Open Educational Resource
Open Educational Resource



Explorer Mapping Case Study

Explorer Mapping Case Study

This tool provides Explorers and others who create maps a simple way to share their research in a clear, consistent format so that it can be understood by a wide variety of audiences. Scroll below the resources for guidance on using these resources in your education work.


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Learning materials

Why Use This Tool

Maps are powerful visualizations of data that can help analyze geographic data and communicate important ideas and relationships. This tool provides Explorers and others who create maps a simple way to share their research in a clear, consistent format so that it can be understood by a wide variety of audiences. Once completed, it can be shared as a written document or a presentation.

When to Use This Tool

Stage(s) of Learning: Explore - This case study format can be an effective way to structure critical information about research you have conducted, conclusions you have drawn, and action you recommend.

Time: 15 - 30 minutes - Preparing your information in this format may take significantly longer, but once your information is presented in this format, it should provide material for a 15 - 30 minute presentation that can stimulate additional discussion, research, or action.

Audience: All Ages - The writing level and complexity of the map used in this organizing framework may need to be adjusted to meet the needs of very young learners. However, this organization of information around a small number of maps should help make information accessible to learners of all ages.

Ease of Use: Moderate - This tool requires significant preparation by the Explorer or other presenter, but once it is completed, it is easy to share in a variety of formats.

How to Use This Tool

Preparation: Use the guiding questions in the Explorer Mapping Case Study organizing framework to introduce yourself, your work, and the data that you would like to share. The most important preparation step is choosing a map or maps that provide a powerful visualization of the issues you are investigating.

The tool is designed to demonstrate how maps can be used as analysis tools as well as communication tools. You may wish to share 2 or 3 maps, including a complex or “messy” map that includes many of the complex data sets that you collected for analysis, and a “cleaner” map that simplifies that information so that others can understand it easily.


  1. Develop your case study by reviewing the headings and guiding questions on the Case Study Organizer. You can write in prose or collect your thoughts in bullets, but consider each section as a coherent whole. Do not simply try to answer each guiding question.
  2. Create your presentation: This case study framework should be flexible enough for a variety of presentation types. You may wish to share it as a written overview for your work, present it as a digital presentation, or use it to guide your public speaking.
  3. Share with learners: As you engage learners with your work, you may want to provide them with additional tools from the Education Tools for Explorers Collection so that they can take notes, make connections, and engage with the materials.

Provide a few questions for learners/participants to “listen for” and respond to throughout or after the engagement. Such questions could include:

  1. What will we be able to do with the information we see on our maps?
  2. How does this relate to issues in our community?

Modifications, Variations, and Extensions

  • For younger audiences, consider “framing” geographic inquiry with a few simple questions that get them excited about basic applications of geographic and spatial inquiry. This will help them understand how maps can be used to answer questions.
    • What is the busiest place in your playground? Why?
    • What is the quietest part of your school/neighborhood? Why?
    • If you were going to add one more water fountain to your school/neighborhood, where would you put it? Why?
  • Introduce students to the Geographic Perspectives outlined in the Exploring Perspectives worksheet. Ask students to consider the data presented through a variety of the analytic perspectives. Students can identify which geographic data layers that would help analyze these perspectives on a map. For example, “which data sets could give us a ‘political’ perspective on this issue (political borders, national park borders, voting patterns)? What would we learn from adding an economic data set (income distribution, land use)?”
  • Learners and community members can follow a similar process to identify and analyze issues in their community geographically. Learners can identify and issue and brainstorm data layers that would help them understand the issue geographically. Learners can collect and analyze data using tools such as:
    • Citizen Science applications such as iNaturalist and Debris Tracker to collect geographic data about a topic in their community
    • Digital mapping tools such as Mapmaker to visualize existing data
  • Use the Conducting Powerful Conversations tools to discuss the content of this presentation. Learners could:
    • Conduct an Affinity Protocol to identify key needs in their own communities related to the topic of your presentation
    • Conduct a Socratic Seminar responding to what they have heard and some key outstanding questions
    • Conduct a Tuning Protocol to identify the strengths and needs they see in proposed actions.

The National Geographic Society is making this content available under a Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-SA license. The License excludes the National Geographic Logo (meaning the words National Geographic + the Yellow Border Logo) and any images that are included as part of each content piece. For clarity the Logo and images may not be removed, altered, or changed in any way.

Media Credits

The audio, illustrations, photos, and videos are credited beneath the media asset, except for promotional images, which generally link to another page that contains the media credit. The Rights Holder for media is the person or group credited.

Dan Byerly, National Geographic Society, National Geographic Society
Tyson Brown, National Geographic Society
Bayan Atari, National Geographic Society
Last Updated

June 21, 2024

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