Map Work: Poles and Parallels

dsc_0167poles and parallels


We read a small amount of information from our Homeschool in the Woods curriculum but got most of our information from our core book – Charting the World by Richard Panchyk:


Vocabulary to Learn

Most of these words the older children had been exposed to before and were therefore familiar with.  The goal of this quick lesson was to consolidate previous knowledge and by doing something hands on, help them never to forget.

earth’s axis – imaginary line which passes north/south through the center of earth, around which our planet spins

earth’s poles – two extreme ends of the axis

equator – the line that divides the earth in two halves (northern hemisphere/ southern hemisphere)

Tropic of cancer / tropic of Capricorn run parallel to the equator each exactly 231/2 degrees away from it

The polar circles (arctic and antarctic) also run parallel to the equator at 66 degrees and 33 minutes

The prime meridian is an invisible line which passes through the two poles and divides the earth into eastern and western Hemispheres

Longitude is the distance from the prime meridian, measured in degrees

Latitude is the distance from the equator to either of the poles

Compass rose – showing north, south, east and west

Looking for the poles and parallels on our map 

First the children had a good look for everything we had read about on our wall map.  They found everything apart from the Prime Meridian.  They all made a note of which countries/ continents each of the lines went through:


Marking them on our own home made map

Once back at our home-made map we marked out using string the (very) approximate position of each:

The children chose different lines to mark out in wool prior to making in permanent in pen
The children chose different lines to mark out in wool prior to making in permanent in pen
Here are the majority of the lines marked with wool
Here are the majority of the lines marked with wool

And then the children took it in turns, using a marker, to dot the lines onto the map:

Ribbet collagemap1

Ribbet collagemap2

Ribbet collagemap5

I photocopied a compass rose and A6 stuck it in the corner of the map, showing north, south, east and west (more for the benefit of my little ones):

Ribbet collagemap3

Our map

Here is how our map looked at the end of this lesson:


This was such a fantastic way of learning and retaining information.  By physically adding all these ‘invisible’ lines the children had to look them up on our big map, research which countries they went through, make sure they had the right line with the right name.  They also realised how (in)accurate our home made map was.  In fact T had to make the Prime Meridian slightly skew to make it intersect the right countries!

Next we will start to mark some of the routes taken by explorers we are currently studying.


  1. Very cool way to mark those lines. The wool with the little dots is a neat trick 🙂 This sounds like this was a great hands-on lesson.

  2. I imagine that the large size of the map made this a activity both work better and more fun than a small map. I especially like the part where they learned that their map was less than perfect. Acurate maps are hard to make.

    1. It is really good to be working with such a large map, although storing it is a bit of a problem! I have lots of plans to use it with both big and little children so hopefully it will be worth the inconvenience in the end!

    1. Are you still having trouble posting comments? I’m sorry Ticia, I don’t know what to do about it. Thank you for persevering though, I love to hear from you!

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