Mentally Mapping the World

One of the National Geography Standards is a concept called mental mapping – the idea that as citizens of the world, we should be able to “mentally organize spatial in­formation about people, places, and environments and must be able to call upon and use this information in appropriate contexts.”  It’s an important skill whether you are evaluating a situation around the corner or across the globe.

This week we’ve been working through 45 locations in Europe, Africa and Asia that will be important as we explore the ebb and flow of history across the last two thousand years in that part of the world. I want students to understand, in the words of Shakespeare, that despite the fact that “all the world’s a stage,”  the geography doesn’t change (much).  The women and men who have been fleeing from Turkey and Syria across the Mediterranean to EU nations in 2015 are reversing the same paths their predecessors traveled as they fled from the ashes of Rome across Mare Nostrum  to Constantinople in the 5th century.  Yes, the individuals and technology of travel have changed, but the geography remains much the same.

So, armed with an iPad for apps like Google Sheets, Keynote and ImageQuest, as well as an old-fashioned spiral of lecture notes about the geographic themes of location, place and movement, my students are creating Thinglink maps.  They are identifying the various locations by creating a pop-up slide for each one.  They must describe the physical characteristics of the place in terms of how it might influence the choices the people living there might make about daily life today or in the past and include a photo that is representative of their text.  They are also aware of how relative location might influence the movement of people, places or ideas.

It takes some time, but we will be able to refer back to the maps throughout the year to trace the influence of geography as we march through 2,000 years of history in 36 weeks. And, hopefully, we can make some connections along the way to the world they are living in today.


4 thoughts on “Mentally Mapping the World

  1. As You Like It, Shakespeare, I would say the map and movements follow the next line in the speech too.

    They have their exits and their entrances
    And one man (person) in his time plays many parts

    • Makes me think about two or three of our Oral History documentaries in the past couple of years – people on the move and having to adapt their lives in profound ways. Thanks, Tom Parr, for all you do to make the documentaries come to life!

  2. I really like what you are doing with Thinglink and have thought of a way I could incorporate it in my 8th grade science class. We will be studying the periodic table so I could put the table up like you did the map and have element sites for them to develop. Maybe in the future we could collaborate on a 7th and 8th grade project where the minerals mined and other natural resources available in their history sites are researched by the 8th grade and spotted on the map. It would fit well in the chemistry unit. And, when they move on to 8th grade we could build on this. Ha. I’m thinking portfolio here!

    • Yes! A map of mineral origins used in Renaissance art, perhaps. Lapis was used to make ultramarine – expensive because of its origin and unique chemical properties. Yes, portfolio. It’s all connected. Science, art, history!

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