Exploring Maps Project-Based Learning Unit

Design a Treasure Map- Exploring Maps
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A Comprehensive Project-Based Unit for Teaching Map and Compass Skills to 3rd Graders

Build knowledge and understanding of maps and globes, learn how to use directions and a compass, design and create a city and treasure map and learn how to make a map key.

Your 3rd grade students will learn about the key features of a maps and globes. They will design and create a city map, identifying important places to include in their city and creating a suitable map key for their city map. Students will also learn about compass directions, differentiating between cardinal and intermediate directions. Then, using the knowledge gained, students will create treasure maps with directions before testing them out to locate each other's treasure!

What’s Inside

Packed with fun, hands-on activities, extension and enhancement ideas, opportunities for independent and group work, and engaging inquiry-based challenges, this 50-page project-based unit comes complete with:

  • For the Teacher: Map Skills Lesson Plans with teacher notes on how to teach map and compass skills, step-by-step instructions for all activities, assessment guidance, and inquiry questions.
  • For Students: A full-color Student Pack complete with all of the printables, slides, photos, and instructions students need for the mapping activities - just print (or share) and teach!

A complete, ready-to-teach Teacher Pack that includes:

  1. Teacher versions of all the student printables with step-by-step annotations and notes for teaching informational writing;
  2. Formative and summative assessments, answer keys, and a full project rubric;
  3. Instructions and guidance for the extension activities and project enhancements;
  4. Materials and resources lists, links to articles, videos, and research, plus additional resources for lecture and presentation.


What's Included

Lesson Plan - Step-by-Step Project Teaching Guide

  • Milestone 1: Maps and Globes
  • Milestone 2: Designing a Map
  • Milestone 3: Creating a City Map
  • Milestone 4: Giving Directions
  • Milestone 5: Making a Treasure Map

Teacher and Student Resources

  • Materials Needed for the Projects in this Unit
  • Books About Maps
  • Maps and Globes Answer Key
  • Map Features
  • Community Map
  • Milestone #3 Resources
  • Exploring Maps Quick Quiz
  • Exploring Maps Quick Quiz Answer Key
  • Compass Rose Answer Key
  • Community Map Questions
  • A Treasure Map Answer Key 
  • Exploring Maps Summative Assessment 
  • Exploring Maps Summative Assessment Answer Key 
  • Exploring Maps Project Rubric
  • Maps and Globes
  • Geography Scavenger Hunt 
  • Milestone #1 Inquiry Question
  • Designing a City Map Project Guidelines 
  • City Map Brainstorming 
  • Creating a Map Key 
  • Milestone #2 Inquiry Question
  • Map Compare and Contrast 
  • Milestone #3 Inquiry Question
  • Compass Rose 
  • Map Questions 
  • Answering Map Questions 
  • Milestone #4 Inquiry Question
  • A Treasure Map 
  • My Treasure Map 
  • Milestone #5 Inquiry Question
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Lesson Plan - Exploring Maps Project-Based Learning Lesson
Teacher Pack - Exploring Maps Project-Based Learning Lesson
Student Pack - Exploring Maps Project-Based Learning Lesson


This project-based learning lesson is designed to support and reinforce the concepts in a Grade 3 Social Studies unit on maps. It is built around 5 inquiry-based milestones that incorporate cross-curricular hands-on projects, formative and summative assessments, independent and group activities, and extensions.


In the course of this project-based learning unit, students will:
Build background knowledge about globes and maps;
Design a city map including map key;
Use cardinal and intermediate compass directions;
Create a treasure map and write directions for finding the treasure, then use their map and compass skills to find treasure on their partner’s map.


Students will acquire necessary background knowledge of globes, maps and compass directions as part of this project, and instructional materials for providing that background are included in the Teacher Pack. 


This project-based unit is divided into 5 milestones. The minimum suggested duration for completing this project-based unit is 5 class periods. However, the unit is completely flexible and can be lengthened or shortened as necessary or desired, based on available class time and interest level.


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