Introduction: How Old Is This Globe - a Geography Lesson Plan

I love old maps and globes. It is fascinating to see how our maps change throughout history. This geography/history lesson is designed to allow students to use their critical thinking and research skills to determine the age of old maps and globes. This lesson could be modified for a variety of ages - upper elementary through high school.


An old map or globe (I search for bargains at thrift stores and garage sales). You could substitute printed images of old maps or globes if you do not have originals. Remember - the map or globe doesn't have to be 100 years old (although those are very interesting). Students will be able to find changes on maps that are much newer.

Step 1: Compare Your Old Globe/map With an Up to Date Version

Have students find as many differences as possible between their old map/globe and an up to date version - I like to use an online map for the up to date version.

Make a list of differences and then go online and research when these changes took place.

Examples: Does your globe have East and West Germany? Germany united in 1990

Does your globe have Czechia or the Czech Republic or maybe Czechoslavakia? Those names changed in 2016 and 1993 respectively.

Does your globe have Rhodesia or Zimbabwe? That change happened in 1980

Does your map have Trans Jordan instead of Jordan? That happened in 1946

Step 2: Students Hypothesize the Date of Publication for Their Globe or Map Based on Their Observations and Research.

After comparing the older and newer maps, students should be able to hypothesize the published date for their globe or map. It may be an exact year or maybe a range.

Students should be able to provide the key pieces of evidence they used to determine the age they hypothesize.

Step 3: Extensions - Students Can Research Historical Events That Led to Map Changes They Observed.

Why did so many countries have (Br.) behind their names until the 1960s and 70's?

Why did the map of Africa change so much in the 20th century?

How did the fall of the Soviet Union affect the maps of Eastern Europe?

Step 4: Share Your Results

Have students share what they found.

Class presentations, blogs, reports. You (or they) can decide. I have found that students are eager to describe the process they used. It is almost like a treasure hunt for them!

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