Proportions, interpreting scales, reading maps, measurement... this lesson covers lots of great concepts in a motivating and fun way.
"How far is it from your school to other local cities? Do you have a guess? Record it in the table provided, then let's get measuring! See the scale on your map? That tells us how distances on the map relate to "real" distances. Measure from the center of each city's dot to the center of the dot representing your school's city. Now, use these measurements and your scale to set up and solve proportions to see just how GOOD (or how BAD!) your estimates were!"
This has always been one of my favorite lessons with middle schoolers - they don't drive yet, so they have very little understanding about the concept of distances between their home town and other fairly local cities and towns. Cities that are only 20 miles away often receive guesses like "95 miles" on this activity! Better yet, students become more aware of local geography by learning about towns they never knew were neighboring areas. Everyone is amused when the math shows the truth!
Page 1 is the page you'd use and customize to your own city. Page 2 is a sample I've used with specific Lehigh Valley Pennsylvania locations. Page 3 shows maps I generated that you'd have to create to match your home town. Having students use highlighters to locate the cities before measuring is helpful. Enjoy.