Silhouette of Santa, reindeer and sleigh flying across the world map

Santa’s Sleigh Ride: Geography & Map Activities

Where in the world is Santa and his reindeer?

Santa is preparing for his Christmas Eve run to deliver presents to children around the world. Find out how far it is between the North Pole and your house by using the customized map below!

Teacher Prep

Note: The original map has the North Pole tagged and three additional locations in the US to provide references: San Francisco, California, Houston, Texas and New York City, New York. Your customized Santa map will have these points plus your student’s city tagged.

The student will also need to have SAS Graphics Accelerator Extension installed on his device (PC, Mac or Chromebook).

Student Activity #1

The student will:

Questions: How far is New York City from the North Pole? (Hint: Make New York City the center of your map then move the virtual cane to the North Pole.) Which of these cities is closest to the North Pole? Farthest from the North Pole? 

Challenge Questions: If Santa only stopped at the cities on this map, what is the most efficient order to make these stops? (Name the cities in the best sequence.) How many miles is this round trip?

Student Activity #2

Part 1: World Globe

Santa has a huge list of children who have been good throughout the year. This list has the addresses of all the children. The population of the world right now is 6,630,000,000 so if 27% of the worlds population is below 15 years old, then Santa will visit 1,790,100,000 children (nearly 2 billion). The list, of course, gets bigger each year as the earths population grows.

Note: This activity is geared for students who have some experience with or are being introduced to world maps. Keep in mind that the world is ROUND – not flat like a 2-dimensional map. If possible, pair this digital activity with a World Globe (with braille labels or tactile symbols) to introduce this concept! If a world globe is not available, take a large ball (such as a basket ball) and add temporary tactile markers for each continent. Have the student explore the world globe with North America facing the student. Discuss where the other continents are in relationship to the US. Example: What is to the east? (Europe) and west? (Asia). Now spin the globe so that Asia is facing the student. Where are the other continents in relationship to Asia? Some students might benefit from taking a tactile flat world map (paper map with braille or tactile symbols) and then rolling that 2 flat map so that the left edge of the map and the right edge of the map meet to form a representation of a world globe. Explore the 2 dimensional paper map as a globe and then lay it flat on the table. This may help the student better understand how the 2-dimensional flat map is a representation of the real round world globe. To represent the rounded ‘top’ and ‘bottom’ of the globe, you can cut the top (and bottom) grid lines to the first square or so. Then, push the map in so that the top edges touch and the bottom edges touch.

Note: The map in the photos below have not been labeled. It is recommended to add tactile markers in the shape of the continents for students who are learning the landform continent shapes. Braille labels can be used for students with other goals.

Photo of the 2-dimensional world map rolled to represent world globe.Photo of a 2-dimensional world globe with continents labeled.

For your convenience, here is a downloadable black and white world map and a colored world map.

Note: The Non-Visual Digital world map is similar to the 2-dimensional printed flat map. Students need to build a mental map of the actual spatial relationships between the continents themselves: do not think of a specific continent being located on the right/left side of the globe. Example: Europe is always east of the US. Depending on which part of the world globe is facing you, Europe might be on the right side of the globe, in the middle of the globe or on the left side of the globe. No matter which direction the globe is facing, Europe is always east of the US.

Student Activity #2

Part 2: Non-Visual Digital Map

The Santa World Map has at least one country tagged in six of the seven continents: Asia, Africa, Europe, North America, South America, and Australia/Oceania. There is not a tag for Antarctica. There are 11 tags, including the tag at the North Pole. The tags are placed in the capital of each country and tags are labeled by the city, country, and continent.

As we discussed, the goal of the map is to learn where the continents are in relationship to each other. With this in mind, change the bearing from 5 o’clock to cardinal directions.

Challenge Questions:

Interesting Tidbit: Nautical Miles

if you are flying from the US to China, flights are routed over the artic. Why? (It’s the shortest distance!)

A nautical mile is based on the circumference of the earth and is equal to one minute of latitude. It is slightly more than a statute (land measured) mile. The flight from Washington D.C. to Beijing, China is:

SAS Graphics Accelerator Keyboard Commands


Editing a Non-Visual Digital Map from the Map Library post

SAS Graphics Accelerator Summary Page (list of all the posts related to SAS Graphics Accelerator)

Santa's Sleigh Ride Pinterest Tag

Attached File(s)
By Diane Brauner