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If it was legal in Kansas, I would marry a map

I love maps.

Seriously love maps. My latest purchase is a 1941 Collier’s World Atlas and Gazetteer. Three hundred and thirty-five pages of maps, statistics, articles, and geographic data. Sweet.

And really, aren’t maps some of the coolest things that history teachers get to mess with? The answer is yup. But I think we sometimes forget how powerful and useful a map can be. Geography and place often is pushed to the side in our history and social studies instruction. Perhaps it’s because we just don’t have a strong geography background or we don’t think we have the time / resources to focus on it. But we really don’t have an excuse anymore.

The newly approved  Kansas state social studies standards are focused on five Big Ideas. The fifth one?

  • Relationships among people, places, ideas, and environments are dynamic.

There are some benchmarks underneath that:

  • The student will recognize and evaluate dynamic relationships that impact lives in communities, states, and nations.
  • The student will analyze the context of significant relationships and draw conclusions about a contemporary world.
  • The student will investigate the relationship among people, places, ideas, and/or the environment and connect those relationships to contemporary issues.

We’ve had geography standards in the past. But they were boring. And not very helpful. I think these sorts of benchmarks provide some specific guidance. It’s not okay to have kids memorize the major rivers and bodies of water any more. They need to recognize, evaluate, analyze and investigate. And when they’re finished with that? They create a product:

  • The student will use his/her understanding of these dynamic relationships to create a personal, community, state, and/or national narrative.

The 1941 Gazetteer has seventeen pages of European maps. Three of African. How about we start with that question as a hook activity?

Why would a 1941 collection of maps be so out of proportion in terms of the number of maps included when Africa is three times larger than Europe?


We can come up with all sorts of other questions:

Can we predict what a 2013 collection would contain? Does it matter when and where a collection is published? Does it matter if the collection is a print document or a digital document? What should a modern collection of maps contain? Are maps “fair?” Do maps lie? Do maps help people or hurt people?

Need a few more ideas? Resources? Try some of these. And start developing your own set of questions.

(Yeah, uh . . . Maura, kidding about that marrying a map thing. Just trying to make a point. We’re still good.)

4 Comments Post a comment
  1. Are you sure it’s not illegal?

    Anyways, I thought this site looked promising:

    April 26, 2013
    • glennw #


      There’s a lot of stuff in Kansas that’s illegal! 😉

      Thanks for the link – looks great.


      April 26, 2013

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