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National Geography Standards

Standard 1: How to use maps and other geographic representations, tools, and technologies to acquire, process, and report information from a spatial perspective

Standard 2: How to use mental maps to organize information about people, places and environments in a spatial context

Our lives are filled with destinations, whether it is a jaunt to a fast food restaurant or a trip to a favorite vacation spot. In each case, we need to know the directions. Sometimes we simply know how to go from point A to point B, other times we have to study maps. Think about how you give directions for navigating to your house. Do you say turn east, west, north, or south on such and such a street; or do you say left or right? Do you provide landmarks like turn east just after McDonalds or if you pass the fire station you have gone too far? If the landmarks were not there, would people be able to find the street or your house? When you have been given directions, have you ever gotten lost? How many times did you have to stop before someone could give you more precise instructions? We know that understanding how to read different kinds of maps, plot routes between two points, and interpret the data in a concise manner are important concepts for students to learn. Where on the Web can we find tools to help us? Let CyberBee show you the way.



Find facts, figures, and statistical data on geography, people, history, and economy in the Countries from A to Z section. Maps of the World serves as a quick reference to full-color physical and political maps organized by regions. A nice linking feature allows you to toggle between the physical and political maps


 it offers over 1 million free topographic maps for points of interest in the United States. Hikers and campers can search for nearby water, land and man made points of interests to explore. Anyone can also search these points of interest by name or geo-location in addition to viewing images and maps.

Color Landform Atlas of the United States

The Color Landform Atlas of the United States supplies a topographic, satellite, county outline, and postscript map for every state. An 1895 Rand McNally Atlas provides maps for states during that time period. On the 1895 maps, railroads are shown instead of roads because rails were the primary mode of transportation. States are listed alphabetically on the main page. The ease of use will appeal to students.

Flags and Maps of the World

From the CIA World Fact Book, this easy-to-use site is perfect for students. Choose a flag or map, then the country. A large color flag and map are returned, ready to print for a report.

How Far Is It?

This service uses data from the U.S. Census and a supplementary list of cities around the world to find the latitude and longitude of two places and then calculates the distance between them (as the crow flies). It also provides a map showing the two locations, using the Xerox PARC Map Server.

Map Machine—National Geographic

Locate broad geographical areas with this sophisticated interface. Political/satellite maps are returned. You can print, save, or e-mail the images.

Map Generators

Google Maps
Yahoo! Maps

Are you looking for a map that you can use on your school Web page, driving directions to the amusement park, or a place to save maps you find? Several sites allow you to create, save, e-mail, and link to maps. MapBlast has a cool feature where you can select icons to represent places you designate by clicking on the map. Expedia provides an overview of the region on the same page. MapQuest appears to have the most up-to-date mapping system for new roads. Yahoo! utilizes MapQuest, but has its own easy-to-use interface. While these map services are great tools for finding places, you need to keep in mind that the maps are not totally accurate.

Historical Maps

American Memory Map Collections

Seven categories of maps from 1597 to 1988 are presented in this amazing collection. Categories include cities and towns, immigration and settlement, conservation and environment, military battles and campaigns, discovery and exploration, and transportation and communication. Specially designed software from Lizard Tech allows you spectacular zooming capabilities.

Cultural Maps—University of Virginia

Color-coded U.S. Territorial Maps show the progression of Westward expansion from 1775 to 1920. For example, on the 1775 map, the original 13 Colonies, other British territories, and foreign claims are shown. From 1790 to 1920, maps are available in 10-year increments. Exploring the West from Monticello: A Perspective in Maps from Columbus to Lewis and Clark is another presentation from a special exhibition at the Alderman Library, University of Virginia. Discover and learn about the travels of Lewis and Clark and the need for accurate mapping of the American West.

Hargrett Library Rare Map Collection

Over 800 historic maps make up this collection that is not limited to, but emphasizes the state of Georgia and the surrounding region. The collection spans nearly 500 years, from the 16th century through the early 20th century. New World maps reflect how cartographers imagined the land from the perspective of the early explorations of the Eastern coastline, as well as more mature images from expeditions further inland. Other sections cover Revolutionary America, Revolutionary Georgia, Union & Expansion, American Civil War, Frontier to New South, Savannah and the Coast, and Transportation.

Perry-Castaneda Library Map Collection

Hundreds of maps are available from the University of Texas at Austin, which houses the Perry-Castaneda Library (PCL) collection, a good source for contemporary and historical material. Since the PCL maps have no copyright, they can be downloaded and used for school projects.


Getty Thesaurus of Geographic Names

Search for nations, cities, villages, and physical features such as mountains and rivers. Information about the place includes latitude and longitude, a notation about the origin, and physical characteristics of the region, statistical data, and a bibliography of sources.

U.S. Gazetteer

This Gazetteer can be searched using name and state abbreviation or 5-digit ZIP code. Once you have looked up the place name, you can view a map and customize it using a wealth of options related to 1990 census data.

USGS Geographic Name Server

A variety of geographic features can be queried on the USGS database. Features range from airports to cities to steams. Detailed information such as elevation, population, description, and history notes about the feature is displayed. Clicking on the Show Feature Location reference will result in the generation of a zoomable map pinpointing the feature’s geographic location. This is a very slick database with lots of help menus to assist you in your search.


Mathematics of Cartography

What exactly is a map? What is the history of mapmaking? What mathematics do you use with maps? These questions and more are answered. Excellent map problems test the skills of young mathematicians in I’ve Gotta Get Out of This Place and The Three Evil Dictators. In addition, there is a wonderful chronology about the history of mapmaking.

Teaching with Historic Places

Imagine trekking in the footsteps of pioneers, visiting historic places like Clara Barton’s house, or planning a virtual trip to roadside attractions while learning about geography. Teaching with Historic Places suggests many engaging activities to do with students. It is one of the best sites on the Web for ideas about integrating geography into the curriculum.

On the Road with Students

On the Road with your students might involve a map activity in which students think about the route they take to school and map it by drawing the streets, labeling them, and marking any important landmarks. They might hypothesize the actual distance by measuring their stride and counting the number of steps it takes them to go down one block and multiplying that by the number of blocks they walk to school. The entire class could walk and measure a school block. If that is not possible they could research the approximate length of an average block. Another activity might involve students determining how fast they walk by dividing distance by time to get their walking rate. (r=d/t)

Students who ride the bus can map out the bus route as well as the route their parents take when driving them to school. This would make a good comparison of time in a car verses time on a bus. Is there a major time discrepancy? Which is faster?

After they have mapped out their route indicating north, south, east and west with specific directions of how to travel from home to school, have students compare it with one suggested on MapQuest or another mapping Web site. Distance and time can also be compared when walking or riding the bus. Students may write about what variables, such as topography, cause their times to differ. Descriptive writing of their journey to school through the seasons may produce thoughtful prose.

By hanging a large map of the neighborhood in the classroom, students can find their home and pin small flags on the spot. Then, hang a city map and mark the locations again. This can be extended to state, country, and world maps. This exercise will help students in conceptualizing exactly where they are in the world and perhaps in thinking of the journeys all children take every day.

Build a foundation of knowledge with latitude and longitude concepts. Then, read about GPS and tap into some great lessons.

Originally Published Nov/Dec 2000

Updated March 14, 2015
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