Map Making 101

In Oregon, we love our outdoor spaces, our bike routes, and our communities. As spring rains help our gardens and forests grow, we occasionally need a break from the wet of the outdoors. On these occasions, it can be wonderful to gather as a family to draw, tell stories, and make plans for drier weather. Try this idea with chalk markers on windows and see what your family will create!

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  • Colorful chalk markers
  • Maps, books, or photos of favorite family memories
  • Windows (the bigger the better)
  • A favorite window cleaning product
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Step 1: Find a window! Test out the chalk marker in a small, less noticeable area. If your marker does not draw at first, try gently pushing down on the tip until the chalk begins to flow. Let the mark on the window dry completely and then wash it off according to the package directions. Some chalk markers only need a dry paper towel, others prefer a solution of some sort.

Step 2: Start drawing! Once you’ve had a chance to ensure that the marker will be completely removable from your window surface, you can start creating. If you are interested in the idea of map or place making, encourage your children to think about places that are important to them. This could be your home, their room, a garden, or their school. It could be a place your family went on vacation or a magical land that lives only in their imaginations. Ask open ended questions and be willing to collaborate. Maps that children create often feature characters or unique ideas of scale. Observe these details in your families work.

Step 3: Integrate a literacy or math component into your drawing by taking time to label your finished creations, establish a map key, or write a story. Creating together and sharing stories naturally help foster learning while building stronger family bonds. Remember to have fun, and enjoy the patterns of shadows when the sun shines through your window drawings.

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Happy creating!

Jess Graff is an artist, educator, and writer. Jess is also the Residency Manager at Portland Children’s Museum and the Curator in Residence at Vancouver City Hall.

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Ashley Fungone, Assistant Editor