Reading a Resource Map

Reading a Resource Map

Students read a natural resource map and use a chart to determine the origins of goods that people use.


2 - 4


Geography, Social Studies, Physics

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This lesson is part of a collection called Map Skills for Students.


  • Prior Knowledge: familiarity with the map of the United States
  • Materials You Provide: 
    • Required: blank paper; crayons; markers; pencils; pens
    • Optional: index cards; shoe box for each small group containing a variety of items, such as a rock, plastic button, piece of wood, notepad, piece of coal
  • Required Technology: Internet access; 1 computer per classroom; projector
  • Physical Space: classroom
  • Grouping: large-group instruction

As the population of the world has increased, pressure on natural resources has also increased. It is more and more important to manage these resources responsibly and assure their availability in the future. Students need to be able to use a resource map to analyze where major resources are located and how these resources are used to make a variety of goods used by consumers.

Students will:

  • use a resource map to locate natural resources
  • identify products made from various natural resources

Teaching Approach:

Teaching Methods:
discussions, visual instruction

Skills Summary
This activity targets the following skills:

  • 21st Century Student Outcomes
  • Critical Thinking Skills: understanding
  • Geographic Skills: Analyzing Geographic Information


1. Talk about natural resources we commonly use.
Explain that when students drink a glass of water, they are using a natural resource. Natural resources are things found in nature that people use. Have students look around their classroom for other goods that come from natural resources. Ask: Where do our books and writing paper come from? (trees/forests) Point to plastic items or clothing made of synthetic fibers, such as fleece or polyester. Ask: Where does this come from? (oil)

2. Read aloud the poem in the Resources Poetry handout.
Engage students in the topic of natural resources by reading aloud the poem “Where Does It Come From?” on the provided handout as students follow along. Read the poem aloud a second time, and have students raise their hands after each verse if they can identify a natural resource in the line. List the resources on the board as students name them.

3. Explore the United States Resources map.
Explain that natural resources come from Earth and are found in different places. A resource map shows where certain natural resources are found. Project the map United States Resources. Explain that this map shows some of the natural resources found in the United States. Look together at the map key and read the items shown on this map. Ask: Where are fish found in the United States? Have students first find the fish symbol, then look for it on the map. Elicit from students that fish are found along the Pacific Ocean, Atlantic Ocean, and the Gulf of Mexico. Ask: In which states is coal found? Explain that each picture of a natural resource means that the resource is found in that state, but it does not mean just one of the item. Guide students to relate the read aloud poem from Step 2 to the map. Then ask:

  • What resources does the map show for our state? (Answers will vary by state; note that this map shows a select number of resources, so if there are none shown in your state, that does not mean that your state has no natural resources.)
  • What resource is Texas rich in? (oil) 
  • Why is fish such a big resource in California? (California has a long coastline on the Pacific Ocean.) 
  • What other resources do you know of that come from your state that are not included here?
  • How is a resource map helpful? (Possible response: It shows where resources are located, which is helpful to people making goods out of those resources.)

Talk about how the resources in an area can be related to the types of work people do there. For example, if areas where forests are a resource, people may work in lumber or paper-related industries. Ask: How might the natural resources in other places in the U.S. affect the kinds of jobs people have there? (Where the natural resource is coal, copper, or gold, people might work in the mining industry. If the resource is fish, people might be fishermen or in the fish-processing business. If the resource is oil, people might work on oil rigs or in oil fields.)

4. Examine the chart of natural resources.
Project the chart titled Some United States Resources. Point out that it shows the same resources that are on the map. Ask students which items on this chart they and their family members use. Ask:

  • Which of these resources might be used in building a home? (forest)
  • In painting a home? (oil) 
  • In heating a home? (coal; mention that oil and energy from the sun might also be used for heating a home.) 
  • What is electricity used for? (to run machines, light homes, and heat buildings)

5. Have students illustrate a use of one natural resource.
Provide blank paper and crayons or markers for students. Have students draw a picture of how their family uses one of these resources, including a one- to two-sentence caption describing where that resource might come from in the United States. Project the United States Resources map again to help students with the writing component.

Informal Assessment

Evaluate students’ illustrations and descriptions to determine their understanding of the use of the resource and where it can be found in the U.S. You can also have students individually complete the Resources and Products worksheet.

Extending the Learning

  • Read aloud How to Make a Cherry Pie and See the U.S.A. by Marjorie Priceman. Together as a class make a chart or map of the natural resources and locations where they are found in the story.
  • Have students choose a natural resource and find out at least two things, not listed on the chart, that are made from this resource. Have them draw an illustration and share with the class.
  • Give small groups of students a shoe box containing a variety of items, such as a rock, a plastic button, a piece of wood, a notepad, and a piece of coal. Have students look through the collection and determine if each item is a resource in its natural form, or a manufactured item that is made from a resource. Each group can present its shoe box contents to the class and explain their thinking.

Tips & Modifications

  • For further analysis of the map, use index cards to make a flash card for each of the resource symbols on the map and chart. Project the United States Resources map. Hold up one card at a time and ask students to tell you what the symbol represents and then to name a state that shows that symbol.
  • Students frequently interpret one symbol in a state as meaning that there is only one of that resource in the state. For example, on this particular map a student might think that a tree means that there is only one tree in that state. Also, if there are no symbols in a state, that does not mean that the state does not have any of these resources; it just means that resources other than those included in the map key are more important in that state.
  • Talk about natural resources that are not included. Ask: What do you use each day that’s not on this map? (Answers will vary. Possible responses may include foods such as milk, bread, produce, or cotton used in clothing.) Discuss the symbols that could be on this map for those natural resources.

Connections to National Standards, Principles, and Practices

National Council for Social Studies Curriculum Standards

  • Theme 7: Production, Distribution, and Consumption

National Geography Standards

  • Standard 1: How to use maps and other geographic representations, geospatial technologies, and spatial thinking to understand and communicate information
  • Standard 3: How to analyze the spatial organization of people, places, and environments on Earth's surface

Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts & Literacy

  • Reading Standards for Informational Text K-5: Key Ideas and Details, RI.K.2
  • Reading Standards for Informational Text K-5: Integration of Knowledge and Ideas, RI.1.7

The College, Career & Civic Life (C3) Framework for Social Studies State Standards

  • Geographic Representations: Spatial Views of the World: D2.Geo.2.K-2: Use maps, graphs, photographs, and other representations to describe places and the relationships and interactions that shape them.
  • Geographic Representations: Spatial Views of the World: D2.Geo.3.K-2: Use maps, globes, and other simple geographic models to identify cultural and environmental characteristics of places.


  • Priceman, Marjorie. How to Make a Cherry Pie and See the U.S.A. Dragonfly Books: 2013.

Adapted from National Geographic’s Map Essentials: A Comprehensive Map Skills Program

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.

Audrey Mohan, Ph.D.
Lindsey Mohan, Ph.D.
Anne Haywood, Program Consultant, Environmental & Geographic Education, Geographic Education Consultant
Sean P. O'Connor
Christina Riska Simmons, National Geographic Society
Christina Riska Simmons, National Geographic Society
Educator Reviewer
Lydia Lewis, M.Ed., Grade 5 U.S. History/Geography Educator; National Cathedral School, Washington, D.C.
Last Updated

January 22, 2024

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