Creative Materials Bring Maps to Life


Garden Globe Makes the World a Succulent Sphere
One of the world’s “largest living globes” will make its official debut at the San Francisco Flower & Garden Show this week. The geographic features of the enormous globe (4.3-meters (14-foot) tall, 9.5 meters (31 feet) in circumference) are rendered entirely in plants, such as sphagnum moss, echeverias, sedums, and crassulas.

The succulent globe is just one of many map and globe projects using unusual materials. What can your students come up with?

This pine grove in Castelluccio di Norcia has been landscaped into the shape of Italy.Photograph by Peter Zagar
This pine grove in Castelluccio di Norcia has been landscaped into the shape of Italy.
Photograph by Peter Zagar

Discussion Ideas:

Can students think of other geographic scales with which they could create unusual maps? Consider our collection of maps and mapping activities, as well as the various layers in our MapMaker Interactive for ideas. (Students may consider states or provinces, counties, agricultural regions, climate zones, linguistic communities, areas linked by history or politics, etc.)

Can students think of materials that may enhance a map’s theme or focus? (Answers are endless! To get started, seeds could represent an area’s native plant community, while rocks or sand could represent the geology of a region. Waste—such as wrappers and other packaging—could represent consumer tastes in an area. Logos or equipment could represent a region’s interest in sports. “Smell maps” can be excellent representations of an area’s location and industry. Don’t stop there! Let “guerrilla geographer” Daniel Raven-Ellison inspire you and your students to re-think geography and get creative.)

  • Standard flat maps can also be repurposed in creative ways. This artist uses road maps to create portraits of people. What type of map or map layers would students use to create self-portraits?

Thank you to my mom and the Monterey County Herald for this current-event connection!

Note: We’re experimenting with a new feature here on the NG Education Blog. “Current Event Connection” posts will connect educators with news stories and relevant discussion ideas featuring content from the NG Education website. 


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