LEARN NC was a program of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Education from 1997 – 2013. It provided lesson plans, professional development, and innovative web resources to support teachers, build community, and improve K-12 education in North Carolina. Learn NC is no longer supported by the School of Education – this is a historical archive of their website.

Can’t find that link you were looking for? Here are all the linked maps and teaching resources I’ve referred to in this module.

Your basic maps

Maps from LEARN NC
We have more than 200 maps in our collection, including historical maps, country maps, and maps showing economic or demographic trends.
Perry-Castañeda Map Collection
From the University of Texas-Austin Libraries, this collection includes hundreds of maps from around the world, including many historical maps. All are free, and most are in the public domain.
The National Map
The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) offers several mapping products including historical topographical maps.

Topographical maps

USGS Education resources
Maps, map tools, sources of data, satellite images, and history from the U.S. Geological Survey.
Topographical maps from the USGS
The U.S. Geological Survey presents high-quality topographical maps with satellite imagery. Still in development, but detailed maps of North Carolina are scheduled to be made available in 2010.
Contouring and Topo Maps
An activity for upper elementary students introduces them to the mathematical concepts behind contour maps and topographical maps. From NASA’s PUMAS (Practical Uses of Math and Science) journal.

Google Maps in the classroom

Bus routes and Google Maps help teach physics
Students use Google Maps to explore speed, velocity and displacement and to brush up on unit conversion skills.
A railroad timetable (LEARN NC)
To explore transportation in antebellum North Carolina, students explore an 1859 railroad timetable for the Wilmington and Weldon Railroad. The stops along the route are mapped for them in Google Maps, so that they can see where the stations are and use Google’s tools to calculate driving and walking distance today. Finally, students compare the 1859 timetable with a present-day Amtrak timetable.
Mapping rumors of Nat Turner’s Rebellion (LEARN NC)

In August 1831, a man named Nat Turner led an uprising of slaves in Southampton, Virginia, that resulted in the deaths of fifty-five whites and hundreds of blacks. In the weeks that followed, the fear of further slave insurrections spread across eastern North Carolina. Newspapers reported rumors as fact. White militias and mobs hunted down African Americans believed to be involved in insurrection plots and arrested or murdered them.

In this activity, students read a background essay about Nat Turner, then explore primary sources — newspapers, letters, and diaries — that show white reactions to the event in North Carolina. They begin with a map (drawn in Google Maps) that plots the location of each event and primary source. As they read the sources, they can see how rumors spread.

Google Earth in the classroom

Who has seen the wind? Harnessing alternative energy (LEARN NC)
In this lesson plan for AP Earth & Environmental Science, students conduct a series of investigations in order to understand issues surrounding the production of energy from wind, informed by the video “Roping the Wind in Texas” on the Powering a Nation website. Activities include discussing a video about the siting of a wind farm in Texas; conducting calculations based on local wind data; and using Google Earth, windNavigator software, and hands-on investigations to assess the potential for producing wind energy in the students’ local area.
San Francisco: visualizing a safer city
Students use Google Earth to carry out a planning exercise to make San Francisco safer during major earthquakes. This is, obviously, going to be of greatest interest if you’re living along a fault line, but because it models the real-world process of public planning and decision-making, it’s a great model of instructional technology.
Teaching about depressions with Google Earth
Uses the weather layer in Google Earth to illustrate the relationship between air masses and the weather. A very British lesson plan, but it could easily be adapted.
Teaching sphere of influence with Google Earth
The author uses drawing tools in Google Earth to show how far she’s willing to travel for particular goods and services and spark discussion about convenience and comparison shopping and economic concepts.
Around the world in multimedia (LEARN NC)
LEARN NC has a number of lesson plans that incorporate photographs and audio from Asia and South America. In several of these, listed here, students use Google Earth to gain familiarity with the regions they’re studying.

Mapmaking and cartography

Cartography Concepts: A Student’s Guide to Mapmaking
Developed as part of a Smithsonian exhibition on the Lewis and Clark expedition, this page by Ralph Ehrenberg explains how explorers and cartographers go about making maps.
Where Am I? Mapping a New World (LEARN NC)
Early European travelers to the Americas reported bits and pieces of information back to Europe. Over the centuries, mapmakers assembled these reports into maps. As time went by, explorers and mapmakers compiled an increasingly accurate understanding of the Americas and of the world. To do so, they had to invent new tools for mapmaking, embrace radical new ideas about the shape of the world, and discard cherished beliefs.

Understanding projections

Cartographical Map Projections
Cartographers have many ways of representing or projecting the earth’s surface in two dimensions. This site introduces you to the ideas behind map projections, then (if you’re interested) takes you into the mathematics of them.
Make your own globe
An explanation with diagrams of two ways to simulate mapping the globe: by taping paper to the surface of a ball, and by peeling an orange.
Satellite projections from NASA
NASA has available satellite imagery of the Earth in dozens of projections.
Choosing projections
Website from the U.S. Geological Survey explains how various projections are made and how to choose the best projection for a given situation.

Historical maps

Making Sense of Maps
Written by David Stephens, this guide offers an overview of the history of maps and how historians use them, a breakdown of the elements of a map, tips on what questions to ask when analyzing maps.
World History Sources: Maps
Questions for students provide a framework for analyzing historical maps as primary sources.
Mapping the Great Wagon Road (LEARN NC)
The Great Wagon Road took eighteenth-century colonists from Philadelphia west into the Appalachian mountains and south into the North Carolina Piedmont. This page describes the route and its history and combines two maps: a hand-drawn map from 1751, and a Google map showing present-day cities and highways. Students see that the Great Wagon Road has essentially become I-81. Teachers can follow this with an excerpt from a 1753 diary of Moravians journeying from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, to Salem, North Carolina.

Mapping population and demographics

Mapping a Changing North Carolina (LEARN NC)
The maps in this slideshow, drawn from U.S. Census data, show how various aspects of North Carolina’s population have changed over time and vary from place to place. The accompanying activity walks students through the maps, explaining demographic concepts and the nature of census data, and guides them to analyze the maps and the data they present.
North Carolina agriculture, 1860-2007 (LEARN NC)
These maps show changes in North Carolina’s agriculture from the eve of the Civil War in 1860 to the present. In them, you can see three major changes over the past 150 years: New technology and increased production, the growth of professional farming, and concentration in agriculture.
North Carolina Elections, 1960-2010 (LEARN NC)
Maps of North Carolina show county-by-county election results for president, governor, and U.S. Senate from 1960 to 2008, showing how party affiliation and voting patterns have varied by region and changed over time.

Mapping scientific data

Hurricane Floyd: Mapping rainfall and flooding
Students use maps, animations, and rainfall data to measure the impact of Hurricane Floyd in September 1999. Resources on surrounding pages provide scientific background about hurricanes and flooding along with personal perspectives of survivors.

Beyond cartography: Other kinds of (and uses for) maps

Information Aesthetics
Website highlights innovations in visual representations of information and skewers particularly bad examples of “infographics” from newspapers, magazines, and the web.
Cartograms
Mark Newman, a physicist at the University of Michigan’s Center for the Study of Complex Systems, developed computer algorithms to draw cartograms, maps in which boundaries are redrawn to make each region’s area to redraw maps so that each region’s size is based not on geographic area but on some other variable. Newman’s website shows cartograms of U.S. presidential election results from 2004 and 2008.
Frank Jacobs’ Strange Maps
Blog highlights… well, strange maps, showing anything from the “secret [public] spaces of San Francisco” to ludicrously inaccurate historical maps of colonial New York. Some are educational; many are inspirational; all will get you thinking.
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