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  • Geographer's Challenge: How to Map Migration Data

    Before plotting today's data on your own wall map of North America, consider this: How can a map depict movement? As the robins migrate across the continent, how can a map portray changes that take place over time?

    1. Assemble a wide variety of maps from atlases and other resources. Look at the many ways maps use color, shading, icons and titles to present information.

    2. Note that maps usually represent information at a single point in time. However, maps can also be used to show how information changes over time, just as a graph does. Look through weekly news magazines for examples of maps that present information that is changing. Changes in population, political boundaries, and environmental conditions are often shown on maps. Such maps represent information at different points in time, much like a "before and after" snapshot. Collect these maps on a bulletin board and examine the various types of static and dynamic maps.

    3. To chart the movement of robins this spring, we suggest using color to portray time. Self-adhesive, color-coded labels come in various sizes and work well. Data points of different colors can designate specific intervals of time. For example, locations could be marked in red during Weeks 1 & 2 of the robin migration (early March), in blue for Week 3 & 4 (late March), in yellow for Week 5 & 6 (early April) and so on. A map key will help readers understand the progression of the migration. The exact date of a sighting can also be written on the label. Since the labels will cover the name of places on the map, students might want to make a date/location table and post it beside their map.