Using Nat Geo’s MapMaker in Ancient Civilizations

My mission this year is to develop a GIS project for my IB Information Technology in a Global Society class (11th Graders).  While researching this I came across National Geographic’s amazing Map maker.  This is a great tool that I decided to use in my 7th Grader’s Ancient Civilizations classes.  This is a great way to get students making simple special purpose maps.

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After a brief lesson where we explored different  I had them choose a country in Africa and create 3 different maps.  The great thing about NatGeo’s mapmaker is that has simple layers built-in that students can turn on and adjust.  The layers cover the.   Because this is an Ancient Civilizations class, and we are currently studying prehistory I choose to concentrate on Africa, the birthplace of Mankind.  I also required them to do a climate map, and an earth systems map, and then a third map of their own choice.  Then they had to explain each map key and write a paragraph summarizing what each map showed. (We are using google classroom so pasting the maps into a doc made this a very easy process).

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Precipitation and Rainfall Layer

For simplicity’s sake I required students to center their maps on a current country. Each student did a different country and therefore we covered most of the continent. Using CoCountriess our regional focus also led to a good discussion on how borders and what exactly defines a country. Some students chose to do layers that only had country data leading to maps that really didn’t say anything useful. For example the crop layer only show’s countries that produce crops so all of Egypt is colored even though the students already know most of it is desert.  This also lead to a great class discussion on how data is collected.

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Land Cover of Ethiopia

I am looking forward to incorporating more map exercises all year in this course.  Here are a few links that I am using to generate ideas.

ESRI’s teacher training course.   Which I found courtesy of the American Association of Geographers (AAG)’s excellent resource page for teaching geography.  Edutopia also has a great round up of ideas for student mapping.




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