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Unruly Places


found in: social studies; 3-5; 6-8

Unruly Places: Lost Spaces, Secret Cities, and Other Inscrutable Geographies (2014) by Alastair Bonnett is a celebration of 47 places little known by most of us: Baarle-Nassau and Baarle-Hertog, two intermingled villages in Belgium and the Netherlands in which snippets of one nation lie within the other and borders pass through rooms in buildings; a once secret city in the USSR that is now a gated community in Russia; the Archaeological Park of Sicilian Incompletion with 25 unfinished buildings started in the 1950s-2000s; and an entire section devoted to floating islands. The author is a social geographer and was motivated to write the book by a desire to show there is much we can discover close at hand. The author has included Google Earth coordinates for many of the sites, but cautions that the coordinates may change as Google Earth is updated. Google Earth does not run on Firefox. Use Chrome. Bonnett has followed up with 39 more fascinating places in Beyond the Map: Unruly Enclaves, Ghostly Places, Emerging Lands and Our Search for New Utopias (2018).

A section of Atlas Obscura, Hidden United States: Discover 6,206 Cool and Unusual Things to Do in the United States, provides grade 5-8 social studies students an opportunity to discover unusual places nearby and suggests a similar project in their own communities, such as: Local History: Mapping My Spot Students investigate a historical map of their community and locate sites that have personal meaning. This lesson can be adapted to highlight unusual places.

Google Earth Outreach offers 19 tutorials (10-60 minutes) in mapmaking using Google Earth and Google Maps.

For lessons incorporating maps in infographics, see Bonnett’s New Views: The World Mapped Like Never Before: 50 Maps of Our Physical, Cultural And Political World (2017) From Venomous Animal Populations To Asteroid Strikes: The Fascinating Maps That Visualise The World As Never Before features some of the maps.

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