05 November, 2010

The Map Tower

I think it is pretty common for children, especially young children, to be pretty confused by the whole idea of maps.  For example, the idea that something as big as the world can fit onto a small piece of paper is very abstract and can be understandably difficult to grasp.  The idea can be made even more confusing when maps are many different sizes.  So when I was preparing my class to learn about our home city, I devised a way to bring the idea of maps down to their level, a Map Tower.

I got this idea from Waseca Biomes' Cosmic Nesting Boxes.  You can find these as well as more of their amazing curriculum materials (and no, they are not paying me to say this.  They just have very cool materials) right here.  In absence of money to purchase a set of these cosmic nesting boxes, I trotted right over to my local craft store and picked up a set of cardboard nesting boxes, so I could make a set for myself.

So, here they are!  They do not have quite as much cache as the Waseca nesting blocks, but I love them anyway.   I think they make the whole idea of maps so much more concrete.  Here is what I told the children earlier this week:

  • Imagine you are in a spaceship far out in space.  If you photographed Earth from where you are, here is what it would look like.  (I said this while holding the biggest box.)

  • Now imagine you have come a bit closer to Earth.  You are just above North America when you take your next photograph.  (Holding the next biggest box.)

  • Come a little closer and photograph our country, The United States of America. (and so on with the boxes.)

  • Come closer still to photograph our state.

  • And now come quite close to photograph our city.

  • Fly right over our school to photograph it.  Hello, friends at school!

  • And now imagine your spaceship has flown right into our classroom and has taken a photograph of you!

There you are at our school, in our city, in our state, in The USA, in North America, on Earth!  Wow!

We went over these ideas again the next day, and I demonstrated how the boxes nest inside each other showing how a student at our school is in our city which is in our state, which is in our country, which is on our continent, which is on Earth.  Phewf!  

Now the children may use this activity as they wish, and explore map ideas on their own.  We'll see what happens!


  1. Another great idea! I saw Waseca's boxes, but it is too expensive for me as well.

    I suggest you check out this movie


    and then go to the home of the very same site. It may be very interesting for kids and it can help them for grasping the concept.

  2. Sandra, I will check it out! And thanks for your comments! : ))))))

  3. I like! You know, Melissa and Doug makes a nesting box...I found one at Kohls for only 10ish? Keep an eye out for them 'cause you can make a rainforest set with the different levels/layers.... Also, check out after the holidays 'cause they have nesting boxes and you can use them too! (and it'll be cheap too!)


  4. Nice! I was planning on painting one over break, since Wasceca isn't affordable for home. This is great :)


  5. Great idea!
    Julie at http://theadventuresofbear.blogspot.com

  6. Great post. My kids and I are going to do solar system in January, I am going to give this a try. New follow hope you will follow back:)
    at http://lifesadventures-amb.blogspot.com/


Thank you for your comments. They are always much appreciated. : )