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Old Map, New Map: Let's Compare | Wisconsin Historical Society

Classroom Material

Old Map, New Map: Let's Compare

Old Map, New Map: Let's Compare | Wisconsin Historical Society
EnlargeMap showing topography and natural features of Green County, Wisconsin.

Topographic Map of Green County, 1926

Albany, Wisconsin. This detail from a historic Wisconsin Geological Survey map shows details like schools, the Sugar River, and the Chicago Milwaukee and St. Paul Railroad in south eastern Wisconsin. See the original source document

Google Map of Albany, Wisconsin

Current day map of Albany shows the similarities and differences of the region. View Larger Map

Grade level: Elementary

Duration: One class period

Using historic and current maps, students will identify change over time in their own community. Students will then hypothesize why these changes have taken place and why transportation routes, businesses, and homes are in given locations.


Students will:

  • Recognize changes that have taken place over time in their community
  • Speculate on why transportation routes, businesses, industry, and homes are in given locations

Resource Materials

  • A community map from the 1800s
  • A current map of the same community
  • Pencil and paper


  1. Using historic and current maps, students will identify change over time in Wisconsin communities in this lesson Locate a community map from the 1800s that identifies streets, homes, railroad tracks, commercial businesses, schools, churches, and government buildings. These maps are likely to be found at your local public library, historical society, archives, or government land office.
  2. Locate a current map of the same community showing approximately the same geographic area. Find maps online or purchase maps at a local map store. Here are some online map resources:
  3. Using the older map, have the students locate transportation routes, residential neighborhoods, businesses, and industrial districts.
  4. Have students find similar geographic features on the current map.
  5. Brainstorm with the students about possible reasons the community planners chose these locations for the homes, businesses, transportation routes, schools, churches, and industrial sites.
  6. Either individually or in small groups, students should use the information on the maps to make their own chart(s) showing the ways the community has changed over time, and the ways it has remained the same.
  7. In small groups, have students create a community map of the future. Encourage the students to demonstrate as much creativity as they wish in planning tomorrow's city.

For teachers who experience difficulty in finding Wisconsin maps, the Wisconsin Geological and Natural History Survey office can help. The office is located at 3817 Mineral Point Road, Madison, WI 53705, and the phone number is 608-263-7389.


This teacher-submitted, elementary-level lesson plan appeared in Badger History Bulletin. Please adapt it to fit your students' needs.

Author: Mark Waggoner, Elmore Elementary School, Green Bay