Next week is Geography Awareness Week. As a social studies teacher I think every week should be Geography Awareness Week, but I digress. Looking at maps is fine, making maps is better. Here are five map creation activities that your students can do to increase their understanding of geography.
1. Create a map of a memories.
This is an idea that I got many years ago from my friend Jim Wells. Jim had his students write short stories of happy memories then place those stories on a map. Today, you can have students do this on Google Maps or Scribble Maps. This activity can help students see the significance of place in the formation of memories.
You can even have your whole class contribute to one map by having them enter their stories in a Google Form then using the corresponding spreadsheet to create a Google Maps of stories. A video on how to do that is embedded below.
2. How many Manchesters?
This is a modification of an activity that I did as an elementary school student in the 1980’s. I grew up in Manchester, Connecticut. My teacher had us use atlases to see how many other Manchesters there are in the world. Then we had to write a short blurb about each Manchester.
The modern version of this activity is to have students choose a common town name like Manchester and use Google Maps to find out how many towns in the world have that name. Then on their Google Maps or Scribble Maps students can add placemarks in which they write about interesting things about those towns. Students can add videos and images to their placemarks too.
3. Create interactive map games.
GeoGuessr is an addictive geography game that has players guess where in the world a Google Street View image was taken. Players guesses should be based on the clues they discern from the images. You can create your own GeoGuessr game by using GeoSettr. When you visit GeoSettr you’ll see two screens. A map with a Pegman on your left and the Street View imagery for the Pegman’s current location on your right. Move the Pegman around, zoom-in if you like, until you find the location that you want people to guess. When you’ve found the right location click “set round” to save the location. When you’ve set five rounds (locations) your game is assigned a URL that you can distribute.
Mission Map Quest, developed by Russel Tarr, is a map-based tool for creating virtual treasure hunts. The concept is simple, you create a series of clues that players need to follow to identify places around the world. You can add as few or as many clues to your Map Quest as you like. When you’re ready to have people try your Quest just give them the web address of the challenge or have them scan the QR code assigned to your Quest.
4. Who lives there?
This is an activity in which students pick a region of the world and you provide them with a list of animals that live there. Then students use digital maps like those found on National Geographic’s Map Maker Interactive to determine the aspects of the physical geography that are conducive to supporting those animals.
5. What was there?
In this activity students create maps that feature historical imagery. Students pick a location, it could be their town, and then search online for images of what that location looked like in the past. Students then place those historical image into placemarks on their maps. Take a look at HistoryPin for some inspiration on this activity.