Standards Database Logo
Home | Browse | Search | Purpose | History | Process | Acknowledgment| Reference



McREL Standards Activity

Flat Earth Society

Purpose:As a result of this activity, students will be able to understand that flat maps involve distortion.
Related Standard & Benchmarks:
 Standard 1.Understands the characteristics and uses of maps, globes, and other geographic tools and technologies
   Level III [Grade 6-8]
   Benchmark 1. Knows the purposes and distinguishing characteristics of different map projections, including distortion on flat-map projections
 Standard 5.Understands and applies basic and advanced properties of the concepts of geometry
   Level III [Grade 6-8]
   Benchmark 5. Understands the relationships between two- and three-dimensional representations of a figure (e.g., scale drawings, blueprints, planar cross sections)
Language Arts
 Standard 1.Uses the general skills and strategies of the writing process
   Level III [Grade 6-8]
   Benchmark 6. Writes expository compositions (e.g., states a thesis or purpose; presents information that reflects knowledge about the topic of the report; organizes and presents information in a logical manner, including an introduction and conclusion; uses own words to develop ideas; uses common expository structures and features, such as compare-contrast or problem-solution)
Student Product:written report
Material & Resources:Mercator projection map, globe, string (less than 2 feet long, length needed will depend on size of map and globe), reference book listing areas for individual countries, writing materials, tracing paper
Teacher's Note:As an alternate procedure, each group or individual may be given either a map or a globe and then compare results with a different group or individual after completing the activity.
Part A: Distances Each student or group is provided a piece of string and a Mercator projection map and globe. Using the string to measure approximate lengths, the students will compare the distances on the map between selected locations and indicate which distance is longer and by how much (a little, a lot, about the same length) The distances to be compared are: 1 New York, New York to Fairbanks, Alaska New York, New York, to Lisbon, Portugal 2 San Francisco, California to Taipei Taiwan (Formosa) Southern tip of South America to Wellington, New Zealand 3 Cairo, Egypt to Cape Town, South Africa Cairo, Egypt to Reykjavik, Iceland After recording their observations for distances, the students are to repeat the measurements on the globe and note any differences from the map results.
Part B: Size of Regions The student or students will then use the map to compare the size of regions. Students may want to use tracing paper as an aid in making comparisons. Once again, the relationships should be expressed qualitatively (e.g., a little bigger, a lot bigger, about the same size). The areas to be compared are: 1 The state of Alaska and Mexico 2 Greenland and Brazil 3 Madagascar and Sweden After recording their observations for the size of regions, the students are to repeat the comparisons and tracing of regions on the globe and note any differences from the map results. Students should check the actual land areas in a reference book to check whether the map or globe findings were correct. At the conclusion of the activity, the students should write a report including their observations regarding the relationships between 2-D and 3-D representations of a figure and the distortion on flat-map projections. They should also explain the advantages and disadvantages of using a globe or a map and situations in which one would be better than the other. As an extension of this activity, students may be asked to compare the Mercator map and the globe to other projections (e.g., Lambert Equal Area, Goode’s Interrupted Homolosine) and indicate the strengths and weaknesses of each type of projection.