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Maps and infographics to provoke inquiry

Marcie Lewis, Grade 4 PYP teacher at Ridley College, Canada

Marcie Lewis, Grade 4 PYP teacher at Ridley College, Canada

In this article you will read about strategies and ideas to provoke inquiry and engage students in questioning and searching for a deeper meaning.

As an inquiry-based teacher, I am always searching for new strategies and ideas to provoke and engage my students in their own inquiries. One of the latest strategies that I have found effective is the use of maps and infographics as a way to engage students in questioning and searching for a deeper meaning. For my current unit of inquiry around the transdisciplinary theme Who we are, as a learning community we have been examining the central idea:

Children’s access to human rights is connected to their ability to survive and develop to their potential.

After “digging” in, my students were curious to know about what places around the world people had difficulty accessing their survival needs – which we had defined as food, water, shelter, health care, air, and education. One way I found to address this was to show them some maps/infographics that contained information to assist them in developing a deeper understanding.

I located the following maps:

Visual Representation of Hunger from World Food Programme Source:

Visual Representation of Hunger from World Food Programme

Access to Improved Water Source Source:

Access to Improved Water Source

Life Expectancy Source:

Life Expectancy

I provided the students the maps one at a time, and utilized TodaysMeet to operate a back-channel where groups of students (either 3 or 4 students) could post the observations and questions they had about each map. After each map, we would have a short class discussion about the trends they had observed.

Here are some of the observations and comments students made:

Hunger map
– It is so hard to feed a child in some countries around the world.
– Some people don’t have enough food for survival.
– We have access to good nutritious food in North America.
– Africa does not have enough food.
– There is a lot of hunger in Africa.
– We are very lucky to have lots of nutritious food.
– It is very cheep to feed a child every day. (There is an blue bubble on the map that indicates that it only costs $0.25 a day)
– We should donated food to organizations that deliver food to different countries around the world.

Access to water
– Look at how much water we have and how much Africa has.
– The maps are similar – the countries that have undernourishment also have lower access to water.
– The countries that do not have good access to food and water are ‘poor’ countries.
– Food and water access must be related because the maps are so similar.
– If you do not have water you cannot grow crops so if there is low access to water, they cannot grow nutritious food to eat.
– The bigger countries have more water and food.
– The maps are almost identical. Even though they display different things they look the same.

Life expectancy
– North America, Europe, and Australia have the longest life expectancy.
– Africa has the shortest life expectancy as a continent.

Thinking about all three maps together
– Africa is a really poor continent – it has not a lot of water or food and the shortest life expectancy.
– I think it is all connected.
– If you do not have clean water and nutritious food, you are going to get sick a lot and have a shorter life.
– You cannot survive without food and water so people in places with poor access do not life a long time.

Overall, using the maps/infographics was a great way to stimulate discussion and have the students arrive at a deeper understanding of the connections between food, water, and survival.

The original article can be found in Marcie’s blog here.

Marcie is passionate about using technology to bring the world into her classroom and inspire her students to ask meaningful questions. She can be blogs at and can be found on Twitter @MarcieLew.

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One Response to Maps and infographics to provoke inquiry

  1. Kirstin Odum 16 December 2014 at 9:10 pm #

    This is an new concept for me, I’ve used maps within student’s art before- but it was to learn about topography, interstates, river systems, and how these use contour lines. I’ve focused on using our home states, South Carolina as a reference for this. It would be interesting to see how students could use mapping like this to relate to ideas within the visual arts also.

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