this unit revolves around a story and how it progressively shows us different points of view until we end up with a typical map.
Here is a brief summary of the unit.
Nikki and her mother arrive at the front gate of a theme park and this is all they are able to see.
Using this image, the class brainstorms what things we think might be in this park from what we can see and what we have heard in part 1 of the story. The key point here is that we cannot possibly see everything from a ground view.
As the story progresses, Nikki ends up floating above the park in a hot-air balloon. We notice that she can see a lot more of the park but we can’t see as much detail about the individual objects as we could from a ground view.
Finally, Nikki comes directly over the park and we can now see a typical overhead map.
I like how these lesson introduce students to different points of view and how it gradually shows you how and why maps are used.
It’s an awesome resource that is recommended for students in K-3 but I see how it could be useful for older students as well.
The lessons are also available as PDF files and you can print out 15 pages to make a large wall map of the park as well.
I have also found that other school boards have supplemented this website with additional worksheets. There is definitely a lot of information you can find and different ways you can present this unit to your students.
Lesson 1 supplemental worksheets – http://mapstacker.ousd.k12.ca.us/HelpDocs/MapAdventures1.pdf