Map Mastery
Submitted by: Christine McCoid
Lesson Overview
Concept This lesson focuses on natural resources found by the Corps of Discovery throughout the expedition and those introduced to them by Native Americans they encountered along the trail.
Performance Objectives

Students will be able to:
1. Gain an understanding of Native American mapping techniques.
2. Gain an understanding of mapping techniques used by the Corps of Discovery.
3. Compare and contrast mapping techniques.
4. Create and use instruments to map an area.
5. Define and use the terms ěgeographic perceptionî and ěgeographic relevance.î
6. Create maps.


1. Mapmaking instruments and equipment
2. Materials to create own maps
3. Online maps and resources
4. Computer(s); word processing software; Internet Web browser


1. Tell the students they are going to ěexploreî their community and keep a journal of its major features.  Have students keep a journal as they travel around the community for a week (walking to and from school, walking downtown with friends, being outside during gym class, etc.)  Tell them to record the geography and features of their surroundings.

2. After a week, discuss journal entries.  As a class, look to see which features were mentioned in most journals, such as the local river or town clock.  Introduce the term ěgeographic perception.î  Discuss how different peopleís perceptions would influence their journals.

3. Discuss the term ěgeographic relevanceî with the class.  How can the class decide which features of the community are relevant and should be included in every journal?

4. Have students access online resources to view mapmaking instruments and equipment (from Smithsonian Institution.)  Discuss how the Corps of Discovery may have used these instruments.

5. Research tools that may have been used by Native American tribes, such as a sundial to tell time, or the movement of the wind to tell direction.

6. Compare and contrast the tools used by Native Americans and the Corps of Discovery by charting the similarities and differences.

7. Have students create models of several instruments (such as a compass or sundial) and use them outdoors. 

8. Divide the class into two groups.  Have one group use the instruments made by the class to map a region in the school community.  Have the other group create a map of the same region using only items found in nature (i.e., sticks, rocks, dirt, leaves, directions based on the sun, wind, etc.)  Have each group sketch a map of the area based on their findings.

9. Share the groupsí maps in class and discuss their similarities and differences.  As in the journal activity, students will notice there are differences among their maps.  Even though the groups mapped the same area, there will be differences based on the groups' tools, perceptions, and what they may have found to be relevant.

10. Relate the terms "geographic perception" and "relevance" to mapmaking.  Discuss how maps may differ depending on the mapmaker's own sense of geographic perception and what he/she finds relevant. The differences may be seen in Native American maps versus Corps of Discovery maps.  Would the Native Americans and Corps of Discovery find different parts of the same geographic areas relevant?  How would this make their maps differ?  Discuss how their maps differ based on the differences in the ětoolsî each group used.  

11. When the maps have been made and discussed, have students write opinion papers based on the class discussion.  Some possible topics are:

  • Which type of maps are more historically relevant, those made by the Native Americans or those made by the Corps of Discovery?

  • How do geographic perception and relevance affect the creation of maps?

  • Based on what we know about the development of different types of mapping techniques, how might areas be mapped in the future?

Teacher Notes

Refer to "Cartography Concepts" article.

Student Assessment Tools Written assignment and Other:

1. Detailed completion of geography journal.
2. Participation in class discussion and group work.
3. Detailed completion of map.
4. Appropriate response to opinion question.

Applicable State Standards New Jersey State Standards 6.5, 6.7, 6.9
Related Web Sites Lewis and Clark Expedition Map:  Library of Congress map from the expedition. Has zoom capability.

The Lewis and Clark Trail:  Links and resources about the expedition.

The History of the Lewis and Clark Expedition:  A detailed history of the expedition.

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