Pirates sail the seven seas, and they use maps! Pirate science experiments give a learning anchor to so much content! Map making skills are an authentic way to work on scale, symbols, and perspective. This is Part 5 of our pirate science activities: here’s a harbor for ye to try invisible ink, make your own compass, foil boats, and saltwater to freshwater.
Teaching with a theme works well with organizing science lessons into stations. When you don’t have enough resources for every group of children to do the same lab, stations can be the solution. Using stations is also a great differentiation technique. See Part 1 for my tips for organizing station labs.
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Map making instructions
- Are you a land lubber or a swashbuckler? Look at some maps we use to get places. Try some for indoor places (like a school building or museum) and some for outdoors (such as a highway map or bike route map.) What is the viewpoint? If you are standing on a spot on the map, what would you see? How do you decide the directions on the map?
- Many maps are labeled with North, South, East, West. How do you find where North is with a compass? How do you find North if you don’t have a compass?
- How do maps work on a phone? How does a phone map show you North?
- Make a drawing of your room. Hide a “treasure” and make the drawing so that someone else could find the treasure.
- Pirate treasure maps often had directions like “20 paces west from the palm tree.” Are paces a good measurement? Try comparing your stride with someone else. Will you end up in the same location after pacing?
- Now make a map of your room for marking the treasure. What symbols will you use for objects in the room? How will other people know what these symbols mean? Use graph paper for the map and find a way to show the size of objects and distances using the squares on the graph paper.
- Now walk an area outside, such as a playground or park. Draw a map with a birds-eye perspective. You may need to use yardsticks or tape measure. If you have a GPS unit (global positioning system), how can this help with creating your map?
- If you are sailing on a ship in the ocean, how would you draw a map? Do some research on the history of longitude and latitude and how they helped with finding the way across oceans and telling time.
- Maps , more maps
- Graph paper
- Pencils, pens
- Meter sticks, tape measure, ruler
- paper or notebook for recording results, pen
- (optional) GPS handheld unit
What is the science?
Content: scale, proportion, developing and using models, interpret data from maps to describe patterns of Earth’s features
Topographic maps are a method for describing the earth’s surface. These maps can show land and the ocean floor. Maps can be used to show the locations of rivers, lakes, oceans, mountains, and other features of the earth.
- Official U.S. information on global positioning systems from the US Air Force
- Latitude and longitude from From Stargazers to Starships at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center
- Maps and Statistics for Kids from Penn State
- The True Size shows the distortion caused by the two dimensional Mercator projection maps
- Mapping the classroom from National Geographic
- Geocaching Challenge from the Dinosaur Train at PBS
- Pirates unit study from The Home School Mom
- Avast me hearties from Lawrence Hall of Science
- September 19: Talk like a pirate from Hobsess blog
- Captain Hook costume from Inspired by Familia
- Blackbeard’s Queen Anne’s Revenge from NC Maritime Museums
Let’s talk story
Me mateys Kelly and Jen love swashbucklers as much as I do. This is the fifth in a series of science ideas for pirate theme we put together. Here’s some of our pirate inspiration: Treasure Island, Peter Pan, Pirates of Penzance, Pirates of the Carribean, The Pirate Queen, and Jake and the Neverland Pirates.
In North Carolina, Blackbeard be “our” pirate (other states claim the lad, too!) Along with science, you can tie pirates to social studies. Other famous pirates: Barbarossa, Thomas Cavendish, Sir Francis Drake, Charlotte de Berry, Sir Henry Morgan, Black Bart, Stede Bonnet, Captain Kidd, Anne Bonny, Mary Read, Jean Lafitte, and Grace O’Malley.
I’ll be looking for comments below, or contact me at lisa [at] thecasabouquet[dot]com.