Lesson 2: Finding Longitude and Latitude on Pennsylvania


Inquiry and Design, Basic Geographic Literacy

Standard Statements:

3.2.4B; 3.2.7B; 7.1.3A,B; 7.1.6A,B

Content Objectives:

For this activity, students will:.

  1. Draw the lines of latitude and longitude on a piece of plastic overlaying a map of Pennsylvania.
  2. Find specific locations on 2 different maps for comparison.
  3. Compare different maps to see correlation between topography and actual use of the land.
  4. Teach specific longitude and latitude locations for comparison.

Assessment Strategies:

“Why Does a City Grow”

Student generated responses during discussion


This activity provides the students with an opportunity to begin to understand the importance of using longitude and latitude to compare the same areas on different maps. Following a group introduction, the students will work to create their own overlay for longitude and latitude lines for Pennsylvania.  The students will work in cooperative groups to find specific locations on both maps, using longitude and latitude, and compare how land cover was affected by the topography.

Suggested Level:

Grades 4-6

Standards Category:

  • Science and Technology
  • Geography


Teacher materials:

  • Orange with peel marked with LONG/LAT lines
  • Globe

Each group will need:

  • Digital Shaded-Relief Map of Pennsylvania (DSR map)
  • Land Cover Map of Pennsylvania (LC map)
  • Permanent marker
  • Wipe-off marker
  • A sheet of clear plastic large enough to cover the entire map (sheets of lamination work GREAT!)
  • Meter or yardstick

Instructional Strategies:

  • Whole class
  • Cooperative groups

Whole Group Instruction

 “Last lesson, as we shared our information with one another, we used vague terms like ‘at the top of the map,’ to explain where we specifically wanted our peers to look.  This week, we will gain some tools that will allow us to find things on BOTH maps and compare them specifically.”

  1. Using a globe, explain lines of longitude and latitude: Demonstrate how they run using the orange as an example. Students should discuss and understand the importance of finding a SPECIFIC location on a map.
  2. Divide the class into groups – number the groups for future lessons as these materials will be saved and used later.
  3. Distribute one DSR map, one LC map, a sheet of plastic, a permanent marker, and a yardstick to each group.
  4. The sheet of plastic should be placed on top of the map and secured with large paper clips. It must be straight.  Using the marker, the students should outline the 4 corners of Pennsylvania with small marks to guarantee the sheet will be placed on the other map at the exact, same location. This will permit alignment as the map is moved from one map to the other for comparison.
  5. Have students find the longitude lines.  Refer back to the globe to find Pennsylvania and show where the lines of longitude are.
  6. Have 2 students in each group hold the ruler on the lines while another student traces the lines and labels them at the top of the sheet of plastic.
  7. Find the latitude lines on the map and lay the ruler along them.  The students SHOULD find these lines are NOT STRAIGHT and cannot be drawn with a ruler. Discuss why this occurs, peel the orange and flatten the peel to demonstrate why latitude lines are curved. These lines will need to be traced VERY CAREFULLY, neatly, and accurately as possible.  These latitude lines should be labeled at the edges of the plastic sheet.
  8. COLLECT THE PERMANENT MARKERS!  It will be helpful for the students to practice moving the sheet back and forth from one map to the other.  Stress the importance of aligning the “4 corner” marks of Pennsylvania for accuracy.  Give the groups a washable marker.  (Make sure the groups have their plastic sheet attached to the Land Cover map.)  Have the students find Harrisburg on the map.  Have the students draw a small STAR on this spot where Harrisburg is found.  Draw a line about as long as your finger along the upper edge of the yellow section above Harrisburg.
  9. Practice moving the plastic sheet to the Digital Shaded-Relief map.  Make sure students align the marks of the “4 corners” of Pennsylvania that you made on the plastic overlay.    Note the location of Harrisburg on this map. Direct the students’ attention to the line they drew in step #9. Have the students look to see if they can find any physical feature that closely follows the line they had drawn.   Discuss why this is a good place to develop the city of Harrisburg.   (Answer: It is a flat area on a large river for transportation.)
  10. Move the sheet back to the LC Map. Students should find Bellefonte on the map and mark it with another star. (The teacher may need to guide the students to find Bellefonte at 77 degrees West Longitude and 40 degrees North Latitude.) Next, move the sheet back to the DSR Map.  Compare the location of Bellefonte on this map and discuss why it would be a good location for a town.  Discussion should focus on the affects of the physical features on the land cover.  (Answer:  Bellefonte sits on a pass through the ridge – a place where travelers can get through the ridges.)  Students should begin to build the concept that cities are usually built in flat areas, near rivers, or mountain passes. 
  11. Have students work in their groups to complete “Why Does A City Grow?” Directions are found on the activity sheet.

Names ______________________________

Why Does a City Grow?

Cities usually grow up close to physical features good for transportation (rivers, highways, intersections, mountain passes, flat land) or places close to natural resources (coal, waterfalls). In this exercise, you will discover reasons why cities grew up where they are.

  • Place your overlay over the Land Cover map. 
  • Find and mark each of the following cities on the overlay. 
  • Move the overlay to the Digital Shaded-Relief map. 

Using the information from the shaded-relief map, write the city on the graphic organizer according to the physical feature that made the city grow or under “natural resource” if that is the reason the city is there.

Harrisburg   [north of 40o latitude; east of 77o longitude]
Pittsburgh    [north of 40o latitude; on 80o longitude]
Altoona        [north of 40o latitude; west of 78o longitude]   
Clarion         [north of 41o latitude; west 79o longitude]
Honesdale   [halfway between 41o and 42o latitude; west of 75o longitude]
Towanda      [south of 42o latitude; halfway between 76o and 40o longitude]
Ebensburg   [halfway between 40o and 41o latitude; east of 79o longitude]

Water    ________________________________

Highway Intersections  ________________________________

Mountain Pass  ________________________________

Natural Resource  ________________________________