in the World?
Latitude and Longitude
Students play a grid-based game and devise clues to help classmates
locate spots on the globe. In doing so, they come to recognize the value
of using latitude and longitude for identifying locations.
participating in Journey North must understand geographic location. Every
spot on the Earth can be described in both relative and absolute terms.
In our everyday lives, we think mainly about relative location: Where places
are in relation to other places. Is it close by? Can I get there from here?
What else is nearby?
In Journey North, absolute location is important. Using a mathematical grid
system (in this case, latitude and longitude), any spot on earth can be
identified with just two numbers. In order to track mystery classes, migrating
species, blooming plants, and other signs of spring, students should know
how to use latitude and longitude with ease. This lesson lays the groundwork
by helping students recognize the value of using a grid system for finding
Write these sentences on the board:
house is close to the mall.
house is on the corner of Maple Street and Elm Avenue.
cousin's house is in a small Texas town named Beeville.
of these statements would be most useful in helping you find the house
that's mentioned? Have them explain their thinking. Accept their
responses and encourage discussion. Finally, invite the class to explore
different ways of describing locations.
#1: Hidden Animals
the class to play an animal variation of the "Battleship"
game. Divide the class into pairs and give each student a copy of the
Where in the World? Animal Grid. (You can get this in Microsoft
Word or pdf format.)
- Ask partner
#1 to hide the four migratory animals somewhere on the grid, but not
to show the grid to his or her partner. Partner #2 must then guess coordinates
C,8) to locate the animals. Partner #1 should respond "yes"
or "no" to each guess to indicate whether
any part of an animal touches those coordinates. Partner #2 should
use a blank
grid to mark responses and narrow down the possible locations
for each animal. Partners should switch roles when one has uncovered
all the animals.
- Ask the
the animals? Why or why not?
are unfamiliar with latitude/longitude lines on maps, explore a map
together. Ask them to describe things they notice about it. If they
don't point out the lines running across the page (latitude) and lines
running up and down (longitude), ask them if they see any type of grid.
Ask, Why do you think these lines are drawn on many maps? Discuss
the way the lines are numbered and share as much detail as is appropriate
for your grade range.
#2: Mystery Beaches
- Ask student
pairs to use a map to identify a beach where they'd like to picnic.
It should be on a lake or ocean somewhere in the Western Hemisphere.
Have them record the latitude or longitude coordinates, remembering
to identify appropriate compass directions (north, south, east, and
- Ask each
pair to write down five to ten clues that would help others locate their
beach on a map. Each new clue should help someone narrow down the location;
the last clue should give the latitude/longitude coordinates. See the
beach is located in the United States.
It stays warm here all year long.
Everglades National Park is in the state where this beach is
The beach is on the East Coast.
It is north of Miami and south of Fort Pierce.
It is directly south of the intersection of 27° latitude
north and 80° longitude west.
(It is Palm Beach.)
- Each pair
should join another pair and take turns challenging one another to guess
the location of the secret beach.
Connections — Discussion and Journaling Questions
- How is
the grid you used in the animal hiding game similar to latitude and
- What was
challenging about finding the mystery beaches? Which clues were most
- If the
beach you chose didn't fall directly on a latitude or longitude line,
how did you describe where it was? (Explain that geographers have a
way to deal with that situation; they divide the latitude and longitude
degrees into smaller minutes and seconds.)
some of these types of statements, or say them aloud. Have students
explain, verbally or in writing, what they think they might be wearing
if they were in each of the locations:
I am standing at 60º N latitude and it is January.
I am standing outside at 40º N and it is July.
I am "nowhere." That is, I am neither north or south latitude
or east or west longitude. (They'd better have life jackets on!)