Grade 5

Interactive Maps

Knowledge Constructor


National Geographic has an interactive mapmaker website where you can use markers, lines, or shapes to tell your story on MapMaker. You can add in text, photos, and videos with their rich editing tool to customize the map.

In 5th grade social studies, students focus on an integrated study of United States History. Students can use the interactive map to show knowledge of where different native american tribes lived, the European struggle for control of North America and life in colonial America. 

Students will:

  • Be able to use the National Geographic mapmaker website. 
  • Be able to use the drawing tools. 
  • Be able to customize the map. 
  • Be able to save a customized map. 

Vocabulary Words:

  1. Basemap: A basemap is a map depicting background reference information such as landforms, roads, landmarks, and political boundaries, onto which other thematic information is placed. 
  2.  Layers: Layers generally reflect collections of objects that you add on top of the map to designate a common association. For example, you can put color-coded restaurants on one layer and coffee shops on another.

To prepare for this lesson:

See Accommodations Page and Charts on the 21things4students website in the Teacher Resources. 

Directions for this activity:

  1. The teacher will assign the students a research project or have the students use the information in their textbook. 
  2. The students will go to National Geographic Mapmaker Interactive.  
  3. The teacher will demonstrate how to use the NatGeo Mapmaker or show one of the videos from above in Pre-Planning. 
  4. The students will use either the Topo or Street Basemap for their customized map. 
  5. The students will use the drawing tools, text, etc to customize the map to demonstrate knowledge of what they have learned or researched in history class. 
  6. The students will add photos, videos, and descriptions to features on the map. Simply add a feature (a line, rectangle, circle, polygon, or marker) to the map, open the Editing Palette, and select the “Link” panel to add a title, image, video, or description. 
  7. The students will save the map by navigating to the Save icon. MapMaker will send two links to the map, one that allows you to update and edit the map at a later time and another that creates a “read-only” version that can be shared with family and friends.

Different options for assessing the students:

  • Observations
  • Check for understanding
  • Create a rubric for the map that will assess the features you would like the students to include on the map. 

MITECS: Michigan adopted the "ISTE Standards for Students" called MITECS (Michigan Integrated Technology Competencies for Students) in 2018.

Knowledge Constructor
3a. Students plan and employ effective research strategies to locate information and other resources for their intellectual or creative pursuits.
3c. Students curate information from digital resources using a variety of tools and methods to create collections of artifacts that demonstrate meaningful connections or conclusions.

Device: PC, Chromebook, Mac, iPad 

Browser: Chrome, Safari, Firefox, Edge, ALL


MapMaker Interactive Tutorial 1: Basemaps video

National Geographic Mapmaker

Overview of National Geographic's Map Maker Interactive Video


The students write a history report or create a presentation and incorporate the interactive map. 

Students can learn how to use latitude and longitude using the interactive mapmaker. 

  • The students can chart the life of different Native American tribes throughout the United States. 

  • The students can show the life of colonial America on the interactive map. 

  • The students can show the European struggle for control of North America. 

This task card was created by Melissa White, 21Things Project Manager, REMC Association of Michigan, April 2018.