If you’re looking for a way to add hands-on activities to your lesson plans, geography is the perfect subject to start with, especially if you have visual kids. To begin, let your middle schooler spend some time looking through an atlas.
The most simple definition is that an atlas is a collection of maps. However, atlases are much MORE than just books filled with pages of basic maps.
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In addition to traditional outline and reference maps, most world atlases also include thematic maps to show population density, topographical data, animals, natural resources, etc. as well as interesting facts about continents and countries.
Historical atlases can help show changes to country boundaries over time or the movement of troops in battles. Our atlases of the United States help compare land formations and natural resources from different regions of the country using a variety of photos and graphics. Since my kids are big fans of maps we always include map work in our history and current events studies.
Create Your Own Atlas
One project my middle school kids loved from our North Star Geography program is the creation of their own atlas. As we go through each lesson in this hands-on, comprehensive geography program, my tween and teen will be adding maps and interesting facts to their personal, one-of-a-kind atlas.
This will be a great addition to each child’s portfolio and will be a resource they will want to keep for future reference.
Atlas Scavenger Hunt
To help spread our enthusiasm about atlases with your children, we created a fun activity called a World Atlas Scavenger Hunt. With this activity, your students will learn information about places around the world from A-Z and become familiar with the format of an atlas.
- Students can work individually or in teams of 2-3 to complete the Atlas Scavenger Hunt (we have used this at home and in a Geography co-op setting).
- Each person/team completing the hunt will need an atlas and a printed copy of this Atlas Scavenger Hunt. They will:
- Search through the atlas and use the clues to identify each location from A-Z.
- Write the name of the location in the appropriate box.
- Don’t pass out the answer key! That is provided only if needed.
To take the learning a step further, after identifying each location from A-Z, have your students place each location on a printed map and label it.
What you Need to Complete the Atlas Scavenger Hunt:
- World Atlas Scavenger Hunt (The free promotion for this has expired, please enjoy this product at a great low price.)
- Several world atlases – one of our favorites atlases is the National Geographic Student Atlas of the World (yes, your students could find the answers to our hunt online, but for this activity we are suggesting you use a printed atlas to help your children understand how to navigate through the table of contents, maps, index, etc.)
- Printed maps (optional) – our favorite printable maps for this activity are WonderMaps by Bright Ideas Press.
We hope your family has fun learning about atlases!