X Marks the Spot

Your lesson will take place in the Adventure Section of Reading Adventureland.

Lesson Extensions for Before or After Your Visit

The following activities are designed for your class to enjoy before or after your museum visit. Familiarizing students with the lesson concepts can enrich their museum experience

Create Your Own Maps

Read the book, Me On the Map by Joan Sweeney. Practice seeing objects from a "bird’s eye view" by placing them on the floor and drawing them while looking down.

Try drawing simple maps of the classroom, school, or playground, starting with the basic outline, and then adding symbols to represent features. Create a key for your map to explain what the symbols stand for.     

Create a grid on a table using masking tape. Provide blocks or cardboard boxes for students to build a city. Using plastic figures, students can take turns giving directions to each other by offering options such as, “turn left and walk three blocks,” or travel around the city.

A Message in a Bottle

What you need:

  • maps of the world, atlases
  • plastic bottles with caps (one for each child writing a tale)
  • water table, fish tank, or large basin (optional)

What to do:

  1. Have students write a tale about an imaginary adventure or trip that has left him or her stranded on a desert island. Explain that the only chance for rescue is to write a message, put it in a bottle, and put the bottle in the water, with the hope that someone will find it.
  2. Brainstorm with students the kind of information they should include in their tales. For example, they might want to explain who they are, where they were going when they got stranded, where they came from, and how they were traveling. They should also include information about where they are, such as the climate, what the island is like, what plants and animals they have seen, and how they are surviving. Record their suggestions on the board or on chart paper.
  3. When students are ready to begin writing, make maps or atlases available to them. They can refer to the maps if they need help planning their trips or spelling the names of places they might want to include in their tales.
  4. When students have finished, have them place the messages in the bottles and set the bottles afloat in a water table (or whatever container of water you have available).
  5. Then have each student fish a bottle (not his or her own) out of the water and read aloud the tale within. After each tale is read, students can “rescue” the author by using maps and story details to find approximately where he or she is stranded.


  • I Know About Maps by Chris Jaeggi (Rand McNally & Co.)
  • What is a Map? by Lauren Weidenman (Capstone Press)
  • Maps and Globes by Sabrina Crewe (Children’s Press)
  • All About Maps by Catherine Chambers (Franklin Watts)