Category Archives: maps

Increasing student engagement through place-based education: The Flint Hills Maps & Education program

Guest Post: This month we have a guest post from Anne Wilson, Map Program Coordinator for the Flint Hills Map and Education Program.


As teachers, we often hear students lament:  “What does this have to do with me?”  We know if our kids believe an idea actually affects them, it all of a sudden really matters.  However, actually relating learning to students’ own lives and local environment takes time and background knowledge we don’t always have.

Now a grass-roots team of teachers in the Flint Hills region has developed a new “place-based education” program – designed to connect learning to students’ own heritage, culture, landscapes, ecology, economy, and experiences as a foundation for the study of core subjects.

How important is place?  Bio-regionalist author Wendell Berry writes, “If you don’t know where you are, you don’t know who you are.” Many of our students think they’re from nowhere.  They are connected to everywhere but where they are.  This program gives them the gift of pride, understanding and commitment to their place.

The bonus is: Continue reading Increasing student engagement through place-based education: The Flint Hills Maps & Education program

Literally #FindYourPark with free maps!

nps park mapOn August 26, the National Park Service celebrated its 100th anniversary and as one part of the celebration, we’re asking you to “Find Your Park”. The NPS now has over 400 sites across the nation that offer something for everyone. If you like mountains, the beach, or history, we’ve got a site for you.

There are more than 84 million acres across the U.S., at sites as diverse as national monuments, Civil War battlefields, and historic sites. There’s a big range in size among NPS sites, too: The biggest is Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve in Alaska, at 13.2 million acres, while the smallest is Thaddeus Kosciuszko National Memorial in Pennsylvania, at 0.02 acre. These sites attract more than 300 million visitors every year.

Shelton Johnson, a park ranger at Yosemite National Park and published author, shared his thoughts on this important milestone: Continue reading Literally #FindYourPark with free maps!

Maps as digital storytelling tools

map of world6

I love maps.

Seriously. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t love maps.

I spent countless hours during my growing up summers in the cool basement, browsing through boxes of old National Geographic magazines – searching for and studying their wonderful maps. And even today, the monthly arrival of the National Geo mag means nothing gets done until I flip through all the pages checking for those very cool inserted maps. We have more than a few old geography textbooks in my house. Atlases. Gazetteers. Boxes of state maps collected during trips. Folded city maps.

When I left one particular school district, I even took the pull-down maps with me because I knew they were being replaced over the summer and would get thrown out. (That’s just between you and me, of course.)

So today when I ran across the book titled A Map of the World: The World According to Illustrators and Storytellers, my to-do list got pushed to the back burner. It’s a very cool book that captures a wide variety of map styles and tells a powerful story about how people view the world: Continue reading Maps as digital storytelling tools

USGS historical topo maps

map explorer

Maps are so cool. Historical maps are way more cooler. And online historical maps are even way more cooler. (I like saying way more cooler cause it makes me feel like a rebel.)

A couple of months ago on the helpful GoogleMapsMania site, I ran across a way cool tool created by the United States Geological Survey. This is the group that, among other things, is responsible for creating topographic maps.

The cool tool that the USGS has created is called USGS Historical Topographic Map Explorer.

Basically, you do a map search with a Google Maps-like interface, click on a specific place on the resulting map, and the Historical Topographic Map Explorer will provide a timeline with topo maps from the past.

You can then select maps from Continue reading USGS historical topo maps

Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database

slavery databaseHaving students internalize historical events is a task I try to achieve in my high school Geography and World History classrooms almost every lesson. This is a difficult mission, but it does not prevent me from asking myself, “How can I make this topic personal for students?”

This is the same question I pondered when developing lessons about the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. Yes, students arrive to me with prior knowledge about the subject, but their familiarity with the topic is only surface-deep. I have learned that investigating history from the bottom-up has made my students more attuned into the field of history.

Therefore, the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database has made the grassroots of this theme come alive in my classroom. The immense about of information compiled in this database is astounding and truly makes my students appreciate the subject. There are maps that illustrate where the 12.5 million slaves were embarked and disembarked, but what catches my students’ interest the most is the “African Names Database”, which houses 91,491 names of Africans who were enslaved. Not only are their names provided, but also their age, height, sex, name of the ship they were transported on, and where they were embarked/disembarked.

By clicking on the “Voyage ID” for each African listed, you can even see more information about the ship, such as its tonnage and the name of the captain! This is a treasure-trove of information that makes the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade relevant to students.

The site even offers lesson-plans for teachers, who may want to know how to incorporate this information into the classroom effectively. The slave-trade may have ended over a century ago, but this database helps students realize the significance of this event.