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Teaching with Maps

Lessons, Activities, Map-Making Resources, and More

Found In: language arts & literature, math, science, social studies, preK-2, 3-5, 6-8, 9-12

Lessons & Activities

Lesson Plans

Introduction to Latitude and Longitude
Students in grades K-2 look at lines of latitude and longitude on a map of the U.S. and discuss why the lines are helpful. They also discuss how temperature varies with latitude.

A View from Overhead
Students in grades K-3 develop an understanding of the overhead view presented by most maps. See six more lessons at Map Adventures.

Mapping Your State
Students in grades 2-4 work in groups to create a state tourism map.

How to Read a Topographic Map
Students in grades 4-8 learn how to read a topographic map of Salt Lake City.

Mapmaker, Mapmaker, Make Me a Map!
Students in grades 6-8 evaluate historical and geographical information on 16th-19th century maps and create maps of their own.

Genographic Project: Looking Ahead
Students in grades 9-12 discuss how the world may change in one thousand years, and then work in teams to create an imaginary updated study of human migration.

Making the Invisible Visible
Students in grades 9-12 evaluate and compare ways geographers, cartographers, artists, and scientists are beginning to map cyberspace.

Activities & Games

Explore Mars
Collect rock samples on the surface of Mars with a map and Rover. 

MapStats for Kids
Students in grades 5-8 can click Globie to learn map concepts or Stixie to learn about statistics. Five games will help students practice the skills.

Galaxy Zoo
Students in grades 9-12 can help astronomers classify galaxies according to shape.

Sally Ride EarthKAM
More Lessons & Activities

National Geographic Maps: Tools for Adventure
Aimed primarily at elementary students, this site includes information about using maps, games, and links to other National Geographic resources.

National Geographic Maps: Tools for Adventure: For Educators
Many lesson plans and activities for grades K-2, 3-5, 6-8, and 9-12.

Mapping Discord: Creating a Primer on the Arab World
Students in grades 6-12 create an annotated map of the Middle East and North Africa.

Connecting the Dots: Interpreting U.S. Census Data
Students in grades 9-12 examine maps representing census data from the last 100 years and generate and find answers to research questions.

Mapping Our Neighborhoods, Mapping America
Students in grades 6-12 read an article and interpret an associated map showing local data from the Census Bureau's American Community Survey to learn where immigrants have settled in the U.S. during the last ten years. Answer six data analysis questions using both resources.

Education Resources
The US Geological Survey offers many lessons, activities, and teacher packets for K-12 classrooms.

Google Earth Lessons
This site aids teachers using Google Earth in their classrooms. Some of the links are dead, but the site is still worth investigating. NOTE: the site is not affiliated with Google.

Historic Maps and Lessons
Chicago’s Newberry Library offers maps and lessons for grades K-12, covering the themes of exploration and encounter, migration and settlement, environmental history, transportation, political and military, and communities.

Background Resources

Map Making Guides

These grade level guides introduce mapmaking, explaining map elements, map design, and types of maps. They include links to related resources.

Teaching with Infographics | A Student Project Model
A social studies teacher with years in middle school and high school classrooms characterizes herself as a “fanatic” about using infographics in education. In this series of blog entries, she describes ways to use infographics.

Math/Science Nucleus: Types of Maps
Introduces elementary students to types of maps and geographic information systems.       

National Weather Center: Weather Lessons
A basic introduction to map analysis and interpretation for students in grades 5-8.

USGS Science Resources for Primary Grades and for Middle School and High School

These USGS pages included geography resources.

USGS Science Resources for Undergraduate Education
Although designed for college undergraduates, some of these activities might be fitted to high school students.

GeoThentic Online Environment
Designed to use geographic technology to make and justify decisions about contemporary issues: for example, where to build a hospital in San Francisco based on seismic activity and population density. Teachers can sign up for a free account.

Videos & Interactives

Printables & Quizzes



  • Quia: Map Skills
    A 20 question quiz on reading and using various types of maps.
    Dozens of self-correcting quizzes covering the continents.
  • MapQuiz
    Timed and untimed quizzes covering Asia, Europe, South America, and the United States.

Special Purpose Maps

Examples of Special Purpose Maps

Statistics for Making Maps

  • FedStats
    Statistics from more than 100 agencies.

Expanding the Concept of Mapping


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