Santa's Sleigh Ride: Geography & Map Activities

Santa is preparing for his Christmas Eve run to deliver presents to children around the world. Find out how far it is between the North Pole and your house by using the customized map below!

Teacher Prep

  • Install SAS Graphics Accelerator, a free Google Extension
  • Add a data point for your student's house
    • Select the North Pole and US map
    • Make a copy of the map by selecting the three dots to the right of the map title
      • Select Copy in the popup menu
      • Rename the map "North Pole and . . . " (the town your student lives in)
      • Select OK
    • In the search bar, type in the name of your student's city and state
      • Select + To Map to add the tag to your customized map
      • If desired, select the tag you just added > Select Edit icon > Type (student's first name) and Home > Select Save
  • Share the customized map with your student
    • With the map open, Select Share
    • Turn on Enable Link Sharing; if desired, turn on Public: Everyone on the Internet can find and access
    • Copy the link and share it with your student (I typically email the link directly to the student)

Note: The original map has the North Pole tagged and three additional locations in the US to provide references: San Francisco, California, Houston, Texas and New York City, New York. Your customized Santa map will have these points plus your student's city tagged.

The student will also need to have SAS Graphics Accelerator Extension installed on his device (PC, Mac or Chromebook).

Student Activity #1

The student will:

  • Open the customized Santa Map link in Google Chrome web browser
  • Select the Accelerate button in the bottom right corner of the map
  • Explore the map by moving the virtual cane using Page Up or Page Down (PC) or Fn + Up Arrow or Fn + Down Arrow (Mac)
    • Note: The screen reader should say, "Moving to Center, showing 5 out of 5 Objects." If less than 5 objects are showing, increase the radius of the circle by pressing the minus "-" key until all 5 objects are inside the circle.
  • Change the center of the map to the student's home
    • Navigate around the map until the virtual cane is on the student's city
    • Make the student's city the center of the map by pressing the Return key
  • Determine the distance from the student's home to the North Pole by navigating the virtual cane to the North Pole

Questions: How far is New York City from the North Pole? (Hint: Make New York City the center of your map then move the virtual cane to the North Pole.) Which of these cities is closest to the North Pole? Farthest from the North Pole? 

Challenge Questions: If Santa only stopped at the cities on this map, what is the most efficient order to make these stops? (Name the cities in the best sequence.) How many miles is this round trip?

Student Activity #2

Part 1: World Globe

Santa has a huge list of children who have been good throughout the year. This list has the addresses of all the children. The population of the world right now is 6,630,000,000 so if 27% of the worlds population is below 15 years old, then Santa will visit 1,790,100,000 children (nearly 2 billion). The list, of course, gets bigger each year as the earths population grows.

Note: This activity is geared for students who have some experience with or are being introduced to world maps. Keep in mind that the world is ROUND - not flat like a 2-dimensional map. If possible, pair this digital activity with a World Globe (with braille labels or tactile symbols) to introduce this concept! If a world globe is not available, take a large ball (such as a basket ball) and add temporary tactile markers for each continent. Have the student explore the world globe with North America facing the student. Discuss where the other continents are in relationship to the US. Example: What is to the east? (Europe) and west? (Asia). Now spin the globe so that Asia is facing the student. Where are the other continents in relationship to Asia? Some students might benefit from taking a tactile flat world map (paper map with braille or tactile symbols) and then rolling that 2 flat map so that the left edge of the map and the right edge of the map meet to form a representation of a world globe. Explore the 2 dimensional paper map as a globe and then lay it flat on the table. This may help the student better understand how the 2-dimensional flat map is a representation of the real round world globe. To represent the rounded 'top' and 'bottom' of the globe, you can cut the top (and bottom) grid lines to the first square or so. Then, push the map in so that the top edges touch and the bottom edges touch.

Note: The map in the photos below have not been labeled. It is recommended to add tactile markers in the shape of the continents for students who are learning the landform continent shapes. Braille labels can be used for students with other goals.

Photo of the 2-dimensional world map rolled to represent world globe.Photo of a 2-dimensional world globe with continents labeled.

For your convenience, here is a downloadable black and white world map and a colored world map.

Note: The Non-Visual Digital world map is similar to the 2-dimensional printed flat map. Students need to build a mental map of the actual spatial relationships between the continents themselves: do not think of a specific continent being located on the right/left side of the globe. Example: Europe is always east of the US. Depending on which part of the world globe is facing you, Europe might be on the right side of the globe, in the middle of the globe or on the left side of the globe. No matter which direction the globe is facing, Europe is always east of the US.

Student Activity #2

Part 2: Non-Visual Digital Map

The Santa World Map has at least one country tagged in six of the seven continents: Asia, Africa, Europe, North America, South America, and Australia/Oceania. There is not a tag for Antarctica. There are 11 tags, including the tag at the North Pole. The tags are placed in the capital of each country and tags are labeled by the city, country, and continent.

  • Share the Santa World Map with your student (This map does not need to be customized; however, you can add more countries to the map if you so desire!)
  • Open the Santa World Map link
  • Select the Accelerate button in the bottom right corner of the map
  • Explore the map by moving the virtual cane using Page Up or Page Down (PC) or Fn + Up Arrow or Fn + Down Arrow (Mac)
    • Note: The screen reader will say, "Moving to Center, showing 8 out of 11 objects."
    • Note: It is not possible to increase the radius of the circle by pressing the minus "-" key to show all 11 objects inside the circle.
  • Change the center of the map to Washington D.C.
    • Navigate around the map until the virtual cane is on the student's city
    • Make the student's city the center of the map by pressing the Return key
      • The map now shows 6 of 11 objects, with Washington D.C. in the center.
      • Announce your current location (center of the map), the radius of the current map view (currently 6,225 miles) and how many objects are showing (6 out of 11)

As we discussed, the goal of the map is to learn where the continents are in relationship to each other. With this in mind, change the bearing from 5 o'clock to cardinal directions.

  • Change settings to cardinal directions, press I (letter I), stopping on cardinal directions (options are: o'clock, cardinal and degree)
  • Prediction: Do you think the North Pole or Argentina is closer?
  • Explore the map using your virtual cane, pay attention to where things are in relationship to the US
    • Where is Argentina? (south by south east) How many miles between Washington D.C. and Buenos Aires? 
    • Was your prediction correct? (Is the North Pole or Argentina closer to Washington D.C.?)
  • Move to Europe (now showing 9 of 11 objects)
    • Explore the map using your virtual cane. Keep in mind that the perspective is from Paris!
      • How far is the North Pole? (Note: You cannot make the North Pole the center of the map.) 
      • What is the closest continent to Europe?
  • Move to New Delhi, India (showing 7 of 11 objects)
    • Explore the map using your virtual cane. Keep in mind that the perspective is from New Delhi!
    • How far is the North Pole?
    • How far is Washington D.C.? (more than 6,225 miles) Why is Washington D.C. no longer on the map?
  • Move to Japan (showing 7 of 11 objects)
    • Explore the map using your virtual cane. Keep in mind that the perspective is now from Tokyo!
    • How far is the North Pole?
    • What is east of Japan? (nothing east of Japan on the map; however, think of the world globe - what would be east as you spin the globe?)
    • With the non-visual digital map, can you continue to move east after Japan is the center of the map? Why or why not?
    • How can you navigate back to the US?

Challenge Questions:

  • Why is the North Pole always displayed on the map but other continents may or may not appear? 
  • If Washington D.C. is the center of the map, what continent is west?

Interesting Tidbit: Nautical Miles

if you are flying from the US to China, flights are routed over the artic. Why? (It's the shortest distance!)

A nautical mile is based on the circumference of the earth and is equal to one minute of latitude. It is slightly more than a statute (land measured) mile. The flight from Washington D.C. to Beijing, China is:

  • 6,920.751 miles
  • 11,137.869 kilometers
  • 6,013.968 nautical miles

SAS Graphics Accelerator Keyboard Commands

  • Sweep virtual cane: Page Up or Page Down (Windows computer) or Fn Key + Up Arrow or Fn Key + Down Arrow (Mac)
  • Zoom in: +
  • Zoom out: -
  • Reset location and Zoom to default: 0 (zero)
  • Cycle through direction settings: I (clock, cardinal, bearing)
  • Cycle through sound settings: S
  • Cycle through Speech Settings: C (terse, verbose, label off)
  • Jump to dialogue: J (brings up menu window)
  • Repeat current focus: Spacebar
  • Move location to focused Point: Enter
  • Change the Distance Unit: U (metric or imperial system)
  • Help menu: H
  • Announce your current location (center of map) and map details: / (forward slash)

Resources

Editing a Non-Visual Digital Map from the Map Library post

SAS Graphics Accelerator Summary Page (list of all the posts related to SAS Graphics Accelerator)

Santa's Sleigh Ride Pinterest Tag

 

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