This year, we’re spending a lot more time on geography in our home school, plus I’ve started teaching a geography co-op class, with 21 middle schoolers. With all of these geography lessons, I’m constantly trying to find hands-on activities to keep everyone engaged and understand the material better.
In class and at home, we started the semester off by mapping the continents and the oceans. We also highlighted the equator, as well as the prime meridian.
Then it was time to learn about latitude and longitude.
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Latitude is the distance (measured in degrees) north or south of the equator. The equator is the imaginary line drawn around the globe, dividing the world into northern and southern hemispheres; it is 0° latitude.
Longitude is the angular distance (measured in degrees) east or west of the prime meridian. The prime meridian is 0° longitude and divides the world into eastern and western hemispheres. Look on a map and you’ll see that it passes through Greenwich, England.
So why do we need to know this? Why do they matter if they’re not physical places on our map? Because they’re coordinates, or directions. We haven’t always had the gift of the GPS to help us find our way and many people continue to use latitude and longitude as their guide.
Remember – coordinates are written in degrees (°) and latitude always goes first.
In class, to help everyone understand the difference between these two and how to find them, we used a printable latitude and longitude map and spent our time finding countries by using its coordinates.
To begin, I gave the students a set of coordinates, like 20° N 80° E, and asked them to find it on their map and mark it. Once everyone found the right location, they shouted out what country they were in, which was India.
We also looked up our hometown online and marked it on the map.
Find the Countries Scavenger Hunt – Learning Latitude and Longitude
Want a fun way to review latitude and longitude with your kids? Use our Latitude and Longitude Scavenger Hunt.
- A copy of Latitude and Longitude Scavenger Hunt
- A map showing latitude and longitude lines
- An Atlas – my kids love using the Student Atlas from DK Publishing
When working through the page, let your students figure out what country lies at each of the coordinates. Once they’re done, the letters in the boxes can be unscrambled to complete the geography riddle.
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Looking for even more geography activities?
What is you family’s favorite way to learn about latitude and longitude?