Map Skills Home

Understanding and Improving How People Use Maps

Report on Central Park Map Skills Assessment (June 5, 1996)

Kim A. Kastens, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University



  1. For the children: To provide a grand finale to the 2nd grade map skills curriculum, and connect the skills learned in the classroom and computer room to a real-world map-using task.
  2. For the teachers & developers: To observe children in a field setting working with a real map to carry out a realistic map-using task, with an eye towards improving the 2nd grade map skills curriculum and the computer application Where are We?.
  3. For the developers: To develop a workable set of procedures (including design of the task, instructions for the participants, and data collection strategy) which will allow the "Treasure Hunt in the Park" map skills task to be used in a quantitative assessment of the computer application Where are We?.

Overview of Procedure:

Students were given a paper map which has a starting point and a destination marked on it. Students worked in pairs to try to find their way from the starting point to the destination. Each pair of students had a different destination (figure 1). Each pair of students was accompanied by an adult, who safeguarded the students' welfare, and kept a record of where the students went, and what they said and did. There was a small reward (a compass) for students when they reached the destination.

Instructions to the Students (via teachers):

Instructions to Adult Observers:


The results of the in-the-park assessment are summarized as a series of appended maps and associated notes. Each map represents the experience of one pair of students. In this text, the maps are referred to by target ID and "am" or "pm" for morning or afternoon (for example "group (6)pm" refers to the group heading towards target #6 in the afternoon session). The route followed by the student pair is marked on the map, annotated with the time elapsed (minutes:seconds) since leaving the starting point. The notes indicate what students said and/or did; numbers represent the time elapsed (minutes:seconds) since leaving starting point; the initials indicate which student was speaking or acting.

At the end of the notes section of each map, there is a summary of "Experimenter's Notes", with salient observations about that pair's experiences. Some overarching observations:

Thoughts for future use of in-the-park assessment tool:

Thoughts for further development of "Where are We?" and associated materials:

Map Skills Home

NSF logo This work was funded by an Oracle Media Objects Challenge grant and the following grant from the National Science Foundation: ESI-96-17852 (Kastens & McClintock). Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.