Lesson Plan - Where in North Carolina is . . . ? Teaching Latitude and Longitude

A Lesson Plan for Grades 4-5 Social Studies

By Jennifer Job, School of Education, UNC-Chapel Hill

Students will show understanding of the concepts of latitude and longitude by locating the birthplaces of famous people from North Carolina and describing the location in absolute terms.

The worksheet accompanying this lesson plan can be printed and distributed. Download the worksheet by clicking the title: lat-long_k12.pdf

Detail from North Carolina, ca. 1911.

Time Required: 30 - 40 minutes


Teacher Instructions:

  1. Explain to students the basic concepts of latitude and longitude. For a refresher course, visit the National Atlas website.
  2. Assign each student a famous person who was born in North Carolina. You can print out the list here and cut it up to give each student a person.
  3. Show students the “Browse by Date” feature of NC Maps. They need to find the latitude and longitude of the famous person’s birthplace. Explain to them that sometimes, places and names change, so they need to try to find a map in the time period of the person’s life (e.g., a map from 1808 for Andrew Jackson).
  4. Tell students to write down the name of the map they picked and the latitude and longitude of the birthplace. They want to be as accurate as possible. You can model this by using Herman Lay (founder of Frito-Lay and born in Charlotte) and the map of North Carolina found at http://dc.lib.unc.edu/u?/ncmaps,841.
  5. If you wish, you can have students also look up more information about their people so they can present to the class.
  6. At the end, project the NC Official Highway Map (http://dc.lib.unc.edu/u?/ncmaps,1658) onto the Smartboard. You can also use Google Earth if you don’t want to give students hints. Have students come up and mark where their person is from using the latitude and longitude coordinates. Help them make good estimates for minutes. Then, ask them to tell about their person if you have had them do more research.

Assessment: This is a formative assessment-oriented task.

North Carolina Curriculum Alignment

Grade: 4

1.01: Locate, in absolute and relative terms, major landforms, bodies of water and natural resources in North Carolina.

Grade: 5

1.01 Describe the absolute and relative location of major landforms, bodies of water, and natural resources in the United States and other countries of North America.