Last Updated: 5/2/2012

Teacher-created, classroom-tested lesson plans using primary sources from the Library of Congress. Lessons cover a variety of topics, including American History, Discovery and Exploration, Government, Law & Politics, Poetry & Literature, Sciencs & Technology, and Sports. On this wiki page, we focus in particular on the lessons pertaining to Maps & Geography.

Each lesson includes an overview, preparation materials, lesson procedures, and evaluation guidelines.

Maps & Geography Lessons


  • Drake's West Indian Voyage 1588-1589, Students will investigate a series of maps depicting a voyage by Sir Francis Drake which involved attacks on the Spanish settlements off the coast of Africa (Santiago), Caribbean (Santo Domingo), South America (Cartagena), and North America (St. Augustine). Students will then examine a map of the entire voyage. Students will look closely at the details of each of these depictions and draw conclusions about the individual events as well as the entire voyage. (Grade 3-8)
  • Geography and Its Impact on Colonial Life, European settlement patterns were influenced by geographic conditions such as access to water, harbors, natural protection, arable land, natural resources and adequate growing season and rainfall. Examine a variety of primary sources to determine why colonists were drawn to a particular region of the country. (Grade 6-8)
  • Journeys West, What motivated thousands of people to journey west during the 1800s? Was it the prospect of land ownership advertised on a broadside tacked to a tree that convinced a family to pack up all their belongings and travel across a continent in search of a better life? Or was it a letter from a friend announcing their good fortune of striking gold in California. (Grade 6-12)
  • Local History: Mapping My Spot, Students create their town’s history for coming generations and place themselves on the map in a literal as well as figurative sense, by producing portions of an updated version of an early twentieth century panoramic map from the American Memory collections. To complete this project, they gather information from a variety of primary sources, including the early twentieth century map, photographs, drawings, and site visits. Each student contributes to the revised map by creating a contemporary map of her or his block. (Grade 3-8)
  • Marco Paul's Travels on the Erie Canal: An Educational Voyage, In Jacob Abbott's book, Marco Paul's Travels on the Erie Canal, Marco's cousin Forester explains to Marco that there are two “modes of acquiring knowledge” -- through books and through observation. Students obtain more complete and meaningful understanding of a topic when provided with experiences that use both primary and secondary sources. Join Marco on his educational voyage in the 1840s, experiencing the Erie Canal and "lessons in life" firsthand. (Grade 3-8)
  • Mark Twain's Hannibal, Writers are influenced by their environment including their family, community, lifestyle, or location. One such writer was Mark Twain. In this project the learner will become familiar with and analyze life around Hannibal, Missouri, during the latter half of the nineteenth century using various resources to determine what effects this location had on the writings of Mark Twain. The curriculum context will be within a Lesson on Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Segments of this lesson might also be integrated into a study of Twain's The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. The lessons could be presented with introductory material prior to reading The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn or integrated while reading the novel. Even though these activities center on Mark Twain and his writings, they could easily be adapted to almost any author and his environment. (Grade 6-12)
  • Waldseemüller's Map: World 1507, The 1507 World Map by Martin Waldseemüller is one of the world’s most important maps. For the first time, this map labels America and shows the continent as a separate land mass. It is often referred to as America’s Birth Certificate. Students will investigate this map by looking closely at the details of each section of the map and then draw conclusions on the revelation of this new and unusual world to the people of 1507. (Grade 3-8)

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