Review by Jenny Bristol, Common Sense Education | Updated September 2018

National Geographic Education

Top geography resource site provides global exploration opportunities

Subjects & skills
Subjects
  • Science
  • Social Studies

Skills
  • Critical Thinking
Grades This grade range is based on learning appropriateness and doesn't take into account privacy. It's determined by Common Sense Education, not the product's publisher.
Pre-K–12
Common Sense says (See details)
Teachers say (8 Reviews)

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Pros: The MapMaker Interactive option allows for custom lessons and student projects.

Cons: It's not personalizable, and there's no way to track past visits.

Bottom Line: This is a must-bookmark site for classrooms across the curriculum hunting for inspiring geography-based resources.

Teachers can use the National Geographic Education site as a trusted resource for geography-based lessons, as well as lessons for other subjects that can be rooted in geography, such as weather, animals, history, and culture. Resources are available for pre-K to higher education in formats such as activities, videos, photos, interactives, maps, educator guides, and more. In fact, there's so much on offer that teachers may need to browse before searching just to get a sense of the breadth of available resources. Use the pre-planned activities as lesson plans to cover topics in your curriculum. Use the photos, videos, and interactives to supplement lessons. Check out the What to Teach This Month section (in the Classroom Resources tab), which highlights resources that are timely and relatable. And you can design entire individual or group projects around the MapMaker Interactive option. It's a powerful and captivating format for telling stories about places, travel, natural and human resources, and change over time. You can also use the one-page maps for quick homework assignments, asking students to map locations, resources, or routes throughout the world. Also consider downloading a mapmaker kit so that your class can print and assemble giant maps of the world, continents, or other areas. The website is great for homework help as well (vocabulary and encyclopedic entries provide reference information) and free exploration.

Teachers who commit to National Geogaphic Education should check out the professional development section, which offers a community, grant opportunities, and certifications and micro-credentials.

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The National Geographic Education website offers extensive, high-quality, standards-based resources relating to geography and other topics, such as world history, biology, oceanography, ecology, engineering, cartography, and current events. It focuses on classroom resources, but also includes sections for teacher professional development and special student challenges and experiences, such as the GeoBee and GeoChallenge. The classroom resources are divided up into two general areas: the Resource Library and the Mapping resources.

The Resource Library is the heart of the educational materials. Some of its resources dig deep while others give just a quick look. Some have been curated into thematic collections, such as Landforms and Landscapes or Westward Expansion. The Library includes activities, articles, collections, educator guides, encyclopedic entries, historical articles, ideas, images, interactive activities, lessons, maps, media, photos, unit studies, and videos. Each element of the Resource Library lists the topics and subtopics it addresses and designates the grades (from pre-K through higher education) of the intended audience. Users can also search by subject (from human and physical geography to algebra to U.S. history) and by keyword. There are also plenty of links to quality external resources.

The Mapping resources are invaluable tools for classrooms of all grades. The one-page maps can be customized and generated for the world, countries, and states and provinces. Geographic features, cities, borders, and other items can be labeled or left off, and users can draw on the map or add different kinds of markers. The maps can then be downloaded in several formats and printed for classroom or homework use. MapMaker Interactive is a more modern, zoomable map-making application that's also extensively customizable. Users choose from seven different base maps and then can add layers from dozens of options, including animal ranges, climate and weather, and U.S. history. Users can also draw on the maps with lines and shapes, and different kinds of markers can be added. Map pages can be collected together to tell a geographic story.

Amazing videos and mesmerizing photos of animal life, natural phenomena, world events, and more give students a firsthand look at the world and make learning come alive. They won't just passively read dry text here; lesson plans, offline activity suggestions (art, scavenger hunts, and discussion questions), online games, and reference materials support learning in a variety of ways and give teachers creative ideas for constructing learning units. There's also an important and inspiring overall message encouraging kids to learn more about the world, becoming responsible, "geo-literate" citizens.

This website's resources are ideal to integrate into both formal and informal education. Students can take virtual field trips, study maps of the world through history or themed by topic, engage with and discuss the high-quality resources with their class, and create their own map-based stories and projects. The site contains everything from basic vocabulary and encyclopedic references to complete lesson plans for classroom use. The curated collections can also focus students' attention on multimedia materials for their study topic. Students can work independently or as directed by teachers. Since these resources are geography-based, the site integrates knowledge and study of our physical and cultural world with other classroom topics, creating an interdisciplinary learning experience.

The amount of content on the site can be overwhelming, especially since there are no classroom or student tracking or personalization features, but this site will immerse students in all things geography, and they'll come out the other side with a better understanding of their place in the world, physically and metaphorically.

Overall Rating

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?

With top-quality imagery, engaging activities, and useful interactives, there's plenty of interest and relevance for everyone.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?

With many ways to explore (videos, worksheets, research, activities, maps, games), students get an in-depth look at different aspects of our planet. The resources connect the outside world to the classroom as well.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?

Clear instructions, interesting lesson plans, and links to quality external sources support teachers and students with each activity or resource. Adding tracking and customization would be a plus.


Teacher Reviews

(See all 8 reviews) (8 reviews) Write a review
Featured review by
Vanessa S. , Classroom teacher
Classroom teacher
Whitehall Elementary School
Pittsburgh, United States
Take your kids outside of the classroom without leaving the classroom!
I love this website. It is so great to add into your teaching. I also love the breadth of the site. It is great to be able to incorporate different themes and cultures into our classroom. Many students don't get a chance to experience out of country opportunities and this is a great way for them too! I like that my higher students can use this as a way to enrich their learning on their own.
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