Explorable Maps to Spark Classroom Discussion


Venerable stalwarts!

The following is a selection of interactive maps to spark discussion in the KS2 classroom. They range from conservation and sustainability to flight traffic, space junk and food dishes from around the world!

They highlight the utility and creativity of interactive maps and although weren’t made specifically for children, provide great examples of marrying data with graphics. Some require deeper knowledge on a subject to really get the most out of them but even taken as a whole, they show how data can be brought to life. They make great talking points for STEM (and STEAM) based subjects and can be used for numerous classroom topics. Whilst the most obvious discussions can be had around each map’s subject matter, there are plenty of general questions they raise:

  • Who made them and why? Some of these maps were created by individuals for fun or as learning exercises. Some were by organisations to make their data more digestable or to spread a certain message.
  • What type of data do these maps have in common? (coordinates, time, etc)
  • Why was the data visualised in the way it was? Could it have been presented in a different/better way and did it need a map?
  • Does visualising data have more of an impact than seeing it in written form and if so, why do you think this is?
  • Can you think of other types of data and information that maps are well suited to display?
  • What data would you display using a map and why?

In many cases the people that produce these maps also provide links to the data used. We hope you find these useful and inspire you to search for more!

National Geographic Mapmaker

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National Geographic’s mapmaker is the most interactive of the group. It allows you to add labels, flags, icons, shapes and markers on a map of the world to come up with your own map based visualisations.

It has a selection of base maps to choose from, including toplogical, terrain, street, satellite and ocean. In addition, it provides a selection of overlays ranging from food, climate and weather, earth systems, environmental, energy and animal range data – great for KS2 human and physical geography. A tool that older kids (year 5 and 6 perhaps) can get creative with but can be equally useful as a teaching tool.


Satellite (and Space Junk) Map

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Like some of the other maps here, this map uses live data and updates at regular intervals. It has multiple options that let you show a satellite’s orbit, nationality, size and launch date. You can highlight which of it is junk and which is not, track the international space station or pinpoint the GPS satellites. Who knew there were so many human made objects in space..and most of it rubbish!

As with most of these maps, a good one for STEM based lessons – perhaps there’s something being done to clean up space? Take a look at this video, suitable for the classroom, of the teenage scientist making space safer.


Weather System Map

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This is a great looking visualisation. The creator sells prints of the map to cover the costs of the website – very entrepreneurial! The map shows weather, ocean current, sea surface temperature, ocean waves, atmospheric data and even the Aurora. It also displays on different map projections – another great topic of discussion!

Such a turbulant part of the world. This full year time lapse of surface winds over the Atlantic highlights more subdued weather between the months of April and September.


Submarine Cable Map

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This is an interactive map of submerged cables across the world’s oceans. It shows just how connected the world is. Something that started as far back as the middle of the 19th century. It has a great FAQ where you can swot up on your submarine cable knowledge!

What’s the fastest way to send and receive information?



Flightradar 24

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Flightradar 24 is a live map of air traffic around the world. You may have even used it to check up on a relative’s or friend’s flight. It’s a great example of real-time data being collected and used from various sources. There’s a somewhat technical explanation of how it works on the site. A good map for discussion on topics such as data aggregation, ‘real-time’ information and its uses, traffic control, planning and flight paths, or just how busy the modern world is!


One Geology – bedrock & geology map

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One Geology lets you overlay all sorts of geological data but requires a good knowledge of the field (that may be an understatement!) to get the best out of these maps. The datasets vary from bedrock age to earthquakes along the Andes, mineral deposits, and seabed sediments around the UK.

Even if you’re not able to fully interpret the different maps, they still make a good backdrop for a general discussion about the field of geology.

The map features require a bit of exploring and it’s worth viewing the datasets by thematic, as well as the default geographic area.

Also check out the One Geology’s Geology for kids section.


Earthquake Map

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This is a visualisation of earthquakes across the globe over the last 30 years. It’s a project by two artist/web developers and is a nice example of presenting just a few bits of data in a nice visual way. At it’s core is a dataset of coordinates (long and lat), earthquake magnitude (which they’ve visualised as either height or size depending on the visualisation you choose), and date/year. Simple but effective, a sort of 3D scatterplot and bar graph!


Taste Atlas

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Perhaps the most fun map for kids out of our selection. This map is a glorified menu for food information from around the globe – a world food encyclopedia in map form! Does what it says on the tin really.


Whale Tracking Map

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This whale tracking map is a collaboration between a scientific research collective and a geological engineering company that study the Earth and human’s impact upon it.

This could spark rich discussions on marine preservation, animal behaviour, sustainability, earth sciences, geography or even the reasons why such organisations exist.

On our viewing of this map we did notice a whale that seemed to be land based! We can only guess at the reasons for this but perhaps that could be another talking point – one from a technical perspective. Perhaps it’s incorrect or missing data or even bad (computer) programming. Maybe we could rule out land transport of a sick whale?


Protected Planet

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Protected Planet provides a complete source of information on protected areas around the world. Their about page is a good starting point for ideas on why this information is important and how it’s used. The fact that there are agencies around the world working to protect the planet is great for talking about preservation and conservation in the classroom. Perhaps some pupils will be inspired to want to work in this field?