Much of the geography programme for infant classes and first and second classes is designed to refine the child's knowledge of the locality and to extend his/her awareness of wider environments. The development of the child's mapping ability will complement this process: mapping must not appear as an end in itself but as a relevant and accessible tool.
Aims of map work in the early years
Mapping activities in the infant and junior classes should enable children to come to appreciate the uses and possibilities of maps. Through drawing pictures of events and places they have encountered, children should begin to appreciate that they can communicate information about their environment to others through the medium of maps. Gradually, these activities should also help children to understand how maps can help to extend our knowledge of environments: how they can clarify and refine our notion of where objects, features, places and spaces are located and how and why they are related to each other. Parallel to the growth of mapping skills will be the development of the child's ability to use spatial language, i.e. terms (such as beside, beyond, near, far, etc.) that enable him/her to describe location, direction and distances in the environment.
The activities described on the following pages provide opportunities for the development of spatial language and introduce the child to maps as representations of the environment. Building on the earliest drawings children make of their homes, play spaces and other areas, these activities encourage them to explore picture maps as representations of the environment. At the same time they provide opportunities for the development of spatial language and introduce some of the main mapping concepts, in particular aerial perspective, direction, orientation and the use of a simple key.
A map-rich environment
All the activities can be complemented by the availability and use of maps and diagrams in the environment of the classroom and school. Diagrams used by the teacher and pupils to record seating in the classroom, the allocation of coat racks and the location of equipment on shelves are all types of maps. Several excellent atlases are available for junior classes, often incorporating satellite images and a range of simple maps. Children in first and second classes should also have ready access to maps of the locality, of Ireland and of the Earth.
EXEMPLAR 9 - Early map work - pictures, plans and maps (infants to second class)
EXEMPLAR 10 - Simple maps in the environment (first and second classes)