Mapmaker, Make Me a Map


Students will identify various landforms on a map. Students will demonstrate an understanding of map keys through creating their own maps.

Coin Type(s)

  • Quarter

Coin Program(s)

  • 50 State Quarters


  • Students will identify various landforms on a map.
  • Students will demonstrate an understanding of map keys through creating their own maps.

Major Subject Area Connections

  • Social Studies
  • Language Arts
  • Art


  • K
  • 1st

Class Time

  • Sessions: Three
  • Session Length: 20-30 minutes
  • Total Length: 91-120 minutes


  • Whole group
  • Individual work

Background Knowledge

Students should have a basic knowledge of:

  • Maps
  • Land and water features
  • Compass Rose
  • Cardinal directions

Terms and Concepts

  • Quarter
  • Obverse (front)
  • Reverse (back)
  • Map key
  • Symbol


  • 1 overhead projector
  • Overhead transparencies of the following:
    • "Colorado Quarter Reverse" page (or photocopy)
    • "Map It Out" worksheet
  • "Colorado Quarter Reverse" page
  • "Map It Out" worksheet
  • 1 class map of the United States
  • Color images of Colorado
  • Images of land formations (mountains, rivers, streams, ponds, deserts, lakes, forests, etc.)
  • Crayons and/or colored pencils
  • Chart paper
  • Markers
  • Copies of a text about maps, such as:
    • Me On The Map by Joan Sweeney
    • Mapping Penny's World by Loreen Leedy
    • There's a Map in My Lap! By Tish Rabe
    • My Map Book by Sara Fanelli
  • Topographical map of the United States of America (showing landforms and a map key)


  • Make copies of the following:
    • "Colorado Quarter Reverse" page (1 per student)
    • "Map It Out" worksheet (1 per student)
  • Make an overhead transparency of each of the following:
    • "Colorado Quarter Reverse" page
    • "Map It Out" worksheet
  • Gather color images of Colorado.
  • Gather images of land formations (see examples under "Materials").
  • Locate a text that relates to maps (see examples under "Materials").
  • Locate a topographical map of the United States with land formations and a map key.


Worksheets and files (PDF)

Lesson Steps

Sessions 1

  1. Describe the 50 State Quarters Program for background information, if necessary, using the example of your own state, if available. Locate Colorado on a classroom map. Note its position in relation to your school's location.
  2. Display the transparency or photocopy of the "Colorado Quarter Reverse" page, mentioning that the mountain must be special to be on a quarter. Read the coin inscriptions to the class. Discuss why the state motto is "Colorful Colorado." Show the students color images of Colorado to emphasize the state motto. Have the students identify the images in this coin design, including the trees and the mountain on this coin. Then color the mountain on the transparency or photocopy.
  3. Explain to the students that Colorado has many land and water features (such as mountains, rivers, streams, lakes, and forests). Review and discuss the Colorado images, noting a variety of these features.
  4. Ask the students what other types of land and water features they know, like deserts, ponds, hills, and plains. List these on chart paper with a picture cue to identify them.
  5. Distribute a copy of the "Colorado Quarter Reverse" page to each student.
  6. Have the students color the coin design on their page.
  7. Collect the colored coins when finished.

Session 2

  1. Introduce the students to the selected text on maps. Preview the text and illustrations and allow students to generate observations about maps.
  2. Read the text. During the reading, attend to any unfamiliar vocabulary.
  3. Display the topographical United States map showing land and water features. Explain to the students that maps are visual representations of land and water. Discuss with the students the uses of a map. Point out the compass rose. Explain how the compass rose marks direction on a map and points to the North.
  4. Introduce the term "symbols" with the students. Explain that symbols are objects that represent something else. Discuss symbols the students are familiar with such as those on a library sign, bathroom signs, handicap signs, and crosswalk signs.
  5. Show the students the map key. Explain that its purpose is to show the meaning of the symbols on the map.
  6. Review with the class the generated list of land and water features. As a class, decide what symbols could be used to represent these land and water features on a map. Have the teacher or students record student ideas on the chart paper.
  7. Explain to the students that they will be using symbols in the next session to make their own maps showing land and water features and a map key.

Session 3

  1. Display the charts of land and water features and their corresponding symbols from the previous sessions. Review the content of the charts with the students.
  2. Display the "Map It Out" overhead transparency. Explain to the students that they will work to create a map of their own in this session using a map key. Review each of the symbols and clarify what they represent using the map key.
  3. Distribute a "Map It Out" worksheet to each student.
  4. Review the color images of Colorado from the previous session. Direct the students to raise their hands to identify the land and water features. Have them add each feature's symbol to their worksheets within the outline of the state as the teacher models this activity.
  5. Once the students have added all the symbols, tell them to add the symbols to the map key box and label it. Allow an appropriate amount of time for the students to complete this activity.
  6. Collect the maps and colored coins. Display the completed maps and colored coins.

Differentiated Learning Options

  • Have students work in pairs to complete the map.
  • Have students complete maps that have been started for them.
  • Have cutout map symbols available for students to choose from and paste on their maps.


Direct the students to create a map of their choice using their own symbols. Remind them to include a map key.


  • Take anecdotal notes about the students' participation in class discussions.
  • Evaluate the students' worksheets for understanding of the lesson objectives.

Common Core Standards

This lesson plan is not associated with any Common Core Standards.

National Standards

Discipline: Social Studies
Domain: All Disciplinary Standards
Cluster: Geography
Grade(s): Grades K–12

Teachers should:

  • guide learners in the use of maps and other geographic representations, tools, and technologies to acquire, process, and report information from a spatial perspective
  • enable learners to use mental maps to organize information about people, places, and environments in a spatial context
  • assist learners to analyze the spatial information about people, places, and environments on Earth's surface
  • help learners to understand the physical and human characteristics of places
  • assist learners in developing the concept of regions as a means to interpret Earth's complexity
  • enable learners to understand how culture and experience influence people's perceptions of places and regions
  • provide learners opportunities to understand and analyze the physical processes that shape Earth's surface
  • challenge learners to consider the characteristics and spatial distribution of ecosystems on Earth's surface
  • guide learners in exploring the characteristics, distribution, and migration of human populations on Earth's surface
  • help learners to understand and analyze the characteristics, distribution, and complexity of Earth's cultural mosaics
  • have learners explore the patterns and networks of economic interdependence on Earth's surface
  • enable learners to describe the processes, patterns, and functions of human settlement
  • challenge learners to examine how the forces of cooperation and conflict among people influence the division and control of Earth's surface; help learners see how human actions modify the physical environment
  • enable learners to analyze how physical systems affect human systems
  • challenge learners to examine the changes that occur in the meaning, use, distribution, and importance of resources
  • help learners to apply geography to interpret the past and present and to plan for the future
  • enhance learners' abilities to ask questions and to acquire, organize, and analyze geographic information so they can answer geographic questions as they engage in the study of substantive geographic content

Discipline: Visual Arts and Music
Domain: K-4 Visual Arts
Cluster: Standard 6: Making connections between visual arts and other disciplines
Grade(s): Grades K–12

  • Students understand and use similarities and differences between characteristics of the visual arts and other arts disciplines
  • Students identify connections between the visual arts and other disciplines in the curriculum