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Old Map, New Map: Let's Compare

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 Materials

  • A community map from the 1800s,
  • A current map of the same community,
  • Pencil and paper.
Objectives Students will recognize changes that have taken place over time in their community. Students will speculate on why transportation routes, businesses, industry, and homes are in given locations.


1. 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. The most detailed and accurate maps generally are the topographical maps published by the United States Geological Survey. These maps can be used at your local repository of federal government documents or purchased at a local map store.

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, transportations 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.


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