Young Children Learning About Maps at School and in the Neighbourhood
In the New Zealand National Curriculum maps are defined as an essential skill along with graphs and tables. Despite the widespread use of maps in everyday life and their incorporation in more than one area of the curriculum there has been little research in New Zealand on children’s knowledge of maps, their use and where and how children encounter them. The research reported in this thesis is an attempt to broaden our understanding of young school children’s knowledge of maps and in particular the sources of their map knowledge in family, neighbourhood and school. The study was informed by two bodies of work, that of Fay Panckhurst on preschoolers’ map knowledge and its sources, and the NEMP studies which assessed graphs, tables and maps at Years 4 and 8. From a Decile 2 school, a sample of Year 3 & 4 children was selected before they had been introduced to maps at school. The students were interviews individually. Each was asked to select the maps from a collection, which included graphs and tables. The selection task showed that the students knew what maps were but had trouble recognising graphs or tables. The students then answered a set of questions about maps, and drew a map of New Zealand marking it on a number of locations. Over a period of three weeks their classroom teacher taught a unit on maps. The sample students were then interviewed again. While their original answers showed the influence of maps in homes and neighbourhood the classroom unit had provided them with technical knowledge and map language, and their maps of New Zealand improved in relation to shape, relationship of the islands, and knowledge of locations. It is argued that maps are not solely “skills” but as cultural artefacts they appear for example in works of literature, in games and on television and for migrant children they can provide links with countries of origin.