Mapping Guidelines 


Maps should show the distribution of the data collected by the student.  Data showing a local distribution may earn preference by the judges when several maps are close in quality for consideration of awards.  Maps of topics from any collection of data are encouraged from local to world extent.

Typically maps showing the distribution of land uses, human activity patterns, social or economic activities or characteristics and changes in these features have been well displayed by students over the years.  However, any geographic distribution of interest to the student that can be collected in data form, organized into mapable symbolization and completed on the map without the need for foldouts or overlays should be encouraged.

Map Standards

All maps must follow traditional mapping conventions by locating Title, Legend with Symbols and Statement of Authenticity, Scale, Compass Direction, Source/s, School Name, Grade and Student Name suitably on the map.  Students should make a copy of their map before submitting it to the teacher for entry in the Ontario Schools Map Making Competition.  Some maps may be digitized for display on this website with credit to school of origin and cartographer, or copied for display in a partner’s place of business.

The finished work on the face of the map must be done entirely by the student. This means hands off to parents, siblings and others.  To qualify for an Award each map must have a Statement of Authenticity printed on the front of the map at the bottom of the legend.   “THIS MAP IS AN ORIGINAL BY Name of Student”

Mostly Hand Drawn maps: Maps on any topic completed on paper or mylar with pencil or ink with a maximum size of 12”x 18”or 30cm x 45cm with a minimum border of ½”or 12mm.  Use pencil crayon colouring of areas, shapes and symbols.

Static Digital or Computer map: The same maximum size but no smaller than tabloid 11" x 17" or 27cm x 43cm and authenticity guidelines apply to all maps submitted.  A complete list of all sources and sites used to collect data finally used on the map and the software chosen to create the map will be in a Source box on the map

Design Considerations

In the processes of judging entries, the judges compiled a list of commonly occurring bad habits, or mistakes, which are described below as a possible guide for future entrants.

  1. The inclusion of excessive detail, such as all the streets in a city or every river and tributary in a watershed.
  2.  An excessive number of symbols, such as small pictures (e.g. houses, trees, people) preventing easy interpretation of the map.  As a rule of thumb, eight classes is the maximum and five the ideal for any symbolized topic.
  3. When choosing colours for representation, a system using different shades of one, or two, colours works best.  Five different shades are an ideal number.  The effect to strive for is an impression of increasing size, or value, of map variable and change in colour.
  4. Colour shading on paper is rendered best by use of translucent paper (e.g. tracing paper or drafting vellum) and colouring the back.  This permits usual line work and lettering on the front and gives the colours a muted tint, which is aesthetically pleasing.
  5. The maximum size restriction of 50cm by 50cm was often ignored and penalized accordingly.
  6. The border on a map should encompass the title, legend, and scale, as well as the actual map.  A separate “box” or “frame” for the title, and legend, is appropriate.  Do not underline the title.  It is better to frame it.
  7. The source of information must be stated and could range from published censuses, directories, statistics, local records obtained from the city, police, or fire departments to personal field observation.
  8. Although most maps have an orientation arrow, usually indicating true North, it is not appropriate in cases where very large areas are mapped with a projection, such as a conical or azimuthal projection, in which meridians of longitude converge towards the pole. In this case, a single orientation arrow is incorrect and should be left out.  The way to show orientation with large areas (e.g. Canada) is by margin marks of latitude and longitude at, say 10-degree intervals.  
  9. Maps should ideally be individual student creations.