Home » Blog » Urban Planning, City Design #3: Challenge: The Library Map

Urban Planning, City Design #3: Challenge: The Library Map

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Lesson Overview:

In this lesson, students get a chance to try their hand at mapping one of the school’s spaces.   I’ve seen teachers give several periods to a project like this, but I find that one period works just as well to give children a feel for how difficult it is to make a good map!  Kids usually enjoy making their maps and want to add color or outlines to make their maps shine!

Lesson Plan:

Suggested Grades:



Each student will complete a simple map of one of the school’s common spaces:  Library, foyer, playground, cafeteria, or theater/auditorium.  (AASL 1.2.3, “Demonstrate creativity by using multiple resources and formats.”)

Suggested Time:

45-55 minutes

Success Criteria:

Each student will complete a simple map of one of the school’s common spaces.

Lesson Outline:

1. Introduction:

Ask the children to tell you a few things about city planning, communities, or maps that they have learned so far.  Connect to last week’s lesson in which they made a skyline.  Today, instead of looking at a large space (i.e., the entire city or the entire skyline), the students will look in greater detail at one of the spaces in a city, the school.  They’ll focus even more narrowly by looking at one of the spaces inside a school, the school library.

Ask the children if they know what a map is.  (If you have taught the atlas lesson, they will definitely know!)  I like the definition Loreen Leedy gives in Mapping Penny’s World, that a map is “a picture of someplace from above.”   Ask the children to repeat this definition with you.

Use a flip chart or whiteboard and make a simple map with the children.  This should last no more than two minutes.  You might map a sport field or court to show the position of the net, hoops, goals, etc.  Or, you might map a convenience store that has just one or two aisles – anything simple so that they get the idea that their map should have the perspective of looking at something from above.

2. Main:

Tell the children that today they will make a map of the school library.  Pass out the graph paper, pencils, and clipboards.  Give the children 20-25 minutes to map out the library and its furnishings.  Don’t give too many instructions, but explain that they should include important features such as the circulation desk, bookshelves, chairs, and tables or computers.  If there are doors and windows, try to include those as well.

Check in with the children as they work.  Keep them on task and try not to let anyone get frustrated.  Watch for children that erase multiple times.  These are kids who get stuck wanting their project to be perfect.  Encourage them to do their best and keep going.  We are not looking for masterpieces, just a simple map to show the most important parts of our library.

3. Conclusion:

Pull the children back to the carpet or circle area.  Ask them to show their work to at least one person who has not seen it before.  Compare the maps on a few features.  They might ask their partner how he/she represented tables, chairs, doors, or windows.

Ask the children a few questions to get them to reflect on their experiences.

  • Was this harder or easier than you thought it would be. Why?
  • What was the easiest part of the library to map?
  • What was the most difficult part to map?
  • If you had to do this assignment again, what would you do differently?
  • Do you think that someone could use your map to find his or her way around the library?

Thank the children for their work.  If enough of them finished, make a display of the library maps to show the school community what the children have learned.

  1. Pencils and erasers
  2. Clipboards
  3. Chart paper or dotted paper. If you don’t have chart paper, download the paper in the size you need from this web site:  https://www.printablepaper.net/category/graph.  Printable Paper has letter size, legal size, A4, and just about any other size you could ever need!
  4. Rulers
  5. A few simple, sample maps from the recommended books below to show the children.
  6. A copy of a theme park map the children might recognize (optional.)

If your library is too small for the entire class to work comfortably, have half the group work on mapping the library and another group map the reception or foyer area.  Other options might be the cafeteria, playground (weather permitting) or auditorium/theater. 

I have debated a few times about giving kids more structure and guidance for this lesson, or in other words, teaching them about scale, direction, map keys, etc.  However, I have found that if you let them experiment, they will learn and figure out their own way to manage these challenges.  My conclusion is that it’s just better to give them a piece of graph paper or dotted paper and let them loose!

There are some apps and technology tools that work well for this lesson, but for elementary aged children, I prefer using pencil and paper and letting them work it out.

Recommended books for this lesson: 
  1. Mapping Penny’s World by Loreen Leedy.
  2. Me on the Map by Joan Sweeney.
Key Terms:

Maps, Mapping, Interior Design, Space Utilization, Libraries, Library Design