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Plotting the Way to Washington DC

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Keywords: geometry, Technology in the classroom and real world experiences, Digital Learning, geography, art
Subject(s): Speech and Language, History, Writing, Journalism, Geometry, Grammar, Geography, Technology, Spelling, Social Skills, Social Studies, Civics, Photography, Art, Information Skills, Reading, Math, English/Language Arts
Grades 4 through 6
NETS-S Standard:
  • Creativity and Innovation
  • Communication and Collaboration
  • Research and Information Fluency
  • Critical Thinking, Problem Solving, and Decision Making
  • Digital Citizenship
  • Technology Operations and Concepts
View Full Text of Standards
School: Morehead Montessori School, Durham, NC
Planned By: sharon thomas
Original Author: sharon thomas, Durham
Objective: Students will  transform a map of the Mall in Washington DC into a coordinate grid  plotting coordinates to specifically reference points of geometric reference in order to  display understanding of key vocabulary.

Engage: Show students the following PDF: Geometry In DC. Ask the question "What do you see?" Record student answers using a mind chart.

Explore: Using the Geometry Notes PDF explore the included Map of DC to locate different geometry vocabulary . Discuss why something a student finds can be more than one geometric term. Allow students to have discussions with each other to persuade each other to see their point of view.

Explain: Allow students to use the active board to draw examples of the geometry terms they found. Have a copy of the map for each student. Before a student draws have them help others locate where they are drawing using street names and or landmarks.

Evaluate: Have each student research a museum or monument. They will need to research "who" designed the monument or museum of interest. Answer "why" certain geometric aspects  were chosen and "how" those choses create a powerful impact: "what" is the impact?

Real World Experiences: Students will travel to Washington DC. After further lessons and analysis of the map from this lesson students will learn to plot coordinates to enable them to travel from place to place. This will transform into map skills. Students (with and adult) will use these skills to navigate to the different museums and monuments they have studied. Students will then take pictures of the different geometrical aspects they found in the pictures used int eh classroom. Students will take a series of photos that encompass the overall structure, then focus on specific details that reflect the geometry terms they felt they had found. Students will also take pictures of the "point" in which they had set as coordinates to get to a specific location. They may or may not end up in the exact spot. This should be documented through pictures that give a 360 degree view point.

Back to the Classroom: Students will compare the pictures they took to the images they had originally worked with in order to compare and contrast how a picture/illustration can or can't accurately reflect what the they had seen/experienced by turning a lesson into reality. Students will create a photo essay of their findings to present to class and or during PTA meeting.

Reflection: How do real world experiences affect perspective of concepts learned in the classroom? What makes real world experiences important?

Resource Link:


This is an annual trip our students take to Washington DC. Given that we are a multi age classroom and only 5th graders take this trip... it is a great project for both 4th and 5th graders. It generates a knowledge prior to the trip to make the real world experiences more authentic. When 5th grade returns they bring with them a more enhanced level of understanding to share with 4th graders. This is a project that explains each year as 4th graders become 5th graders with more of a foundation and expectation of the trip. This allows for an even higher level student interest based project. Please see prior Washington DC lessons to see what our current 5th graders did last year before the trip. They did recall and use skills learned in that project to apply to this year's project.
Cross-Curriculum Ideas
This lesson includes the following standards (a snapshot of main focus standards):
CCSS.Math.Content.4.G.A Draw and identify lines and angles, and classify shapes by properties of their lines and angles. North Carolina

CCSS.Math.Content.5.G.A Graph points on the coordinate plane to solve real-world and mathematical problems. North Carolina

Sources of Information North Carolina

Technology as a Tool North Carolina

RI.4.9 Integrate information from two texts on the same topic in order to write or speak about the subject knowledgeably. North Carolina

RI.5.9 Integrate information from several texts on the same topic in order to write or speak about the subject knowledgeably. North Carolina

5.C&G.1 Understand the development, structure and function of government in the United States. North Carolina

Geography and Environmental Literacy North Carolina
Please see the lesson above for follow-up activities.
Materials: English/Language Arts, Flash/USB Drives, Batteries, Tripods, Camera Bags, Printers, Hard Drives, Elementary, Point and Shoot, Digital Cameras, Whiteboards, Writing, Math, Cause and Effect, Speech and Language
Other Items: 1 National 4H Youth Conference Center Accommodations, $2,000 each
1 Charter or Activity bus, $2,000 each