Yes . . . Your Class Does Need a 12 x 8 foot Map (And Online Interactives)

Photo of National Geographic maps

(Image credit: Glen Wiebe)

Right after my two dream jobs of working at the Library of Congress and the Smithsonian Museum of American History, I’m planning to pop over to National Geographic for a few years. We’ve been connected at the hip since I was in 5th grade and first discovered their amazing graphics and maps.

So I’m sure they’d love to hire me to help out a bit around the office.

Until then, I’ll just be happy playing with some of their very cool toys. This includes, of course, their powerful MapMaker Interactive digital tool.

But it also includes their MapMaker Kits:

“MapMaker Kits offer K-12 students the opportunity to work with key mapping concepts at a variety of scales and to see the world in new ways. Unique large-scale maps allow students to immerse themselves in the exploration of dynamic environmental and cultural aspects of the world. Kits engage students in the manipulation and analysis of a variety of geographic information sets, helping them build skills in critical thinking, the representation of data, and mental mapping. Each kit enables the user to download, print, and assemble maps of the world, individual continents, and the United States in a variety of sizes.”

And when they say a variety of sizes, they mean anything from a single sheet, to a larger tabletop size, to mega maps that take up a whole wall. Seriously. How cool is that?

You can find state maps, maps of continents, hemispheres, geographic regions – all perfect for introducing and reinforcing geography and maps skills. The one page versions are perfect for having individual kids customize – both digitally or with colored pencils – specific regions and places. Give a group of elementary kids the tabletop version and ask them to piece it together correctly as an introductory hook activity.

The mega maps? With up to 136 printed pages, you could have different groups piece together different parts of the world and then combine their work for the full size version.

Kansas Tabletop Map

(Image credit: Glen Wiebe)

The Kits go beyond just basic maps to include activities such as Guess The Place. Using questions and maps, students work to identify the name of a city, state, country, or major physical feature in a continent of your choosing, or the United States. There are activities that ask kids to connect rivers and other bodies of water to population areas. Activities that help kids see relationships between language and place, population density, energy use, UNESCO world heritage sites, weather, and both human and animal migration.

You’re able to filter the many different Kits by keyword, type of activity, and content area.

(Image credit: Glen Wiebe)

(Image credit: Glen Wiebe)

You can go directly to the MapMaker Kits page but be sure to make a stop at the Nat Geo Mapping Resources page to find the MapMaker Interactive and other handy tools.

If you’re planning on the mega maps, and why wouldn’t you, this mega map printing tutorial will come in handy.

cross posted at

Glenn Wiebe is an education and technology consultant with 15 years' experience teaching history and social studies. He is a curriculum consultant for ESSDACK, an educational service center in Hutchinson, Kansas, blogs frequently at History Tech and maintains Social Studies Central, a repository of resources targeted at K-12 educators. Visit to learn more about his speaking and presentation on education technology, innovative instruction and social studies.