Grade 4 Classes Explore Their World Using Maps


At the Senior School, Ms. Kirsten Davel is well known for her geography expertise and for championing GIS mapping (geographic information system) as a fun and unique learning tool in her classroom. Earlier this month she headed down to the Junior School to help teach a much younger group of students about the exciting world of digital maps.

“Most kids still see maps as being paper. We asked Kirsten to come in because we know she could do an amazing job of introducing the concept of digital maps to our students,” says Ms. Heather Sandquist, who along with fellow Grade 4 teacher Ms. Nikki Newsome is trying to make Junior School geography a lot more interactive. “Kirsten got the kids comfortable with the GIS, got them to type their addresses in, they pinned their addresses, they got to see where their addresses were in relation to the other kids in the class, and it was just a really great way to hook them in to mapping and the elements of a good map.”

“It was a totally awesome experience because these kids don’t fear the technology,” adds Kirsten. “Getting them to interact with this learning tool, especially at this age, really starts with ‘me’, the child and the child’s context because that’s what kids are most comfortable with and that’s what gets them hooked. So that’s why we started with having them find their houses and the school. It’s super exciting, because the vision is to have a series of lessons like this with these kids that develops the skills and understandings of how we can use maps to describe our world.”

GIS maps have applications that reach far beyond a geography classroom; Kirsten says these have applicability in a wide range of fields, from education and engineering, to medicine and law.

In our Grade 4 classrooms, though, the lesson was all about learning the basics of mapping: legends, symbols, grids, landmarks, words and scales.

“One girl said to me, ‘You live near St. Michaels,’ so I asked her to show me where she lived in relation to that. She was saying, ‘When I zoom out it looks like our houses are really close together, but when I zoom in it looks like we’re really far apart.’ What geographic learning is that!” Kirsten says. “There’s so much you can do here that is just impossible on a static map. That completely changes the learning experience.”

The students had a great time with Ms. Davel in the classroom and getting to explore (and play!) using the GIS maps. As you’ll read in the reflections below, they’re looking forward to her next visit and more time getting to explore their world using the digital tool.

Student Reflections

“My eyes were opened when I saw the map of Canada because it was a huge map. I thought the map of Canada was going to be smaller. I think that mapping is now easier because when I didn’t know how to read maps I had to find a way around the world, but now that I can read a map I know where to go.” – Mia

“What I learned was that old maps were made by sailing around and asking people where this place is. I learned that I like maps.” – Tiger

“I learned that some maps that were made a long time ago were really detailed. I learned that maps are easier to read when they’re in colour.” – Jenna

“I saw our school, houses and Lafayette Park on the map.” – Jaclyn

“My eyes were opened when Ms. Davel told us that we were going to use GIS to map because I thought Google Maps and Yahoo Maps were the only digital maps. My heart was touched when I saw Taiwan because I thought it was only North America and South America.” – Eu-Rway

“I now think that maps are way more fun than I expected.” – Kevin

“I was sad that Ms. Davel had to leave because I really liked mapping. I think in a new way about mapping with technology because I have never done mapping on the computer before and I really liked educational mapping.” – Katie

“What opened my eyes was me wondering how many countries there are. What made me think in a new way was how much you can do in a short time.” – Rosie

“What opened my eyes was the fact that you can search all over Canada and possibly the world.” – Michael

“My heart was touched when Ms. Davel said that she enjoyed coming down to help and teach us. I really want her to come back because it was fun!” – Maggie

“I was excited when I found my house because it was like a mission to find the Golden House of Sierra. Ms. Davel explains things very well. I wonder why she is so good at explaining things.” – Sierra

“I learned what shape my house is from a bird’s eye view. I wonder who invented maps. I wonder what made them think about making maps.” – Abby


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