Introduction to the Geographic Grid

Mark Bowen
University of Wisconsin Oshkosh
Author Profile
Initial Publication Date: November 21, 2014


This exercise introduces students to the latitude-longitude geographic grid by interpreting data presented on a globe and in an atlas.

Used this activity? Share your experiences and modifications



The activity is used in an undergraduate introductory physical geography course that includes a 2-hour laboratory session that meets once per week. The course is predominantly composed of non-majors.

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered


How the activity is situated in the course

This is the first laboratory exercise conducted in the course. It is a stand-alone exercise that reinforces concepts introduced in lecture.


Content/concepts goals for this activity

The purpose of this exercise is to become familiar with the latitude-longitude geographic grid used to describe location on the Earth's surface.

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

Other skills goals for this activity

Determine the latitude and longitude of a given location
Determine a location based on given latitude and longitude
Calculate distance using latitude and longitude
Convert between decimal degrees and degree, minutes, seconds

Description of the activity/assignment

This is a relatively basic laboratory exercise designed to familiarize students with the most common geographic grid - latitude and longitude. In lecture the concept of a geographic grid is introduced, as well as the various types of grids. Emphasis is placed on latitude and longitude because this is the grid system they are most likely to encounter. With this exercise, students are asked to utilize a globe and an atlas to determine the latitude and longitude of given locations, and determine the location for given latitudes and longitudes. Students must provide answers as both decimal degrees and degrees, minutes, seconds, and they are asked to use geographic coordinates to calculate the distance between two locations.

Determining whether students have met the goals

Students complete the exercise during a 2-hour laboratory session. Students are expected to work in pairs. Upon completion of the laboratory exercise, students must complete an online quiz that consists of the same questions in the exercise before the next lab meeting. The online quiz is within the Desire 2 Learn (D2L) online learning platform, so answers are automatically graded and imported into the student's grade book.

More information about assessment tools and techniques.

Teaching materials and tips

Other Materials