Mapping in Three Dimensions

What is a mental map? How do children "know" a place? These questions are very alive for me right now as I continue to explore childrens sense of place with the teachers and children at the preschool. Are drawn maps a grown-up construct, or do children "see" places that way? What about children who are not fluent in the languages of drawing and painting? I know that I perceive places sometimes as smells. How can we adults "hear" childrens conceptions of places as smells, sounds, feelings? How can children talk to us in other non-traditional-school ways of knowing?

Creek, plants and rocks (Isabel, 4)

I love getting caught in webs of ideas like this. I know that after the inquiry has gone on for a while, and I have a big pile of drawings and photographs and childrens words, I will find some kind of an answer for myself.

In the meantime, here are some pictures of a map that has grown up from the table, from a drawing into a 3 dimensional representation of our forest. Nolan and Isabel are very familiar with this place because their class goes outside every day. Their intimate relationship with our forest, including the labyrinth, pavilion and creek show in these built 'maps'.
Sabot School with building, labyrinth, path, trees, pavilion and parking lot. (Nolan, 4)

 See more unconventional maps at

                                                                                         'Map of Love'


  1. Hi Anna,

    I'm a brand new studio teacher in San Francisco, trying to put together a brand new studio in our school. I was so happy to find your blog - it's really helpful seeing what other atelieristas are doing. Would you be open to me emailing you to ask about your set up, your projects and your process? My email is


  2. I hope you realize how brilliant your work with children is. I'm following this exploration avidly.

    I have a question: how many children do you work with? I tend to be a big rowdy class kind of guy and I get the idea that you're a small thoughtful class kind of gal. Yet I get the feeling we share a lot in between.

    More please!

  3. Anna, I have been watching this closely - it's brilliant! I was inspired to introduce a little bit of mapping, but the children have not yet gotten as deep into this as you have. You inspire me - thank you for sharing...I need to pull out more map-like-things into the classroom, I think, to get the children to deepen their understanding of "map"...


  4. Oh, my goodness, look at the fan in the pavilion, and the brilliant parking lot!

  5. I know...amazing. Thanks for noticing!


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