Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Free to use: NatGeo Mapmaker site (great for homeschool!)

I stumbled upon a great site to use for free map making, which I use as a part of my son's homeschool when he is assigned map exercises as a part of his history/geography class.  It's NatGeo Mapmaker and it's free to use.

What I liked and what I didn't about NatGeo Mapmaker:  

We are using Switched-On Schoolhouse for 4th grade homeschool for my son and the history/geography class has him making maps several times a unit.  Their map link is, well, not as nice in comparison.  So I searched for alternatives and found the NatGeo site and fell in love with it. 
  • Dropping a marker on cities is as easy as drag and drop.
  • Zoom in to get better definition for specific areas of the map.  This was very useful in showing my son that Turkey is the crossroads of East meets West, literally.  On one side is Europe and the other is Asia.  This was also useful in zooming in for waterways such as the Suez Canal, Straits of Gibraltar, etc.
  • Notes on the zoomed in portions --- he was able to read right on the map that Crimea was experiencing, shall we say, some unwanted attention from the Russians.
  • Different markers such as mountain ranges, pigs, houses, schoolhouses, etc. that you can use to customize.  The selection could be better, but maybe that's something they would expand in the future.  I would like to see more animals (so I could drop a sheep on Australia to help me remember it's known for sheep, for instance).
  • Poly lines means you can draw a line between two points.  It will even calculate distance.
  • There are many overlays that you can use on your map.  You can overlay climate detail, plate tectonics and more.  
  • Save your map to the their server.  It will also email it to you.  However, I would recommend printing out or otherwise saving your map if you need or want to keep it.
  • The map is great for kids who love technology and like hands-on learning.  I can tell you that my son would check out if I made him take out a box of Crayola to color a blah looking map.  However, he loves to use the tools and mark the cities, seas, etc. with markers and I think he really gets the idea of regions of the world because he has to scroll around to move from one area to another.
Have you tried it?  Even if you don't homeschool, this site could be a great resource for parents looking to supplement on their own or for those who need a map for a school project.
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