Skip Navigation


Art on Air Meet the Artists KET Logo
Lesson Instructions | About Cynthia Cooke
Exploring the Third Dimension with Captain Cooke guide

Art On-Air Home
For Teachers
For Kids
Meet the Artists
More Education Resources

Cynthia Cooke

Kentucky Arts Council Roster Artist/Cartographer

In cARTography, artist/instructor Cynthia Cooke shares a method for creating a map of an imaginary island. Cyndi's approach to cartography offers teachers a unique way to blend art, science, mathematics, social studies, and writing while providing their students with a fun and creative activity.

Lesson Focus

An introduction to the world of cartography: definitions, examples, and the construction of a map. Children create their own map or space using scientific terminology and a variety of point, line, and area symbols.

Time Requirement

Minimum of one hour for the hands-on work. Teachers can allocate more time as needed for students to write journal entries about imaginary voyages to their islands.

Skill Development

cARTograpy provides skill development across the curriculum in art, math, science, and the humanities. The activity encourages students to take intellectual and creative risks as they depict scientific information artistically. Students learn to design ideas on paper with accuracy and to use all the basic elements of art-shape, line, color, texture, and space. They also learn the techniques of the artist/cartographer-researching and gathering information; designing the basic layout of geographical information with title, text, scale, legend, north arrow, etc.; making a mosaic or compilation of the information with point, line, and area features; and creating a legend to include all represented symbols.


cARTograpy gives students the opportunity to experience maps as works of art, historically and culturally; as expressions of perceptions and ideas; as tools for information using art techniques; and as products of value in the world of work.

Connections to Educational Standards

cARTography helps students meet the following Kentucky Academic Expectations:

  • 2.22: Students create works of art and make presentations to convey a point of view. (The students' maps display their point of view about a place-real or imagined-to others.)
  • 2.23: Students analyze their own and others' artistic products and performances using accepted standards (presenting their map projects to peers after having learned the basic mapping principles and techniques).
  • 2.25: In the products they make and the performances they present, students show that they understand how time, place, and society influence the arts and humanities such as languages, literature, and history. (Maps are composites of art, history, language, and culture.)
  • 2.26: Through the arts and humanities, students recognize that although people are different, they share some common experiences and attitudes. (Differences and similarities are easily discerned through area, line, and point symbols and through maps from different places and times.)

Materials Needed

  • pencil
  • lined notebook paper
  • colored pencils or markers
  • rulers

Vocabulary Used in the Lesson

cultural features
linear symbols
mountain range
physical features
point symbols
political features
Prime Meridian
terrain, topography

Lesson Instructions


Have filler paper, pencil, colored pencils or markers, and rulers on hand; have the students number the lines on the paper in the far left margin before they begin. (See the illustration on page 19.)

Guide students through the following process:

  1. To first see your amazing island, start out on a quiet lake in a boat. To represent water, make a slightly wavy pencil line across line 3 of the filler paper.
  2. On the left side, make three marks for height: 0' at the water line (line 3), 100' at Line 2, and 200' at Line 1.
  3. Draw your island rising above the waves, like a volcanic eruption from the bottom of the lake! Draw with wavy lines a little above the 200' mark with one side steeper, one side gentler.
  4. Begin to create a view of the same island as if you are a bird flying over it by dropping very light straight lines from both ends of the island down to line 15 with your pencil (these will be erased later). Line 15 is your baseline.
  5. Draw a curvy line between the points where the two lines intersect the baseline. This is one side of your island's coastline. To make your island big, curve the line down at least 8 to 10 lines.
  6. Continue the coastline by drawing a curving line going up 8 to 10 lines between the points of intersection. Your island's shape is now complete.
  7. Drop light lines down to the baseline from the points on the original island that are 100' and 200' high-the points where the 100' and 200' lines (lines 2 and 3) intersect or cross the island. (There should be a total of four such points-two on the right side of the island and two on the left-and four parallel lines leading down to the baseline.)
  8. Draw a similar, but smaller, island shape between the points where the 100' lines cross the baseline (inside your bird's-eye drawing of the island's outline). Within this concentric shape, draw a still smaller version of the island's shape, this time between the points where the 200' lines cross the baseline. Now you have a representation of the sea-level, 100', and 200' elevations of your island using the shape of your contour lines. Contour lines are one of many symbols you can show on your island.
  9. Erase the light parallel lines you drew to help you create the island's contours accurately.
  10. With this wonderful start on your island, create and use other symbols. Make a record of all of them in a legend (using the bottom lines of your paper). Use three groups of symbols: areas, lines, and points. Areas are features such as forests. Lines are features like roads or rivers-with beginning and end points. And points are features such as dots that can look like squares to represent houses. Use symbols to show real objects and places-like little pictures. You can also use lots of colors to make interesting symbols. Begin with the areas you want to show, then the "line" kinds of things, then the "point" kinds of things. Add each symbol you use to your legend. And think carefully where you really want everything to be.

Response to Art

Have students share their island and their ideas with classmates. Students may even make up a story about the island-about how they and maybe some friends got there and what they did there.

Students can also create a journal about their adventures. They should remember that their maps could help somebody find them. As artists, we want to be accurate in portraying things. By using their skill and creativity together, students can make an accurate map of their island.

Exhibition Suggestion

  • Create a festive presentation occasion featuring products and letting all the students present their maps and read excerpts from their journals. The audience could be the class itself, other classes, and/or parents.
  • Laminate the maps and have students use them as placemats. Display the placemats in the school hallways.
  • Create posters with travel brochures for the mapped islands. Display the maps, posters, and brochures in the hallways.


Students can also discuss as a group what kind of government and what rules might exist on their islands, what the climate and economy of their islands would be, how they would plan the islands' development, etc. They could then make their personal choices concerning their island's government, rules, climate, economy, and development plan and record these choices in their journal.


Cassidy, John. Earthsearch: A Kids' Geography Museum in a Book. Palo Alto, CA: Klutz Press, 1994. ISBN 1-878257-74-9.
Perhaps the greatest geography book yet! Klutz Press' address is 2121 Staunton Court, Palo Alto, CA 94306.

Claridge, Marit and Paul Dowswell. Geography Quizbook. Tulsa, OK: EDC Publishing, 1993. ISBN 0-7460-0710-8.
Usborne is the British publisher of Geography Quizbook. EDC's address is EDC Publishing, 10302 E. 55th Place, Tulsa, OK 74146.

Green, Nicolette. Junior Atlas of the World. London: Bracken Books, 1993. ISBN 1-85891-065-X.
Richly illustrated. Available from Bracken Books, an imprint of Studio Editions Ltd., Princess House, 50 Eastcastle Street, London, W1N 7AP, England.

Heimann, Rolf. Amazing Mazes: Mind Bending Mazes for Ages 6-60. Watermill Press, 1989. Produced by Joshua Morris Publishing Inc. in association with The Five Mile Press. ISBN 0-8167-2201-3.

Knowlton, John and Harriett Barton. Maps and Globes. New York: HarperCollins Children's Books. ISBN 0-690-04457-7.
A brief history of mapmaking, a simple explanation of how to read maps and globes, and an introduction to different kinds of maps.

Miles, Lisa and Carol Varley. Geography Encyclopedia. London: Usborne Publishing, Ltd., 1993. ISBN 0-7460-0955-0.
Very comprehensive. Available from Usborne Publishing Ltd., Usborne House, 83-85 Saffron Hill, London EC1N 8RT, England.

Morris, Scott. How To Read a Map. Chelsea House Publishers, a division of Main Line Book Co., 1993. ISBN 0-7910-1812-1.
Describes how to use and understand maps and apply them in the study of geography.

My Sticker Book Atlas. New York: Dorling Kindersley Publishing, Inc., 1994. ISBN 1-56458-714-2.
Gives children the opportunity to decorate their own atlas with picture stickers. Available from Dorling Kindersley, 95 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016.

Myers, Norman. GAIA: An Atlas of Planet Management. New York: Anchor Books by Doubleday, 1984, 1993. ISBN 0-385-42626-7.
Beautifully illustrates global issues, conditions, and resources. Anchor Books by Doubleday is a division of Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, Inc., 666 5th Avenue, New York, NY 10103.

Taylor, Barbara. Maps and Mapping. New York: Kingfisher Books, Grisewood and Depsey Inc., 1993. ISBN 1-85697-863-X.
Explains what maps are and why they are used, introduces symbols, and explains how cartographers map the world. Includes activities. Available from Kingfisher Books, 95 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016.

Related Links

600 Cooper Drive, Lexington, KY 40502 (859) 258-7000 (800) 432-0951

Last Updated: Monday, 09-Nov-2009 14:21:09 EST