Maps (1 of 3)

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Students will be able to 1) describe how a map can be claim that uses visualized data as evidence; 2) write claims using the evidence presented in different types of maps; and 3) apply understanding of different types of visualized data in maps to the design of a neighborhood map that presents a claim through visual evidence.

Big Idea

Maps make claims with visualized data. How might we analyze different types of maps so that we can choose specific types of visualized data to support claims about our communities?

FRAME: Maps as visual arguments and tools for change

How are maps tools of environmental justice? Mapping skills are an excellent way to marry data visualization, claims, and conceptual understanding in an environmental science course. Importantly, mapping is skill that is not intimidating to most students.  Because they have many years of experience with mapping, it feels "natural." Even the complicated geospatial information systems (GIS) framework students will encounter in this lesson sequence is familiar; it is a core feature of most smartphone apps and websites.

In this three lesson sequence, students learn about the following:

  1. Maps can be thought of as visual arguments. In the first lesson, students examine different types of maps and identify arguments that these maps make. From this experience, students begin to define maps as visual arguments.
  2. Maps that use evidence of environmental injustice from local neighborhoods can be tools that use STEM skills and concepts to address social justice issues. In this second lesson, students begin to consider the idea that the claim a map makes can be an advocacy tool.  
  3. Maps of the local community are essential resources for understanding the environmental issues that students face everyday. In the third lesson, students continue to work with the idea that maps make claims that might address social justice issues within a community. With the help of a GIS film and complex text, students develop design ideas for creating dynamic maps of the Sunset Park that might be tools environmental justice.

These lessons are hands-on and theoretical.  Students will move between the familiar and the esoteric.  Teachers will need to exercise patience and allow students to struggle with new ideas. There is an element of "play with purpose" that is an important feature of the classroom culture in these lessons.  The ultimate goal is for students to develop neighborhood maps that are visual arguments to be used to increase environmental justice in the neighborhood.  For students to reach this point, they cannot follow a recipe.  They will have to try and fail a number of times before they are able to create a map that works.

By the end of "Maps", successful students will have met the following objectives:

  1. describe how a map can be claim that uses visualized data as evidence
  2. write claims using the evidence presented in different types of maps
  3. apply understanding of different types of visualized data in maps to the design of a neighborhood map that presents a claim through visual evidence
  4. articulate a purpose for designing maps
  5. identify three uses for maps in a science classroom
  6. describe the use of different kinds of maps in social justice initiatives
  7. articulate the role of geospatial technology in map creation and use
  8. identify applications for the "new cartography" in the real world
  9. develop a prototype design of a student-generated community map about environmental justice that incorporates ideas from the geospatial revolution.

RESOURCES NOTES:  The attached GRAPHIC ORGANIZER is a tool that students might use to capture notes, ideas, and understanding for this first lesson.

FLIPPED: What is a map?

What will students do?

This is an assignment to be done BEFORE class; it should take no more than 15 minutes.  Students will critically consider a short clip about "food maps"--literally maps made out of food--that provide information about a region in a unique way.  How are these maps different than the maps you usually encounter?  What kinds of information do these maps contain?  There is no text in these maps, but what kind of argument might the mapmakers be making with the information in these maps?  By the end of this FLIPPED assignment, students should have developed a claim about how maps make arguments. These responses do not need to be sophisticated or incorporate multiple pieces of evidence, but they should, at minimum, identify how the features presented in a map define the types of arguments that a map makes.

ENGAGE: Mapping from memory

8 minutes

What is the purpose of this section?

Students tap into prior knowledge about maps and their community to create a model of the school in map form.  The teacher is able to gather baseline data.  What are students' preconceived notions of how a map should appear and the type of information a map should contain?  How well do students remember their community? By the end of this activity, students should have expressed their mental models of the school through drawn maps.

What will students do?

Students receive these directions: Draw a map of this school (SPHS).  Your map can be in any style you prefer.  We will be sharing maps with table partners and the class.  You have five minutes.

Students share maps with groups after five minutes and all groups hold up maps and students collectively define "map" based on observations of drawings.

EXPLORE: Manahatta

15 minutes

What is the purpose of this section?

Students have an opportunity to define "map" by including characteristics from a dynamic map of Manhattan created for the Manahatta project.  Teacher have an opportunity to assess students ability to identify a claim represented by visualized data instead of text, as well as students' ability to support a claim with evidence.  By the end of this section students should have refined their definition of "map" by using specific examples from the Manahatta presentation.

What will students do?

Students receive a seemingly simple challenge to answer the following question: What is a map? The constraint is that students must use evidence from a talk given by Eric Sanderson to flesh out their response.  For help, students receive the following questions:

  • What kind of data is on the maps that we see?
  • What other kinds of data could have been chosen?
  • What does this map suggest about the people that made it?
  • How does the choice of data determine the kind of map we see?

What will the teacher do?

I will show about eight minutes of this clip and circulate around the room asking students probing questions, correcting errors in comprehension (or noting them to address with a student later), and encouraging students with sentence starters or examples where necessary.  I will then facilitate a class discussion using the guiding questions.  The definition of "map" that emerges from this discussion goes on chart paper and lives on the classroom wall until the end of the unit.

EXPLAIN: Paraphrasing text

15 minutes

What is the purpose of this section?

Students extract information from a nonfiction text in an attempt to further refine the class definition of "map" from the EXPLORE section.  The teacher communicates to the class that one way to define maps is "an argumentative claim about place." By the end of this activity students should have refined their previous definition of "map" by incorporating ideas learned from the text resource and three levels of text protocol.

What will students do?

FIRST, students will independently read an excerpt from "Map Anatomy" (pp 31-40) in order to articulate how maps lend themselves to diverse understandings of place.  They will do this by paraphrasing two significant ideas from the text that they will want to explore further during a student-lead discussion protocol.  They are explicitly told that they will not have time read everything.  Students have 8 minutes to complete this task.

SECOND, students will engage in a Three Levels of Text protocol run by peer facilitators at each group.  Facilitators generally meet with me once per week to review key activities for the week and will have had practice running this protocol.  The purpose of this protocol is to deepen all students understanding of the text and to use this understanding to refine the definition of "map." Students have 7 minutes to complete this task.

THIRD, students groups will share out key findings with the whole group.

What will the teacher do?

I will circulate and provide examples of intended outcomes, ask probing questions, direct students' focus to key sessions, assist with discussion facilitation when necessary, and provide models of how to self-assess work.


15 minutes

What is the purpose of this section?

Students are able to navigate online mapping software and practice their ability to identify the claim a map makes through visualized data.  The teacher is able to assess students progress towards mastery of this skill. By the end of this section, students should be able to supplement their in-process definition of "map" with specific examples of arguments that maps make.

How will students and teachers collaborate to meet this goal?

Students will use the Esri interface to choose a map or maps.  Once students have a identified a map that they want to use, they will develop one question to ask of the map and come up with three responses to that question using evidence from the map.  The ability to ask a question of data and answer it is essential to identifying the claims that maps make.  This skill, is essentially the same as an annotation strategy I will often have students use with text.  This paragraph is an answer to a question.  What is that question?  In the same way, maps are answers to questions about information.  What is the question that most logically arises from this data?  Some questions that students might ask and answer include:

  • Why are so many soccer players from one place?
  • Why do earthquakes seem to happen in the same place year after year?

EVALUATE: A social value of maps

2 minutes

Maps make claims, and these claims might also be tools of social change.  At the close of class, I give students a short assignment that bridges this lesson and the next.  Students are to examine the evolution of the Mannahatta Project outlined in a five minute video through the lens developed during this lesson as well as a new lens that we will explore. 

Students receive the following prompt: We have begun to understand how maps make argumentative claims.  Extending this idea further, use evidence from this updated presentation of the Mannahatta Project to explain can maps act as tools of positive change within a community.  How can we use maps to influence community action?