National Geographic Mapmaker Interactive

National Geographic
Type Category
Instructional Materials
Map , Tool/Software , Data
This resource, vetted by NSTA curators, is provided to teachers along with suggested modifications to make it more in line with the vision of the NGSS. While not considered to be "fully aligned," the resources and expert recommendations provide teachers with concrete examples and expert guidance using the EQuIP rubric to adapted existing resources. Read more here.



This resource allows students to observe and manipulate a wide variety of data sets on a world map. The weather/climate tab provides visual representations of climate data, but students can make other curricular connections as well. Students or teachers can also create links on the maps to show photographs or videos of an area. A teacher might wish to add images of various landscapes, or students could be asked to identify and label areas with certain climate types. Links to climate data can also be added. For example, a teacher or a student could put an icon on a city in Australia. The icon can be linked to photographs, video, text written by the student, or climate graphs.

Intended Audience

Educational Level
  • Upper Elementary
Access Restrictions

Free access - The right to view and/or download material without financial, registration, or excessive advertising barriers.

Performance Expectations

3-ESS2-2 Obtain and combine information to describe climates in different regions of the world.

Clarification Statement: none

Assessment Boundary: none

This resource was not designed to build towards this performance expectation, but can be used to build towards it using the suggestions provided below.

Comments about Including the Performance Expectation
These interactive maps provide many opportunities for students to obtain and combine information about world climates. By changing the map layers, they will be able to describe and compare temperature and precipitation in different areas of the world.

Science and Engineering Practices

This resource was not designed to build towards this science and engineering practice, but can be used to build towards it using the suggestions provided below.

Comments about Including the Science and Engineering Practice
Students should be encouraged to explore the various layers of the map to develop their understanding of climate patterns. Guiding questions will help students analyze the maps: What patterns do you notice? How is the climate in some areas the same/different? Why do you think that is so? Students may observe that it is colder near the poles and warmer near the equator or that most US tornadoes occur in the Midwest, where the land is flat, or that there is more vegetation in areas with more precipitation. The maps also allow students or teachers to add links to photographs, videos, or text.

Disciplinary Core Ideas

This resource was not designed to build towards this disciplinary core idea, but can be used to build towards it using the suggestions provided below.

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea
By examining the "animal ranges", or the plant "land cover" tabs students could learn about connections between living things and their environments, identifying patterns between the animal and plant locations and the kinds of climates they are present in.

This resource appears to be designed to build towards this disciplinary core idea, though the resource developer has not explicitly stated so.

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea
These maps provide data for students to analyze precipitation, temperature, and other factors that influence climate. It is important that students are aware of the difference between weather (the condition of the atmosphere at a certain place and time) and climate (the average weather of a certain place). For more ideas for this Core Idea, visit the NSTA resource review "Differences Between Weather and Climate."

Crosscutting Concepts

This resource was not designed to build towards this crosscutting concept, but can be used to build towards it using the suggestions provided below.

Comments about Including the Crosscutting Concept
The layers of the maps provide a wealth of data from which students will be able to observe patterns and construct explanations. Most pertinent to the topic of weather and climate are the precipitation and seasonal temperature averages and the climate zones map layer.

Resource Quality

  • Alignment to the Dimensions of the NGSS: This resource provides real-world data that can be analyzed by students to observe patterns and describe how climate affects humans and other living things. The resource must be used as a piece of a larger instructional lesson plan or unit that is designed with the three dimensions in mind.

  • Instructional Supports: This resource does not provide structure for lessons or supports for students. Because it is so open-ended, it gives teachers and students the opportunity to creatively structure their own learning. The tutorial videos on the website walk teachers and students through the many possibilities for analyzing map data within the Mapmaker application. It is also possible to add links to other data to the map, so a teacher could customize maps to meet students' needs. For example, links could be added with images of the landscape of an area or a video in another language. More detailed worldwide climate data can be found at the National Drought Mitigation Center website:

  • Monitoring Student Progress: The teacher will need to determine how student work will be structured and assessed. The maps may be used for whole-class discussion for informal assessment, or students can make individual maps with written descriptions of climates in different regions of the world as a more formal assessment tool.

  • Quality of Technological Interactivity: It is easy to get started making interactive maps. It takes a bit more time to uncover all the possibilities offered by this resource, but the tutorial provides clear guidance.