Finding and Mapping Treasures – Mapping II

by Nitai Cook – Mountain Yard Teacher

As you read in the last PMP Press, I have had a series of Thursday classes based around cartography. After having led a few successful classes based in the children making maps that were personal to their experience, perspective, and imagination, I wanted to attempt a mapping and graphing project that involved team work and problem solving. I decided to create a project around finding and mapping treasures, somewhat like an archeology dig.

In the sand pit, I buried a bevy of twisted branches, a slew of unusual wood slices, and an array of other odd objects. Over that, I created an overlaying grid system of bright orange yarn and kabob sticks similar to what I have seen at the excavation sites at the La Brea Tar Pits. The measurements were five squares by five squares, twenty-five squares in all.

Then I instructed a group of excited children who were ready to tear everything up with shovels, that they must work delicately, with brushes perhaps, and draw the objects down as they found them on a large corresponding grid paper. So the limits were set, and the children in the class started with the dig.

I was surprised to find how quickly that the children understood the alphanumeric graph that I had created to find their square on the paper, and relate that to the space in the pit, and then draw what they found. During the dig, some arguments broke out over personal space, and working in the grid together, but that quickly turned into children organizing themselves into divisions of labor. A whole group of children decided to take up the task of carefully cleaning and studying each item unearthed. Even children who are otherwise nervous about drawing were easily encouraged in to drawing and cataloging their finds. I noticed that the children tended to center their drawings into individual squares, even though the instructions were to draw the item where it was found, and it seemed more challenging to draw pictures that extended into two or three squares. I connected our process to the work of archeologists and paleontologists, but I didn’t need to provide a fantastic narrative, the children created that on their own.

PMP Press | March/April 2011