Teaching with Maps
Lessons, Activities, Map-Making Resources, and More
Lessons & Activities
Introduction to Latitude and Longitude
Students in grades K-2 look at latitude and longitude lines on a map of the United States and discuss why the lines are helpful. They explain the relationship between latitude and temperature.
A View from Overhead
Students in grades K-3 develop an understanding of the overhead view presented by most maps.
Make State Maps with MapMachine
Students in grades 3-5 compare their state with another they make using National Geographic's MapMachine.
How to Read a Topographic Map
Students in grades 4-8 learn how to read a topographic map of Salt Lake City.
Students in grades 6-8 examine map projections and representations and consider how each representation could show specific features of Mars.
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: Mapping the Human Journey
Students in grades 9-12 explore human migrations and factors, such as push/pull, which prompt 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
The Riddle of the Russian Lights
Students help an astronaut determine why a string of lights zigzags across southern Russia.
Collect rock samples on the surface of Mars with a map and Rover.
In addition to “Explore Mars,” National Geographic has five more map games.
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.
Students in grades 9-12 can help astronomers classify galaxies according to shape.
Teachers and middle school students can take pictures of Earth from a digital camera on the International Space Station in this educational outreach program.
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.
Lessons and Activities for Exploring the Earth with Maps
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.
Map Making GuidesThese 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.
University of Minnesota Duluth: Types of Maps
Introduces and provides examples of proportional symbol maps, choropleth maps, cartograms, and isarithmic maps to students in grades 6-12.
Math/Science Nucleus: Maps as Tools
Elementary students learn how maps are used.
Maps & Globes: Maps
Students in grades 3-5 can learn about various types of maps and map features.
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.
- Mapping America: Every City, Every Block
Distribution of racial and ethnic groups. Enter specific locations and expand for details.
- Introduction to the National Map
This is a 6 minute film about the National Map.
- USGS Video Lectures
Six video lectures (roughly 60-90 minutes) suitable for high school students, covering mapping and remote sensing.
- Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment (GLOBE) Videos
Scroll down – almost to the bottom – for videos on manual and computer mapping.
- Personalize Google Maps
- IBM Research Creates World's Smallest 3D Map (5:21 minutes)
Learn how IBM scientists created a 3D map of the earth so small that 1,000 of them could fit on one grain of salt.
- Mapping the Universe (2:43 Minutes)
Viewers fly backward through more than half a million galaxies and quasars mapped by the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) and through the cosmic microwave background mapped by NASA's WMAP satellite.
Printables & Quizzes
- Xpeditions Atlas: Maps Made for Printing and Copying
- The National Atlas: Printable Maps
- Microsoft Research Maps (aerial, topographic, and road maps)
- Google Earth in the Classroom ( PDF, 800 KB, 2 PP)
- Google Maps in the Classroom ( PDF, 1 MB, 2 PP)
- Quia: Map Skills
A 20 question quiz on reading and using various types of maps.
Dozens of self-correcting quizzes covering the continents.
Timed and untimed quizzes covering Asia, Europe, South America, and the United States.
Special Purpose Maps
Examples of Special Purpose Maps
- Census Bureau Map Products Static and animated maps.
- 2010 Geographic Products and Information
- Geography Division Map Gallery
- Race and Hispanic Origin Population Density of the United States: 1990
- Land in Farms as Percent of Land Area
- Average Value of Agricultural Products Sold
- Percent Change in Number of Farms: 1987 to 1992
- Average Age of Farm Operators: 1992
- National Severe Storms Laboratory: Weather Maps
Statistics for Making Maps
Statistics from more than 100 agencies.
Expanding the Concept of Mapping
- Galaxy Zoo: An Atlas of the Universe
This web page features nine main maps, each one approximately ten times the scale of the previous. The first map begins with the nearest stars and then the other maps slowly expand until the entire visible universe is shown.
- The Whole Brain Atlas
Labeled images of normal and abnormal brain anatomy in 2D and 3D.
- Plant and Animal Cell Simulation
Interactive 3D Plant and Animal Cells Learning Simulation. Students can examine cells by dragging and dropping the cell to view it from any angle. Individual structures can be selected to view in more detail.
- Online Education Kit: Understanding the Human Genome Project
This resource provides an overview of the Human Genome Project (HGP), educational materials, recent research, and information on other organisms.