SPaRK – SIX Maps

Engaging students in HSIE using maps and spatial technologies.

By Prue Sommer – teacher and HSIE coordinator at Murray Farm Public School.

Resource overview

A Shared Practice and Resource Kit (SPaRK) for geography and history Years 1–10.

SIX Maps by NSW Department of Finance, Services and Innovation (DFSI) Spatial Services (2018).

Screenshot of SIX Maps, showing NSW

Part of the DFSI Spatial Services portal, SIX Maps is a free online mapping tool, well suited to supporting students’ historical and geographical inquiry. SIX is an acronym for Spatial Information eXchange. Accessible on computers and tablets, the SIX Maps viewer provides access to a range of NSW primary spatial data through an intuitive public interface. Content available through SIX Maps (and its companion tools) includes:

  • cadastral maps – showing the extent, value and ownership of land
  • topographic maps – detailed, accurate graphic representations of features that appear on the earth’s surface, such as relief and contour lines
  • imagery – satellite, road, historical photographs
  • place names – suburbs, cities, regions
  • addressing data – private and commercial addresses.

The interface opens with a large-scale satellite image of NSW. A menu across the top of the screen includes tools for measuring area and distance, identifying coordinates, zooming in and out, printing, and dropping CSV files or images onto the map. On the right, ‘Map contents’ and ‘Basemaps’ offer a range of drop-down boxes. These enable users to select the map’s desired graphic layers (such as flood footprint or flood imagery), map layers (such as lot labels, survey marks and lot boundaries), and basemaps (such as topographic map, NSW road map, satellite imagery and historical imagery from Sydney in 1943).

The DFSI Spatial Services portal also contains a range of other spatial and cadastral services, which may support learning in geography, particularly in Stages 3, 4 and 5. These include:

  • NSW Globe
  • NSW Spatial Data Catalogue
  • CORSnet, Spatial Web Services
  • NORNS, Surveyor General’s Directions
  • Clip and Ship
  • Map Store
  • Imagery and elevation programs
  • Imperial to metric conversion tools
  • Survey Mark Sketches

Educational significance

SIX Maps has the capacity to engage and inform students in both history and geography – though it has a greater depth of functionality for the latter. Once demonstrated, students can gather geographical and historical information about their local area or state. This versatile resource could be used in its simplest capacity with a Stage 1 HSIE class or, by utilising all the geographical tools available, could deepen skill acquisition in Stage 5 geography.

Geography

The Geography K–10 Syllabus aims ‘to stimulate students’ interest in and engagement with the world. Through geographical inquiry, students develop an understanding of the interactions between people, places and environments across a range of scales in order to become informed, responsible and active citizens’ (NESA, 2015).

One of the important differences of the new syllabus is a more specific focus on geographical skills and tools, including map and spatial technologies. This is where SIX Maps becomes invaluable, supporting mandatory skill outcomes and geographical tool use.

History

The History K–10 Syllabus aims ‘to stimulate students’ interest in and enjoyment of exploring the past, to develop a critical understanding of the past and its impact on the present, to develop the critical skills of historical inquiry and to enable students to participate as active informed and responsible citizens’ (NESA, 2012). In this syllabus, there is a more specific integration of historical concepts such as ‘change and continuity’ and ‘cause and effect’. There is also an emphasis on historical skills such as sequencing of time, source analysis and historical perspectives.

SIX Maps supports students’ exploration of these skills and concepts. For example, students can investigate an area of land, historical site or environment, and map the changes that have occurred over a period of time. Overlaying the lot boundaries and labels enables students to trace changes in ownership and land use over time, assisting the process of historical inquiry.

Suggestions for using this text

When introducing SIX Maps, each student should ideally have access to a computer or tablet. This provides the opportunity and time for students to independently explore the available tools, building their confidence before undertaking historical or geographical inquiries. Guided instruction would also be beneficial if an interactive board is available.

Teaching activities

Case study – Stage 1 History – The past in the present

Students at Murray Farm Public School use SIX Maps in a local area study of St Paul’s Anglican Cemetery (Carlingford).

One of several resources used in this historical inquiry, SIX Maps stimulated students’ interest in exploring the history of their local area. Students drew conclusions about their local historical site using primary source aerial photos to compare and contrast. They observed change and continuity in their historical site and the surrounding area of their community. Consequently, students were able to discuss concepts such as cause and effect in relation to the data they collected and understand the significance of the cemetery and its value to the community. Many of the local community’s original early settlers are buried in the cemetery, including the school’s name sake, Andrew Murray.

Inquiry questions

  • What remains of the past can you find in Carlingford?
  • What do they tell us about Carlingford?
  • Are the remains of the past (cemetery) important to the community?
  • Should we preserve St Paul’s Anglican Cemetery?

Using SIX Maps

  1. Students used SIX Maps on iPads and laptops to do a general search of the suburb of Carlingford.
    Screenshot of step 1
  2. Students completed an advanced search of the cemetery’s address, which they had already found during a previous inquiry using other sources.Screenshot of step 2
  3. Students used the zoom in tool to see a closer bird’s eye view of the cemetery, then marked its location using the identify tool.

    Screenshot of step 3

  4. Students selected ‘Map contents’ to mark out the lot boundaries and add lot labels, so they could ascertain who owns the visible pieces of land – particularly the cemetery – to determine who should be maintaining and preserving it. Students could then write letters persuading the local council or Anglican church to take better care of the cemetery and preserve it as a local historical site, even though it is no longer an active burial site.Screenshot of step 4
  5. Finally, students were ready to see changes to the land and land use over time, so they selected the ‘Basemaps’ drop-down and chose ‘Sydney 1943 imagery’. They then used the slide bar to reveal how the land had changed from 1943 to the present day. Using the zoom in tool, students took a closer look at the cemetery and the changing headstones. Using SIX Maps, together with the Australian Cemeteries Index, students were able to locate where and when Andrew Murray, an early settler of Carlingford, was buried.Screenshot of step 5

Other teaching activities – Geography

Outcome

Geographical tools available in SIX Maps

Suggested activities

A student communicates geographical information and uses geographical tools for inquiry GE1-3

Maps – M
Large-scale maps.

Spatial technologies – ST
Virtual maps, satellite images.

Visual representation – VR
Photographs, multimedia, web tools.

Note: Also see NSW Globe.

Area of inquiry – local shops

Students use the advanced search tool to locate their local shops using ‘Basemaps’ – NSW road, satellite and 1943 imagery.

Students use ‘Map contents’ to add lot labels and boundaries, adjusting the overlayed transparency on their local shops map.

Students use the print to PDF tool to copy the original map of the local shops, as well as the version overlayed with lot boundaries and labels. Using these maps, students create an interactive book via apps such as Book Creator, showing how the land use has changed over time.

A student communicates geographical information and uses geographical tools for inquiry GE2-4

Maps – M
Large-scale maps.

Maps to identify location, direction, distance, map references, spatial distribution and patterns.

Spatial technologies – ST
Virtual maps, satellite images, global positioning systems (GPS).

Visual representation – VR
Photographs, multimedia, web tools.

Note: Also see NSW Globe.

Area of inquiry – local wooded area

Students use the search tool to locate a local wooded area using ‘Basemaps’ – NSW road, satellite maps and 1943 imagery.

Students use the distance tool, area tool and coordinate tool to collect data of their local wooded area.

Students use the print to PDF tool to record their wooded area across various basemaps and add these maps to their geographical inquiry.

Using the image dropper, students can drag and drop images taken from their fieldwork onto the map. Using the identify tool, students add information about the wooded area.

A student acquires, processes and communicates geographical information and using geographical tools for inquiry GE3-4

Maps – M
Large-scale maps, small-scale maps, topographical maps.

Maps to identify location, latitude, distance, map references, spatial distributions and patterns.

Spatial technologies – ST
Virtual maps, satellite images, global positioning systems (GPS).

Visual representation – VR
Photographs, aerial photographs, multimedia, web tools.

Note: Also see other Spatial Services tools and services, including NSW Globe.

Area of inquiry – State forest conservation

Students use the advanced search tool to locate a State forest they wish to investigate using ‘Basemaps’ – NSW road, satellite, topographical maps and 1943 imagery.

Students use the distance tool, area tool and coordinate tool to collect data about their selected State forest.

Using the image dropper tool, students can add images taken from their fieldwork, if possible, or collected from other sources.

Note: Within ‘Basemaps’, a blend of ‘NSW imagery’ and ‘Topo maps (current)’ looks the same as Garmin’s Bird’sEye service.

More detailed topographical maps from your selected area can be downloaded (PDF) or purchased (hard copy) from the Spatial Services Map Store.

A student acquires and processes geographical information by selecting and using geographical tools for inquiry GE4-7

Maps – M
Relief maps, topographic maps, choropleth maps, isoline maps, précis maps, cartograms.

Maps to identify direction, scale and distance, area and grid references, latitude and longitude, altitude, area, contour lines, gradient, local relief.

Spatial technologies – ST
Virtual maps, satellite images, global positioning systems (GPS), geographic information systems (GIS).

Visual representations – VR
Photographs, aerial photographs, multimedia, web tools.

Note: Also see other Spatial Services tools and maps.

Area of inquiry – Landscapes and landforms

Students perform an advanced search to locate a significant landscape or landform, such as The Three Sisters. View this location using ‘Basemaps’ – NSW road, satellite, topographical maps and 1943 imagery.

Students select appropriate tools to collect relevant data about their landform study (for example, using the coordinate tool to determine latitude and longitude).

Students use the image dropper tool to drag and drop images (taken personally or sourced from the internet) of their landscape or landform onto the map.

Note: Within ‘Basemaps’, a blend of ‘NSW imagery’ and ‘Topo maps (current)’ looks the same as Garmin’s Bird’sEye service.

More detailed topographical maps from your selected area can be downloaded (PDF) or purchased (hard copy) from the Spatial Services Map Store.

A student acquires and processes geographical information by selecting and using appropriate and relevant geographical tools for inquiry GE5-7

Maps – M
Relief maps, topographic maps, cadastral maps, thematic maps, isoline maps, land use maps, special-purpose maps, maps to identify direction, scale and distance, area and grid references, degrees and minutes of latitude and longitude, bearings, aspect, altitude, area, density, contour lines, gradient, local relief.

Spatial technologies – ST
Virtual maps, satellite images, global positioning systems (GPS), geographic information systems (GIS), remote sensing data, augmented reality.

Visual representations – VR
Photographs, aerial photographs, illustrations, multimedia, web tools.

Note: Also see other Spatial Services tools and maps.

Area of inquiry – Environmental change and management – Moving to NSW

Students use the advanced search tool to locate a new place of residence in NSW using ‘Basemaps’ ­– NSW road, satellite, topographical maps and 1943 imagery.

Students select the appropriate tools to collect relevant data about their new address and the surrounding environment.

Note: Within ‘Basemaps’, a blend of ‘NSW imagery’ and ‘Topo maps (current)’ looks the same as Garmin’s Bird’sEye service.

More detailed topographical maps from your selected area can be downloaded (PDF) or purchased (hard copy) from the Spatial Services Map Store.

Experimenting

HSIE

Students could use the SIX Maps tools to locate, select and annotate the natural and human features of their school property, tracking changes over time. For example, the class could compare and contrast the size of the grassed and concreted areas and how the use of these spaces has evolved over time. Students could focus their attention on the number of portable buildings on the site and their impacts on the local environment.

A two-fold ‘cause and effect’ inquiry could follow:

  1. Consider the resulting reduction of play areas. What are the possible impacts for students’ physical activity?
  2. Consider fluctuations in student population through changing birth rates and/or migration into the school zone.

Creative Arts

Students could use the satellite or road maps on SIX Maps as a basis to create their own bird’s-eye view of a chosen land area, either built or natural. Natural fibres and objects could be used to create the artwork. Different artworks could be created side-by-side to show changes over time.

Digital Technologies

Students could print out a satellite or road map of a chosen location via the SIX Maps printing tool. Using computational thought and language, they could then program Ozobots, Spheros or Beebots to navigate around the printed map.

References and further reading

Evans, J. (2017, February 25). SIX Maps.

Geography K–10 Syllabus © NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA) for and on behalf of the Crown in right of the State of New South Wales, 2015.

History K–10 Syllabus © NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA) for and on behalf of the Crown in right of the State of New South Wales, 2012.

NSW Department of Finance, Services and Innovation. (2018). NSW Globe.

NSW Department of Finance, Services and Innovation. (2018). SIX Maps.

NSW Department of Finance, Services and Innovation. (2018). Spatial Services.

How to cite this article – Sommer, P. (2018). SIX Maps. Scan 37(8).

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