California Map Lesson 2: Cartographic Activity

Learn how to braille students can create maps with various geographic features!

Cartography is the science or art of making maps. How can a braille student create a map?

In this activity, Logan’s class was given a worksheet with a map of California. Included on this map are symbols for major rivers, cities, and lakes; mountain symbols covering the Cascade Range were given as an example. The edges of the map contain written information: Welcome to California!, Earthworm’s Tips on Cartography, Cartographic Activities and a Map Key.

Photo of the original California Cartographic Map with text along the edges.

Download the original photo of the California Map (above) here.

Download the .docx of the text around the map: Welcome to California!, Earthworm’s Tips on Cartography, Map Key, and Cartographic Activities here.

Transcribing the Activity

In the first post, the VI team created a base map of California. (See California Map Lesson 1 post.) Using this base map, Jessica quickly added the symbols for the Cascade Mountain Range.

Note: As a TVI, Jessica’s job is to oversee resources for her braille student (working with a transcriber and paraprofessional). Jessica knew that her student is successful with tactile maps (see posts on Logan’s tactile graphics skills below) and given orientation and preview, he can successfully use tactile maps as quickly and as efficiently as his peers.

Image of the California Map (base map with symbols for the Cascade Mountain Range).

Photo of California Geology Map version 1 with state boundary line, rivers, dots for major cities, caret symbols for mountain range, and compass. No braille labels.

Note: To better accommodate the tactile needs of her student, all of the state boundary lines were made solid as dotted lines can be confused with the symbols on the page.

Next, a page with the Map Key was created along with a random page of symbols. The symbols page contains four copies of each symbol in the Map Key. A couple of the print map symbols were changed to symbols that are easily distinguishable by touch. The symbols on this page will be cut apart. (The symbols are described in the text .docx available above.)

Photo of 4 copies of each symbol from the Map Key.

Cartographic Activity

The goal of this activity is for students to learn about California’s geographic features and the location of these features: cities, rivers, mountains, valleys, coastline, boundaries, highways and Andreas Fault Line. This goal is accomplished by students learning cartography (adding these features to the map of California).

Logan was provided with the tactile map of California, a tactile map key, and tactile symbols from the map key. In the previous lesson, he learned the names and locations of the major cities, rivers, etc. Any additional information needed to complete this activity, required student research. Logan adhered the cut out symbols to the map. 


The original instructions included shading different areas, such as the desert, on the map with colored pencils. Logan used tactile symbols instead of coloring.

Author’s Note: E-Z Dots is my favorite method to adhere items. Used for scrap booking, E-Z dots comes in a dispenser. Simply roll the dispenser across the desired area on the map (or across the back of the tactile symbol) for a line of tiny dots (dots are approximately 5 wide). The double-sided adhesive dots are durable and removable! Warning! The  E-Z Dots dispenser is designed to rolled in one direction only. If the student holds the dispensor upside down  – which rolls the tape backwards), the spool becomes loose and does not work well. Place the flat side of the dispensor down; the print on the dispenser will in the correct position. I’d suggest marking the flat side of the dispenser and specifically teaching the student to hold the dispenser correctly.

E-Z Dots on Amazon

Photo of E-Z Dots dispenser (similar to a tape dispenser but has a small roller on the end. )

Posts on Logan’s Tactile Graphics Skills

Attached File(s)
By Diane Brauner

Ish book cover with an illustration of a child running with a paintbrush and text: Peter H Reynolds

“Ish” book: Drawing, estimating, and digital table activities

Image of the graphed y = sin(x) equation

Understanding Desmos: Sonification lessons

A group of people riding a city bus

The importance of connections