Rosyth's young cartographers

On Thursday 21 January 2016, Youth Forum member Georgia Vullinghs joined the Scotland's Urban Past team at schools in Rosyth to deliver education activities and training. Find out more in her blog post.

Submitted by on 12-02-2016 10:35:22

Young cartographers

Last week I joined the Scotland's Urban Past learning team at a Rosyth primary school as part of their latest project with schools in that area.

During the morning session, I joined the P4/5s outside to do some of our own mapping, while another half of the team were inside looking at historical maps and chatting about changes in the region over time, as well as doing a bit of community mapping.

We started off with pacing out distances to understand how maps were made before the age of technologies like GPS and aerial photography. We had lots of fun estimating distances and after a few trials the children got the hang of it and were quite accurate!

We then moved on to direction and the need to mark the compass points on our maps. This was a little confusing at first with some forgetting that the north arrow on the paper didn’t always mean north in real life. But we got there. With these skills in hand, the group had a go at mapping the school and playing fields area. We had great results: one line on the paper represented ten spaces, using correct orientation, while some of the children even managed to annotate their maps with street names and landmarks to make them more accurate.

I think this was a great introduction to cartography as well as an appreciation of how maps were made in the past. It also made the children think a little more about their local area, meeting the aims of Scotland’s Urban Past to get people more involved in their environment. The children, and teachers, also enjoyed a spell outside of the classroom doing something a little different.

A photograph of a young woman and a young boy with a magnifying glass, looking at an old map.
A photography of a young woman and very young children in a class room.

In the afternoon we spent a short spell with P1/2s.

At their young age we were just looking to make a bit of an introduction to historical maps and get them to think about changes in the region through time. I was so impressed by their enthusiasm and willingness to engage.

We pretended to the children that the copies of the maps we had were real historical artefacts that needed to be handled with care, wearing gloves. They loved the idea that they were experiencing something special. In this way we explained to them a little about what Historic Environment Scotland does to preserve historic artefacts and they had an early insight into the importance of conservation.

After a group introduction, the children came to look at the maps individually, with magnifying classes (!) and we identified some of the main features together, like rivers, settlements, and where the differences were between older and newer maps. I think they really enjoyed the visual explanation of historical change in their local area. And they were all enthusiastic to spot their school and houses, places personal to them.

This was followed up with a little bit of drawing and colouring. We gave the children freedom to “map” their environment, depicting the landmarks they recognise on the way to school. We had some great results with houses, parks, roads and shops shown. I really enjoyed seeing what the children came up with and think the idea of making community maps like this is a great way for young people to engage with their surroundings. 

I personally had a great day out with the Scotland's Urban Past team. I learned a lot from having a brief insight into what these school projects and visits actually entail, and enjoyed spending time with the children talking about a subject I love. Looking forward to the next visit and hearing about the progress of the project!

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