Map courtesy of National Scenic Byways Online
Among geographers’ many tools, the one likely to come to mind first is the map. Maps provide us with a generalized picture of all or part of Earth’s surface. A large-scale map shows a small area in more detail than a small-scale map that may show Earth’s entire surface, but include only very large features.
A common map that is useful to everyone is the highway map. Highway maps help us find our way from place to place; they often identify parks or sites of historic interest; and they always include a scale to estimate distance.
Learning the Language of Highway Maps
The map segment on the right shows part of the scenic Blue Ridge Parkway in western North Carolina. Below the map a legend identifies symbols used on the map. Use this map from the National Scenic Byways site at byways.org to practice map reading skills by answering the following questions.
- What symbol represents the featured scenic byway? How are other roadways identified?
- What is represented by the “X” just north of the byway, near the center of the map?
- What towns are connected by U.S. Highway 19?
- Use the map scale to estimate the distance from Black Mountain to Asheville?
- What rivers feed into Lake James?
- What is the elevation of Mt. Mitchell?
Extending the activity…
- Have students work in pairs to locate other maps on the National Scenic Byways site. Have each pair write 4-5 questions based on the map they have chosen. Then let other students practice their map reading skills by answering the questions.
- Contact your State Highway Department and ask for a classroom set of state highway maps. Develop questions based on map symbols and map scale that encourage students to learn about their state while practicing map reading skills.
Join 11,000 schools and participate in this year’s National Geographic Bee. Get a notification to alert you when registration opens in August.
About the National Geographic Bee
Each year thousands of schools in the United States participate in the National Geographic Bee using materials prepared by the National Geographic Society. The contest is designed to inspire students to be curious about the world. Schools with students in grades four through eight are eligible for this entertaining and challenging competition.
The national championship preliminary rounds took place on Monday, May 23, in Washington, D.C. The national championship final rounds featuring the top 10 finalists and moderated by humorist, journalist, and actor Mo Rocca were held on Wednesday, May 25, at National Geographic’s Washington, D.C., headquarters.
The national champion receives a $50,000 college scholarship, a lifetime membership in the National Geographic Society, and a Lindblad expedition to Southeast Alaska provided by Lindblad Expeditions and National Geographic.
Watch the 2016 National Geographic Bee Finals
The National Geographic Bee aired on the National Geographic Channel on Friday May 27, and may still be available via streaming services. It is also airing on public television stations; check local television listings for dates and times.
Meet the 2016 Champions
National Geographic Bee contestants aren't just geography geniuses. They're also savvy park planners! See where they would create a National Park in their own state.
Host Mo Rocca interviews the Top 10 Finalists on stage during the 2016 competition.
How to Help
Donations help fund schools to participate in the National Geographic Bee.
Teachers can use these activities in the classroom to prepare students for the bee!
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The movement of people, goods, or ideas from one place to another is a process known as diffusion, which plays an important role in shaping the characteristics of where we live.
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