If you know that you want to use maps in your classroom, your next step is finding them. A social studies textbook takes a teacher only so far, while the World Wide Web has a wealth of great sites that puts literally millions of maps at your students’ fingertips. You may want to begin by teaching your students some basic map-reading skills, especially when working with elementary school students. ABC Teach has online lessons for kids to learn about orientation, longitude and latitude, and reading road directions. Another great resource for free lesson plans is Rand McNally -- the same people who make the atlases you keep in your car also have an Educator section of their Web site with free lesson plans, worksheets, games, and map outlines. If you are looking for a more extensive collection of map outlines to print for your class, try OutlineMaps; they have printable PDF files for your use.
Google Earth is an excellent online source for students studying geography.
World Geography studies usually begin with Google Earth, a program that provides satellite images of anywhere in the world. This program is a must for any computer lab—not only can students zoom in to view any country they want, they can study places of interests, mark cities and capitols, and overlay other maps for comparison. National Geographic also provides a wonderful collection of world maps of all types, including weather maps, trail maps, historical maps, and atlases. The United Nations Cartographic Section has detailed PDF files of every country for printing and use in the classroom, as well as maps of current missions and areas of strife for cultural studies. If you need more detailed information about current borders, populations, economies, and demographics, try the CIA World Factbook. This site is constantly updated with the most current information about everything from agriculture to birth rates.
American Studies has its own myriad map collections aside from those already named. The Census Bureau provides not only the latest census data, but links to other databases for information on American populations and the economy. The Library of Congress has a collection of maps related to major U.S. historical events, such as the Revolutionary War and the Civil Rights movement. The University of Virginia Collection of American Maps has thousands of maps to look through from all historical perspectives, as well as a portal to other map databases which may be of interest. Perhaps one of the largest collection of American historical maps is located in the David Rumsey Collection. The Collection has been digitizing maps since 1997 and now has nearly 19,000 maps online. And of course, the North Carolina Maps collection boasts its own large number of digitized maps, sorted by date, type, category, subject, and location.
While looking for maps to teach, you can find some wacky and fun databases for your students to peruse. Did you know that in a tiny corner of Michigan, over 1,000 people speak Urdu? The MLA Languages Map allows viewers to see the populations of speakers of over two dozen languages separated by county on the U.S. map. The New York City Transit System has an entire collection of subway maps that show how the trains ran from the early 1900s until now. And if you are in the mood for some French fries, Fast Food Maps shows every location of every major fast food chain in America. So no matter what type of map you are looking for, you are sure to find it online!