Creating manipulatives for classroom use can be quick and easy using a vinyl or laser cutter. Card stock or mat board can be a cost effective way to create hands on learning objects for students.
Unfortunately, finding exactly the right vector images to cut can be challenging. I've had several teachers request help in using digital fabrication to help create tactile maps for students to explore.
In this project, I created a series of map of the 5 Geographic Regions of Virginia that could be cut out and students could layer together. The different layers represent the increasing height of each region of Virginia. The regions are Coastal Plains, Piedmont, Blue Ridge Mountains, Valley and Ridge and Appalachian Plateau.
The advantage of paper is that each student can have their own copy and can write on it with the name of each region and the distinguishing characteristics.
Step 1: Import Maps Into Vector Editing Program
The Virginia Standards of Learning identify the 5 regions of Virginia. These boundaries of these regions are loosely defined in a graphic provided by the Virginia Department of Education. Unfortunately, this map is not in vector format and a search for other sources did not yield any results. A search on Wikimedia does bring up a nice vector map of Virginia in svg format.
-Open the svg format map of Virginia in a vector editing program such as Adobe Illustrator or Inkscape.
-Click File -->Place to add the pdf image of the Geographic Regions of Virginia.
-Scale the PDF Geographic Regions of Virginia layer so that both maps outlines are as close as possible.
Step 2: Trace Boundary Line of Each Region
-Use the pen tool to trace the boundary line of each region. These lines should extend past the border of Virginia slightly.
-Do not try and trace the border outlines, only the interior lines.
-Create a separate line for each boundary. Be sure they are not connected.
-Use a distinct color (in this case red) to distinguish the line.
Step 3: Divide the Coastal Plains and Piedmont Region
-Hide the PDF layer of the Geographic Regions of Virginia.
-Name the layer outline of Virginia as Coastal Plain
-Create a new layer and name it Piedmont.
-Make a copy of the outline of Virginia svg and move it to the Piedmont layer.
-Move the boundary line between the Coastal Plain and Piedmont into the Coastal Plain layer.
-Select both the copy of the outline of Virginia and the Coastal Plains/Piedmont boundary and then click the divide button on the pathfinder tool panel.
-Select and delete the area to the right.
-Select the area to the left and change the color.
Step 4: Divide Remaining Regions and Save As SVG
-Repeat the previous steps for each of the remaining regions.
-The dividing step may create a few small extra objects that can be safely deleted.
-Create an empty file for each region and copy and paste each regions into it's own file.
-Save each region as an SVG. File --> Save As --> Format: SVG --> Save
-Click More Options and set the Decimal Places Field to 3.
-Repeat the saving process for each separate region.
Step 5: Cut Regions
-Cut SVG files in a different color of card stock or mat board using the software for your machine.
-To cut cardstock, I use Silhouette Studio with a Silhouette Cameo and a cutting mat.
-To laser cut cardstock and mat board, I use an Epilog Zing.
-The SVG files can also be imported into Tinkercad and then saved as STL files and 3D Printed.