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Latitude & Longitude Activities for 5th Grade

by Christopher Cascio

Fifth-grade geography is a time when students begin to see maps and globes as complex scientific tools instead of simple visual images of the planet, according to The Core Knowledge Foundation. They'll develop the skills to use latitude and longitude and coordinates and degrees to locate specific places and enhance their understanding of the boundaries between regions of the world. Geography can be monotonous, but class activities can help keep lessons fresh and engaging.

Grid-Paper Refresher

If it's early in the school year you can use regular grid paper to remind your students how to read latitude and longitude. First, provide each student with a sheet of grid paper. Have students write a "0" just outside of the bottom, left corner of the grid. Moving upward from the zero, have them number each subsequent horizontal line, writing the numbers along the left side of the grid. Then, moving right, have them number each vertical line, writing the numbers along the bottom of the grid beside the zero. Explain that the horizontal lines are like lines of latitude and the vertical lines are like lines of longitude. You can then call out coordinates, such as (5,3) and have students mark them on their papers. Explain that coordinates are read latitude-first, longitude-second, so they can mark them correctly.

Finding Favorite Places

Gather your class around a globe that is marked with lines of latitude and longitude. Ask a student to name a city in the United States that is his or her favorite, or is one that he or she would like to visit one day. Ask the students to find the city on the globe. Then, ask the student who named the city to use the lines on the globe to determine its coordinates. Students most likely will have to estimate the exact coordinates, but that's OK. After the student has determined the coordinates, repeat the process until each student has located and determined coordinates for their favorite cities.

Crack The Code

To prepare this mystery game you'll need to create the code by spelling the name of one city with the first letters of several others. For example, you could use Allentown, Kansas City, Raleigh, Ocean City and Newark to spell Akron. You then need to find the coordinates for those five cities. To conduct the game, tell students that thieves have stolen a priceless piece of artwork, and that all they left behind was a series of numbers and the following riddle: "First letters from each place-name read. Spell out the town and come with speed." Provide them with the coordinates you collected. As they figure out that the numbers are coordinates, they will identify the cities, and eventually solve the acronym. You can have students work individually or in small groups for this activity.

Happy Birthday

Have students convert their birthdays into coordinates of latitude and longitude. For example, if a student's birthday is Nov. 23, her coordinates would be (11,23). Then, while standing around a globe or map that contains lines of latitude and longitude, have each student identify the four locations of their birthday coordinates, i.e. (11N,23E), (11N,23W), (11S,23E) and (11S,23W).

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