Curriculum subjects: Geography / Art and design Responsibility of all: Literacy Curriculum level: Third level Design a modern mappa mundi

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Curriculum subjects: Geography / Art and design Responsibility of all: Literacy Curriculum level: Third level

Design a modern mappa mundi

In creating Scot Loch, Charles Jencks used the idea of mappa mundi as a source of inspiration. Mappa mundi is the term used to describe Mediaeval European maps of the world. The name comes from the Latin: mappa (cloth or chart) and mundi (of the world). These early maps were not ‘accurate’ in the same way as modern geographical maps but they do tell us a lot about the society and culture of the time.

This design challenge is constructed to enable pupils to apply their knowledge and understanding of maps, in particular that they can be biased, to a new context. They will be able to identify an issue that is important to their own lives before expressing their ideas, thoughts and feelings through a modern Mappa mundi.
The learners may be more quickly engaged if the brief is presented through a real-life context. In this instance, a context has been provided by suggesting to learners that the brief has been commissioned by the First Minister of Scotland. However, there may be many other contexts that are more relevant to the learners’ social and cultural backgrounds. The brief can be interpreted or refined by learners or alternatively, groups can prepare a brief for other groups. The briefs should be short and open-ended to encourage space for interpretation and creative responses.


  • What do mappa mundi tell us about the society and culture of people in the past?

  • Are modern geographical maps always ‘accurate’?

  • In what ways do modern geographical maps still reflect our own society and culture?

  • In what ways are maps ‘biased’?

  • How can we use the idea of a mappa mundi to create a map that reflects our own life, our identity or our heritage and culture or a global issue like poverty, human rights or sustainability?

Experiences and outcomes
Art and design

  • While working through a design process in response to a design brief, I can develop and communicate imaginative design solutions EXA 3-06a

  • Having chosen personal themes and developed my own ideas from a range of stimuli, I can express and communicate my ideas, thoughts and feelings through 2D and 3D work. EXA 3/4-05a

  • I can respond to the work of artists and designers by discussing my thoughts and feelings. I can give and accept constructive comment on my own and others’ work. EXA 3-07a

Social Studies

  • I can use a range of maps and geographical information systems to gather, interpret and present conclusions and can locate a range of features within Scotland, UK, Europe and the wider world. SOC 3-14a

Themes across learning

Global citizenship

Responsibility of all
I can convey information, describe events, explain processes or concepts, and combine ideas in different ways. LIT 3-28a

The design process
The design process can be complex depending on the specific industry. For the purposes of this resource it has been simplified in the three sections below: Research, Create, Evaluate. The sub-headings suggest the types of transferable skills and experiences that may be relevant to the design challenge although the lists are not exhaustive. The sample activities relate to the specific challenge but they should be expanded as part of the collaborative planning process with pupils. The experiences and outcomes provide a starting point for discussions with learners to identify learning intentions and success criteria.


Define the problem, analyse the brief, investigate the theme, manage information


Ask questions, generate ideas, use imagination, identify solutions, develop the design, solve problems, take risks


Ask questions, revisit the brief, judge value, modify, communicate, present

Sample activities

Sample activities

  • Find out about mappa mundi, learning that all maps reflect cultural perceptions.

  • Discuss how an awareness of the commissioner might affect your design.

  • Decide on whether to explore your own identity, that of your community, heritage and culture or to express ideas about a global issue such as social inequality, poverty, sustainability or to imagine a future utopia or ideal world.

  • List the key ideas you want to represent and identify other sources of information you may need.

Sample activities

  • Plan the layout of your map and use the inspiration of the early mappa mundi and of Scot Loch to help you

  • Use your art skills to convey your thoughts and ideas –it may be useful to create several different designs (remember to take risks and use your imagination)

  • Compare options and discuss the designs’ strengths and weaknesses

Sample activities
Devise questions to help you decide how effective your design is, for example:

  • Does it fulfil the design brief?

  • Does your design express your idea clearly?

  • Is it imaginative, like the early mappi mundi?

  • Could it be improved in any way?

  • Will other people (its target audience) value it? Present your design to the ‘commissioner’ and communicate your ideas and emotions .

The Design Brief

Create a modern mappa mundi on one of the following themes:

  1. Scotland today

  2. My world

  3. Our ideal world

The First Minister of Scotland has commissioned your design team to create a mappa mundi that he can refer to when he discusses the views of the young people of Scotland. The map will be useful when he is talking to other senior politicians from other countries.

The aim of this challenge is not to create an accurate map but, like the early mappa mundi, to express ideas and convey information about how you perceive your country and its place in the world nowadays.
The process of researching and developing your ideas will mirror the way in which Charles Jencks developed his landform, Scot Loch.
You may find it helpful to use a ‘design process’ template to develop your ideas.

Useful links

Designing Scot Loch

Art and design – Designing and communicating


Mappa mundi

Wikipedia article about mappa mundi.

Mapping our world

Document with curriculum links that supports the Oxfam resource 'Mapping our world' for 8-14-year-olds.

Anglo-saxon Mappa Mundi

Anglo-saxon Mappa Mundi from circa 1025 - 1050 in the British Library Online Gallery.

Pierre Desceliers' planisphere

Image of Pierre Desceliers' planisphere from 1550 in the British Library Online Gallery.

Map Of The World

Full page miniature of a map of the wold, related to the famous medieval map of the world at Hereford Cathedral.

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