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What is Geography?

Map Skills


A map is a symbolic representation of an actual element or an area on a flat surface. Maps are useful because they illustrate specific and detailed features of a given area, region, or an object. They represent features such as boundaries, topography, physical features, climate, and even economic activities. There are different kinds of maps: dimensional, static, dynamic, and interactive maps. Maps have been in use since ancient times when they may have been produced and used as necessary tools for identification and navigation. Maps became more and more accurate and factual in the 17th to 19th century with various countries adopting national mapping programs. The widespread use of aerial photography during World War I contributed significantly to the map-making process.


Using the information and materials in the monthly boxes, you will be able to do all of the activities on this site. In addition, we have included more activities for the countries  covered, such as more art projects, more recipes.    

To start with take out your World Atlas!!!

The study of map-making is called cartography and the person that makes maps is called a cartographer. Cartographers long ago created a system of imaginary gridlines for the whole globe. The grid lines are called latitude and longitude. They are measured in degrees.   

Latitude Lines around the Earth



Latitude is the measurement of distance north or south of the Equator. It is measured with 180 imaginary lines that form circles around the Earth east-west, parallel to the Equator. These lines are known as parallels. A circle of latitude is an imaginary ring linking all points sharing a parallel. Though equator is the most important of all latitudes, four other latitudes play a pivotal role in the geometric relationship between the Sun and the Earth.

Longitude Lines around the Earth



Longitude is the measurement east or west of the prime meridian. Longitude is measured by imaginary lines that run around the Earth vertically (up and down) and meet at the North and South Poles. These lines are known as meridians.

Arctic Circle

Arctic Circle: 66° 33' 39" N

The Arctic Circle is one of the two polar circles and the most northernly of the five major circles of latitude as shown on the maps of Earth. The region north of this circle is known as the Arctic, and the zone just to the south is called the Northern Temperature Zone. Only four million people live north of the Arctic Circle due to the climate. 

Tropic of Cancer

Tropic of Cancer: 23° 26' 21" N

The Tropic of Cancer, which is also referred to as the Northern Tropic , is the most northernly circle of latitude on Earth at which the Sun can be directly overhead. This occurs on the June solstice, when the Northern Hemisphere is titled toward the Sun to its maximum extent.

Tropic of Capricorn

Tropic of Capricorn: 23° 26' 21" S

The Tropic of Capricorn, which is also referred to as the Southern Tropic is the southern counterpart to the Tropic of Cancer. It is the circle of latitude that contains the sub solar point on the December (or southern) solstice. It is the thus the southernmost attitude where the Sun can be directly overhead.

Antarctic Circle

Antarctic Circle: 66° 33' 39" S

The Antarctic Circle is the second polar circle and the most southernly of the five major circles of latitude that mark maps of the Earth. The region south of this circle is known as Antartica, and the zone immediately to the north is called the Southern Temperature Zone. There is no permanent record of human population living in the Antarctic Circle, only research stations operated by various nations.

The Prime Meridan is an imaginary line that, similar to the equator, divides the east into eastern and western hemispheres. It sometimes is referred to as the Greenwich Meridian.

Find the four circles of latitude on your Atlas.

By combing the latitude and longitude, any location in the world can be pinpointed.

An example of a good entry to use for latitude and longitude is 30 37 N 80 27 W or 31 N 81 W.

Meaning lying 31 degrees North of the Equator and 81 degrees West of the Prime Meriden.

A. What city lies on the location 30 N 90 W?
A. New Orleans
B. What country is at 30 N 15 E?
B. Libya
C. What city lies closest to the location at 45 N 75 E?
C. Helsinki
D. What country is at 7.5 N 83 E?
D. Sri Lanka
E. What country lies on the Equator and at 15 E?
E. Congo


Mystery Locations....

Using your World Atlas, find the following locations with the latitude and longitude. Hover over buttons to reveal answers.

Birthday Location...

Now let's find your World Birthday Location!!! Where in the World should you celebrate your next birthday? And describe what would it be like to have a celebration there???

Ok here's how you find it. I am going to find mine! 

First randomly pick your hemispheres N or S, and E or W.  I am going to pick N and W.

Ok now take the numeric values of your birthday for the month and day. Mine are September (9) and the 3rd (3). 

Multiple both numbers by 5. Giving me 9 times 5 is 45 and 3 time 5 is 15. 

My coordinates are 45 N 15 W. Map those coordinates.

My birthday location is Croatia.

My birthday world location is Croatia. Croatia is on the Adriatic Sea. It borders several countries, Slovenia to the northwest, Hungary to the northeast, Serbia to the east, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro to the southeast. (Find it on your Atlas!). They say September is a good month to visit and the weather is warm. Croatia has beautiful beaches. But on my birthday, I want to visit Diocletian's Palace. It is the town were the Roman Emperor Diocletian built his retirement home, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site!

Finding Locations...

Whenever you read a magazine or newspaper article or hear about about a place in the news, find the latitude and longitude of the location in which the focus of the article takes place. An easy way to do this if you have a cell phone, iPad or computer, just enter the location name, followed by latitude and longitude and it will give you the coordinates. On an atlas, mark the locations. See how long it takes until you have marks in most countries.

The Atlas Legend...

Compass Rose

A circle showing the principal directions printed on the map.











​The Scale gives you the Mileage Ratio or a Mileage Chart. 

Scale Bars

Scale bars provide a visual indication of the size of features, and distance between features, on the map. A scale bar is a line or bar divided into parts. It is labeled with its ground length, usually in multiples of map units, such as tens of kilometers or hundreds of miles. When a scale bar is added to the layout, it is associated with a map frame and maintains a connection to the map inside the frame. If the map scale changes, the scale bar updates to remain correct.​​​

For example, an inch equal 825 kilometers (km) or 325 miles (m). By using the direction from the Compass Rose and the mileage chart, you can locate any place relative to another place. Let's do an example.

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