Brooklyn connections is the education and learning outreach regimen in the Brooklyn Collection. It focuses on cultivating 21st Century learning an abilities in students and also supporting teachers on the organization of archives materials into curricula. This blog article is part of a collection from the Brooklyn relationships team, sharing skills and concepts for making use of archives primary source material in the classroom.

With Google Maps obtainable at the touch of a finger, college student are more familiar than ever with using maps to get around. Experimenting the ways we have the right to use maps together informational messages leads to great classroom conversations about what these files teach us around history.

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For an task with historic maps, you’ll desire to spend a little bit of time thinking around what you would prefer your student to find out about. Windy transit maps space a good starting point to research transportation. Demography maps deserve to tie into curriculum about immigration. We watch the means neighborhoods adjust over time through contrasting 2 (or more) street maps that the same geographic area. It’s additionally a good idea to find a map with a key, and to have duplicates of the vital available because that students.

Our maps at the Brooklyn arsenal are obtainable for you to browse throughout our open hours. Friend can likewise go virtual to discover digitized maps indigenous the Library that Congress, the brand-new York heritage Digital Collections, Brooklyn historical Society, new York publicly Library, and also many other social heritage institutions.


Start off through a conversation: ask student if castle have ever used a map and what they have used that for. Discuss feasible uses such as: finding her way, navigating publicly transit, locating yourself if you room lost, and any other concepts the college student suggest.

Talk about the difference between a map and an atlas. We choose to explain it this way: a map often shows a vast overview; we talk around what “birds-eye view” means, and also discuss exactly how a map might not show all the details yet can offer us a large picture. Through contrast, an atlas is a publication of maps that could each emphasis on smaller areas and may show an ext detail on each page.

One way to highlight this distinction is through zooming in top top Google Maps, i m sorry acts below as both a map and an atlas. Once we show all of new York City, we watch something the looks comparable to various other maps we could find – choose an MTA map.


As us zoom in ~ above Google Maps come a borough, and also then a neighborhood, and also finally the blocks approximately a school, we view something much more similar come an atlas page. This close-up check out no longer provides us the large picture, yet it gives a lot of details.


Ask college student to make observations about what they view on these Google maps. Are there any type of symbols that stand the end to them? any landmarks or names they are familiar with? questioning students how they would determine what the miscellaneous symbols on the map mean. Students could be invite to do a vital to explain colors or icons they view on Google Maps.

Now it’s time to look at your historic map – or maps, if you’ve selected more than one. In ~ this point, it have the right to work well to have actually students work-related through a graphics organizer the asks them come make specific observations around the map. I like to print off reproductions that maps because that students to job-related with either separately or with a partner. Having their very own copy the a primary source gives college student a means to communicate with historic papers in a really tangible and exciting way.

If my goal is to provide students a general overview of how maps are advantageous for researching history, i often select a map or atlas page that depicts one area about their school or one more familiar landmark. Because that this example, i have selected an atlas page about a middle school in Park Slope:

“Plate 31.” desk Atlas the Brooklyn, City of new York, Volume 1. New York: E. Belcher Hyde Map Co, Inc., 1929.

Students can look at their map and answer questions that ask castle to do observations around street names and also building names, or that ask them come look for any kind of familiar structures or landmarks. They have the right to work with a an essential to determine what few of the icons or color on the map mean. I favor to begin with simple questions: What room the surname of three highways you view on her map? What color are most of the buildings on your map? What does that color mean?

For the objectives of exploring how maps show us transforms over history, it’s a an excellent idea to compare historic and present job maps. We deserve to look in ~ the same area as over on a modern map (in this case, Google Maps) and also ask the same questions about making observations and identifying landmarks.

Google map see of southern Park Slope.

This map mirrors us numerous of the exact same streets. It also shows different and changed features Students have the right to be invited to do observations about the differences, and from there produce a perform of questions around why these distinctions have occurred.

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A good way to wrap up this activity is v a conversation around what the map has taught us regarding a historic event or place, and also what a map cannot tell us. What questions carry out we have after exploring historic maps, and where can we walk to find the answers?

Outcomes and also Assessment

This is a wonderful exercise for practicing the skill of making observations when feather at primary sources. How efficiently was the student able come locate specific features and also name details?

This task also permits the teacher to evaluate a student’s ability to make connections in between a vital and its equivalent map or atlas, and between different maps reflecting the same area.

This post is the second in an recurring series. Check out the other articles in the series: What"s a major Source?, Observations and also Inferences,Citing Sources,Using the web to discover Primary sources Online, Asking questions for Research, Notetaking Skills, and also How can we execute research with political cartoons?