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Atlases & Almanacs

Published: 01/15/2008 by Donna Ward

» Education & Learning Support

Are you passing on the “wonder of the world?” Here are ways to use geography tools to spice up your studies and grab those teachable moments.

When talking about geography an atlas and almanac are a basic necessity. They can be found at your local book store or library.


An atlas is a collection of maps. There are several things you can look for in a good atlas such as map art, scale and index.  With regard to map art, are there illustrations, photos and land forms represented? Are maps colour coded for elevation, vegetation, or climate? Is the art geared to the age group of the people using the Atlas? For elementary aged children, the artwork should be clutter free. For older children, detailed place names are necessary for research.


What size are the maps? Is Canada only a two page spread? You may need a separate Canada atlas such as the new Scholastic Children’s Atlas of Canada to get a proper, to scale representation of Canada’s significant land mass.  It is an excellent source of information on Canadian geography, history, science, and math. Amazing facts about animals, sports, and world topics. Extremely colourful and captivating


A good index is also a definite asset in any atlas, especially if you will be searching through the atlas to find places.  Some indices will even provide the longitude and latitude of the places in addition to the page number and grid location on that page.


Quality aside, making maps is just plain fun. Try salt dough maps, chalk maps on the drive way, or cut up a map to make a puzzle.  Other fun geography activities: put a postcard inside a helium filled balloon to see where it ends up, create a Flat Stanley book and mail it on a geographical journey of its own, use Google Earth or try geocaching! Geocaching is “treasure” hunting using GPS technology (www.geocache.com).


Almanacs have a lot of information of country facts and figures. When you are reading stories of different places, use your almanac to become more familiar with the land and the people who live there. Online almanacs are continually updated, but books are easily referenced. Use both!


AFGHANISTAN TO ZIMBABWE: Country Facts That Helped Me Win the National Geographic Bee is an excellent geographical source. It was written by Andrew Wojtanik who was preparing to compete in the 2004 US National Geographic Bee. He tried to find a single source that would list all the facts he felt he needed to know about every country in the world in a simple outline form. When he couldn’t find one he decided to make his own book. His hard work paid off. Not only did he win a $25,000 college scholarship, the National Geographic Society signed him up to publish his book!  The 2005 U.S. champion was a homeschooled 13 year old who got help from Andrew Wojtanik’s book among other sources.


Use your atlases and almanacs often to look up place names and facts which come up in reading and other studies. A globe or poster-size map (put it on the wall or under plastic on the table) are excellent tools for quick references. Pass on to your children a fascination with the people and places of the world. If they understand the world around them, they can be more effective in making a positive impact in the future.

Geography Links

Maps & Almanacs
Atlas of Canada
Geographic Xpeditions Maps
CIA World Factbook
National Geographic People and Places

Geography Quizzes
Canadian Geography Challenge
Canadian Geographic Kids
Canadian Encyclopedia
National Geographic Geography Challenge Helps
National Geographic Geography Games
GeoNet Game
Play Kids Games
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