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Thursday, December 20, 2012

Community Mapping in Montpelier

Did you know Montpelier, VT, has four churches within three blocks?  Or that there are three dentists in less than a half-mile?  The second graders at Union Elementary made these discoveries, plus many more, as they mapped their route from school to Hubbard Park.  Map-making is a vital tool in helping children to get to know their community and these 50 students put their classroom-based learning into use as they mapped their mile-long trip from U.E.S. to the city park. 

The objectives of this activity was for students to spend time getting to know more about their community and to support the learning happening in the classroom.  The second grade is currently amidst a mapping unit, so the students put their knowledge of orientation, scale, keys, and landmarks to use.  During their two and a half-hour ECO sessions, four second grade classes added landmarks and points of interest to a simple sketch map that their ECO teacher drew up before class.  In teams of two, children drew and wrote details on their map so that someone who had never walked the route before could find their way from the school to the park.  Teachers and parent volunteers guided the discovery, but it was largely student driven.

The snowy weather added for an extra challenge for keeping their map dry, but students were upbeat and curious about their surroundings.

Although these students live in the town and have walked this route many times, they were making discoveries about the town that they had never appreciated before and asking questions.  One student asked, "What's a chiropractor?"  Another student wanted to know what the Rotary club was and why they gave the library benches.  One class had just begun a poetry unit, and so they were asked to record poetic words about the weather, sights in town, and experiences up in the park. 

The teachers were very pleased with their students work.  This activity acted as an informal assessment of what the students had been learning about maps in the classroom.  "I can honestly say that I'm speechless about how well this activity corresponds with the classroom learning," remarked one teacher.  "It is great to see what the students have been learning put into practice." 

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