This has been one of my favorite lessons to teach, I had some 3rd grade classes making maps in the art room. Mrs. Snead told me the students start learning about maps in 3rd grade, so I developed a lesson to reinforce what they learned.
I put together a PowerPoint to show the students different types of maps. The main focus of the lesson was what were the 3 things all maps should have. We discussed how maps needed a compass rose to tell us which direction to hold the map or to navigate the land. Maps needed a legend or map key so we could identify symbols or land features on the map. Finally, the maps had to include a map scale so we could measure distance.
I showed them weather maps and oceanography maps. I introduced vocabulary words such as cartography and we also discussed topographical maps and using contour lines. The students were to create an 'uncharted' island map that included the 3 things we discussed. The students were encouraged to name their island and were given the freedom to come up with some creative ideas for their maps, as long we were able to identify what they had drawn using the legend.
We had some really great islands, some students made islands they had actually been to such as Hawaii, others made candy island with chocolate rivers and peppermint beaches, and I had one interesting 'Kitty Island' with litter box beaches and furry hills.
All in all the maps turned out great, we kind of aged them by crumpling the maps and putting a watered down brown tempera wash over them. I had a great time teaching this lesson partly because of my interest in earth science and geography, I love being able to connect across disciplines to reinforce learning, its one of my favorite things about art, we can connect it to what students are learning in other classes.