Mapping a walk (with Digimap For Schools)

Before I start, all my education work via Geogramblings is done all in my spare time, at my own cost but is free for you to access and enjoy. If you can spare a few pence, I’d be delighted if you could show your thanks by ‘buying me a coffee. Thank you! 🙂

I am delighted that for April’s Geogramblings video blog I partnered up with Digimap For Schools to help demonstrate some simple ways the tool can be used, and to celebrate the announcement that it is offering its service for free until the end of July. Secondly, to the delight of others no doubt, is the return of the youngest member of the #geographyteacher community, who was a hit at the GAeConf20 TeachMeet. Finally, a talented geography colleague provides us with some downloadable resources!

This video is an edited recording of a Digimap For Schools webinar on Mapping a Walk, showing:

  • footage of how Theo and I went about it
  • a recap of how to use the tools
  • how using these tools link to certain aspects of Primary curriculum content
  • how more older students can use to plan an expedition for others (or prepare for fieldwork)

What is ‘Digimap For Schools’?

Digimap For Schools combines Ordnance Survey mapping and GIS (as well as some other features) in a way that makes both accessible and fun. Usually accessed through a yearly subscription (which in many teachers’ opinions is exceptional value for money), they have generously offered their service for free until the end of July 2020 to support remote and home learning due to the coronavirus lockdown.


You can view not only use OS maps at the classic 1:50000 (shown above) or 1:25000 scales, beloved by many as those iconic pink and orange foldable maps,  but also zoom right in to see individual buildings, or way out and explore the world. You can also travel through time, looking at maps from the 1950s and 1890s, or overlay aerial imagery. The sidebar on the left gives a number of simple tools to start creating your own GIS map.

Downloadable resources by

Before I crack on with the accompanying commentary to the video above, I want to give a massive thanks to Helen Young, better known as Geography Geek, for putting together a downloadable set of resources based on my Digimap For Schools webinar.


It’s been lovely to reconnect with Helen over the past couple of weeks. Her website was my go-to place for resources made with the old Aegis3 GIS software (since passed away into the digital ether), and she gave me some help and support when I tried to create my own Aegis3 lessons together. Can’t believe that was around a decade or so ago! Do have a look around her website:


Theo (age 5) maps a walk with Digimap For Schools

Theo, my eldest, is in Year 1 and he was not only able to pick up how to use ‘Digimap For Schools’, but also (with a little guidance from me), learn about what he was actually looking at – and what mapping is and what it can show. I demonstrate how a youngster can grasp these by featuring Theo (with his permission) in a video showing how he can plan, map and document a walk using these simple tools:


Watching the first half of the video above is the best way to see how Theo and I went about using these tools. And after the footage of him doing his thing to come up with this lovely map…


… I then used a series of animated GIFs to recap on how to use these tools.

Button-DrawLine Drawing a line to map out the route walked


Button-AddMeasurement Measuring the line to give the distance walked in kilometres or miles


Button-UploadImage Adding a photo of features seen on the walk to where it was taken


Button-StandaloneLabel Adding a label to name the feature in the photo


Button-symbols Using ‘markers’ to categorise the features


Not just fun, but useful for ticking those curriculum requirement boxes!

Just using the five simple tools above in Digimap For Schools can cover quite a few curriculum requirements, especially at a Primary level. Here are a few links:


What about the older kids? Using an example of planning an expedition for younger peers.

In 2015 a group of Geography high-school students and I had the privilege of being involved in a project led by Norfolk County Council called the ‘Norfolk Trails Young Heritage Rangers‘. The task was for the high-school students to plan a walk and create a set of activities which encourage people to explore their local area and find out some amazing things that they might not have known. The students were to ‘test’ their walk on their younger peers – a group from a cluster school that feed into their high school.

Step 1: So the first step is to combine their knowledge and an OS map of their local area and find some ‘points of interest’ that would be worth a visit. Digimap For Schools is perfect for this.

DfS-MappingWalk-Slide(13)In the school’s catchment area is Shotesham, a beautiful example of a Norfolk rural village. Some students in the group were already aware of a few places of interest, and that the Boudicca Way passes through it. After a little more exploring of both the area (in their own time) and the OS map via Digimap For Schools, the students found plenty of places of interest. Two great examples were a crater where V2 rocket had landed in the village during World War 2, and the ruins of an old church. Pictures of these sites were then ‘geolocated’ (placed on the correct position on the map) onto Digimap For Schools.

Step 2: Now Digimap For Schools was used to plot a route by drawing a line that effectively ‘connected the dots’ of those places of interest, using the walking paths, routes and walkable roads on the map. Then, use the measure tool to make sure that the walk wasn’t too long for the little’uns!


Step 3: The students had to demonstrate that they were aware of risk. So using the annotation tool (similar to the labelling tool – just you can fit more text), the students commentated where on the walk they would need to be mindful of different risks and what action to take to mitigate that risk.


Step 4: Creating a guide to go with the walk encourages those on the walk to be more attentive to their surroundings and get help with being signposted what to look out for.


Step 5: Do the walk! The map can be printed out (or sketched) for both the guides and the participants. The pictures below show the primary school students doing a tree-bark rubbing of a ‘veteran tree’ (top left), exploring the ruins of St Martin’s (right) etc.


In summary: not just for school kids, but for home and the neighbours too?

Through planning a walk, Digimap for Schools can help you:

  • Discover your local area (and help others to do so!) – While school students can plan a walk in your school’s local area for each other, maybe in the current circumstances it may be an idea to plan a walk for the neighbours you are friends with? Perhaps the older sibling can plan some fun walk for the younger sibling? Teachers – students can plan a walk while on lockdown and when schools return to ‘normal’ one or two of the walks are selected for the class to go on?
  • Appreciate scale and distance – Students can now appreciate how far a kilometre or a mile is both virtually and by-representation of a scaled map, but also in real life.
  • Practise planning and ‘logistics’ – A high-level skill which is made accessible by these tasks.
  • Identify risk – A really good way to help safeguard students is also to help them to learn skills to also safeguard themselves. Planning a walk and labelling risk on the map raises awareness of their surrounds.
  • Learn what is meant by ‘geolocation’ – Simply by putting photos or labels on places on the map
  • Document your walk using pictures and labels

The full edit of this Digimap For Schools webinar is now available on their YouTube channel. In that edit, host Pete O’Hare and I take some questions and give a few more ideas that are related to planning walks using the tool. On their YouTube channel, you will find recordings of other webinars, some ‘how-to’ guides using their tools and some other cool stuff!


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