Website review by Jenny Bristol, Common Sense Education | Updated September 2021

National Geographic Education

Top geography resource site provides global exploration opportunities

Learning rating
Community rating
Based on 10 reviews
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Not yet rated Expert evaluation by Common Sense
Grades
Pre-K–12
Subjects & Skills
Science, Social Studies, Critical Thinking

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Pros: World-class materials including a great map creation tool.

Cons: It's lacking a significant teacher dashboard for managing assignments.

Bottom Line: This is a must-bookmark site for classrooms across the curriculum hunting for inspiring place-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 what's available. As teachers discover useful resources, they can sign in to bookmark and organize them into collections for each topic or class. Saved resources can then be searched.

Use the preplanned 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. 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. 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 the class can print and assemble giant maps of the world, continents, or other areas and do accompanying activities. The website is great for homework help as well (vocabulary and encyclopedic entries provide reference information), along with free exploration.

For classrooms wanting to get more involved, there's also the GeoChallenge competition where students devise solutions to real-world problems. Students might also enjoy the Explorer Classroom events featuring scientists, researchers, and storytellers, and Student Matinees, which are basically field trips to locations around the United States and the world.

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The National Geographic Education website offers 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 -- for pre-K through adult -- but also includes sections for teacher professional development, special student challenges and experiences, and a blog, which includes articles that offer a personal perspective on geographic topics. Classroom resources fall into three general sections: the Resource Library, Mapping resources, and Explorer Magazine.

The Resource Library is the heart of the site. The Library includes activities, articles, collections, educator guides, encyclopedic entries, historical articles, ideas, images, interactives, games, 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), grade, content type, and keyword. Some resources have been curated into thematic collections, such as Landforms and Landscapes or Westward Expansion, and some are in unit studies, such as for the sinking of the Titanic, which gathers together a multitude of materials relating to the tragedy. 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.

Explorer Magazine provides interactive content in grade-specific editions for K-5/6. Teachers and students can access current and back issues of Lexile-leveled material providing interactive visuals, audio, and more, packaging compelling and easily accessible content for younger students. This section includes teacher's guides and projectables, and the magazine is also available in Spanish.

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

The 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 Explorer Magazine option makes content feel even more approachable and familiar. The site contains everything from basic vocabulary and encyclopedic references to complete lesson plans for classroom use. Curated collections can also focus students' attention on multimedia materials for their study topic, and any user with an account can save resources and organize them into collections for research and projects. Students can work independently or as directed by teachers. While the resources are grounded in geography, there's a focus on merging the study of our physical and cultural world with other classroom topics, creating cross-curricular connections.

The amount of content on the site can be overwhelming, especially since there are no classroom or student tracking 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

With top-quality imagery, solid facts, engaging activities, and useful interactives, the site includes plenty of interest and relevance for teachers and students of all grades.

Pedagogy

With many ways to explore (videos, worksheets, research, activities, maps, games), students get an in-depth and often interactive look at physical and cultural aspects of our planet, connecting the outside world to the classroom.

Support

Clear instructions, interesting lesson plans, and links to quality external sources support teachers and students with each activity or resource. Teachers can bookmark resources, group them into collections, and search their saved resources.


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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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