Free Mapping Teacher Resources

Jules Blundell
Jules Blundell
07 Mar 2022
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She Maps have created a free set of mapping teaching resources as part of their an annual How Cool is Your School’ mapping competition. This ‘cool’ competition invites students to utilise their mapping skills (basic to intermediate) to assess how much green shade is available at their school. 

In 2021, despite COVID continuing to raise havoc, She Maps received over 900 teacher registrations from across Australia, as well as over 600 student entries aged from 5 through to 12.

IN 2022, we increased our teacher registration and  hit the 1000 mark! This produced over 800 student entries from rural, regional and urban school communities.

The competition resources include a simple set of lessons where school students use satellite data to map the amount of green shade on their school grounds. These curriculum-aligned lesson plans are linked to the Australian Curriculum including HASS (Geography), Technologies, Science and Mathematics.

Students calculate the percentage of shade, create a map that meets cartographic (mapping) conventions, combine the map and data to create an infographic which is then entered into the competition.

Click here for more information about the competition.


Why host a Mapping Competition?

Teaching mapping skills is an important part of a student’s development and education.

Students today have grown up with technology, so they are naturally tech-savvy. When asked for directions, they’ll utilise the GPS on their phone to assist you. However, reading various sorts of maps entails more than just getting from one place to another on a regular basis, it requires spatial thinking.

Students acquire spatial thinking skills through learning to interpret maps, allowing them to literally occupy their own place in the world. As a student’s spatial skills grow, they gain the ability to comprehend the relationships between symbols, pictures, and things, envision them, and comprehend their relationship and distance.



st peters epping prize winners
Check out the amazing inquiry unit St Peter (Epping) created

More than learning mapping skills.

Each year students calculate the % of green shade at their school, and this competition has revealed that the majority of schools have less than 15% available shade, which makes for a hot, uncomfortable learning environment in our Australian climate (excluding when they are in their air-conditioned classrooms of course).

“Rising temperatures and the increasing frequency of extreme heat events across NSW and Australia pose significant health and safety risks to children, yet little is known about thermal comfort of students and teachers in Australian schools.” – Assoc Prof Sebastian Pfautsch, Western Sydney University, lead author of the Cool Schools report.

Emerging evidence suggests that heat has a negative impact on learning, including lowering “cognitive capacity under thermal stress” and poses “significant health and safety risks to children– Assoc Prof Sebastian Pfautsch, Western Sydney University, lead author of the Cool Schools report.

Different surfaces in school playgrounds capture and retain heat differently,  as shown in the image below.  ”The apparent variation in surface temperature of 50℃ within a small area demonstrates the importance to consider thermal characteristics of materials when designing outdoor space in schools. Thermal characteristics of building materials used in schools have a large influence on air temperatures experienced in outdoor and indoor learning space”. – Assoc Prof Sebastian Pfautsch, Western Sydney University, lead author of the Cool Schools report.

image ©s. pfautsch
Image ©S. Pfautsch

“Keeping indoor and outdoor school space cool in summer is important. The thermographic image shows the temperature variation of different surface materials in a typical school yard.

  1. Sun-lit grass (40℃).
  2. Shaded concrete bricks (32℃).
  3. Sun-lit concrete bricks (52℃).
  4. Shaded soft fall (40℃).
  5. Sun-lit soft fall (83℃).

The image was taken in the early afternoon of a warm summer day where ambient air temperature was 31 ℃”. – Assoc Prof Sebastian Pfautsch, Western Sydney University, lead author of the Cool Schools report.

When viewing a thermographic image of a school from above, it shows how green shade is without doubt,  the coolest part of the school, therefore critical to keeping the students cool throughout the day.

image ©s. pfautsch2
Image ©S. Pfautsch

To understand the cooling effect of green shade, it’s best that we hear from the experts: 

Shading reduces the absorption and radiation of solar energy by surface materials. Especially a reduction of long-wave infrared radiation reduces the flux of sensible heat from the shaded materials. While this effect is confined to the local area of shade projected by the tree canopy, the effect of evaporative cooling reaches further. During the process of transpiration, solar energy is converted to biochemical energy, which contributes to latent heat flux cooling. The air around leaves is cooled and blown into the surrounding space by air movement. This effect leads to lower air temperatures commonly observed under individual trees, in and around urban parks and along urban-rural gradients” (Norton et al. 2015; Koc et al., 2018; Pfautsch and Rouillard, 2019A). – Assoc Prof Sebastian Pfautsch, Western Sydney University, lead author of the School Microclimates report.

Thermal Comfort is a Sustainability Challenge

From a simple mapping competition, teachers can extend their students’ knowledge and challenge them to think about the different types of surfaces at their school and how these surfaces contribute to the thermal comfort of their school.

Students can investigate further by identifying and colour coding:

  • Buildings & Roofing Materials
  • Hard Surfaces e.g. carpark, driveway, concrete and asphalt, walking paths,
  • Green Shade
  • Artificial Shade e.g. sails
  • Open Spaces – lawn, garden bed and open spaces
  • Tree Inventory & Canopy Cover
  • Tree Species Finder (You can find a great Tree Selection Tool included in this report.)

For the more adventurous teachers, place thermometers in various locations across the school during the hottest (and coolest) parts of the day, and get the students to measure the temperatures.

A Shade Audit is included, so the students are empowered to think critically and sustainably about how they can increase the amount of shade available at their school.  We want them to lobby for change and be thinking about thermal sustainability in the future too!

Sign up to access these great K-8  teaching resources which are freely accessible throughout the year.  We’ll also keep you informed about the competition which runs during Term 2 in Australia.


If you enjoyed this article and would like to hear how other teachers have implemented the ‘How Cool is Our School’ competition into their teaching, then we highly encourage you to read the following articles:

About She Maps.

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She Maps assist schools with the purchasing of drones, school-industry created drone and geospatial teaching resources and highly supportive teacher professional development.

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