Using a Map Compared to Using a GIS: An Interactive Exercise

Materials you will need for this activity:

Enough copies of the Maplewood map for individuals or groups to work on;for large group use, larger size plots instead.
click here for your copy of the map.

- A 5"-15" piece of string for each individual or group.
- Copies of the "Questions About Maplewood" handout for each individual or group.
- ArcView® GIS or ArcExplorer™ software on one or more computers loaded with the GIS DayÔ project or the mapvsgis.avi movie and corresponding player software.


Hand out the maps and introduce them to the group. Note the legend, scale bar, and north arrow. Explain that most maps are made for one purpose, although they are used for many different ones. This map was produced for general use from data about this neighborhood.

Hand out the string and "Questions" handout (page 2 below). Assign each group/individual a specific question, or have them all tackle all six questions depending on time constraints. Explain that these are real questions that are asked by the different city workers and contractors, as well as citizens. Have them do their best to answer their question(s) with the map and the string. Allow them to work for a few minutes (or whatever time you have available).

Bring everyone back together and ask how they did. Was it easy? Did they need more information? More tools? A calculator? If they had to answer questions like this regularly, would it take a lot of time?

Ask the first group or an individual about their results for number 1. How did they do it? Then show how the geographic information system (GIS) would do it using the software. Repeat for as many questions as time permits.


Highlight that maps are very useful tools, but that GIS makes maps smarter and more interactive and contains more information behind the scenes. In a sense, a GIS can be whatever map you need at the time. It can be the right solution for situations where you do not know exactly what the question will be.

Note: The Maplewood activity is most appropriate for ages 9 and up.

Maplewood GIS Quiz