Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Map Trek {Schoolhouse Review Crew}

I was first introduced the Knowledge Quest several years ago, and have been a fan ever since.  We have been using one of their earlier products, Blackline Maps of World History, for at least six or seven years, and have loved it.  When the opportunity to review the newest products from Knowledge Quest came along, I shamelessly begged eagerly hoped for the chance to review Map Trek!


Knowledge Quest is a family business that has been around since 2001.  The Johnson family created the products they wanted, but couldn't find elsewhere, and started making them available to other homeschoolers.  Their products now include: historical outline maps, timelines, geography curriculum, historical biographies, and mobile apps.

We were privileged to review the Map Trek 6-eBook set.  Actually, we were one of the very lucky families that got the hardcover version of the book, which includes a CD-ROM with all the printable materials.  The first thing I need to tell you about that is that the book is beautiful.  High quality glossy pages bound in a sturdy hardcover book that is classy enough to sit proudly alongside vintage atlases, in my opinion.  It's the kind of book I like to have sitting out on an end table in my living room or on my dining room table (where we do a lot of schoolwork) to show off how classy our homeschool is when people come over.  First impressions are important!
MapTrek hardcover & cd

The book is, in fact, a combination of an atlas and a collection of historical outline maps, allowing you to teach geography and history together in a way that makes sense!  The book itself contains all the lesson plans and the full-color answer maps for the entire set (Ancient World, Medieval World, New World, Modern World, and US Maps).  The CD-ROM contains all those files as well as the outline student maps, world and continent maps, and US History and State maps.  It also included another resource that Knowledge Quest offers, Globalmania, a plan to guide you and your students in mastering world geography in about seven months of once-a-week lessons.

There are a number of ways these wonderful resources can be used, and because the maps are presented chronologically, they work alongside almost any history curriculum.  In fact, Knowledge Quest has even set up Curriculum Integration Guides to make it even easier to use.

Now, here's how we've used Map Trek so far.  (I emphasize that, because I already know that we will be using it again and again throughout this school year and beyond.)  We have been taking a summer break from most of our subjects, so we haven't had a set history or social studies curriculum to stick to over the summer.  But around the middle of June, we wanted to talk about the War of 1812.  You see, we live about an hour from Baltimore, which played an important role in the conflict, and there were plenty of Bicentennial commemorations kicking off about that time.  So I turned to the Map Trek book and CD-ROM.  There was a printable outline map, titled "War of 1812", of the eastern portion of the USA, with the major battle sites and British Naval Blockade line marked. The book showed the full-color and labelled version of the map for us to refer to.  The lesson plans guided us in first identifying the battle sites, the cities involved, all the bodies of water, the disputed territories, and the blockade.  We had everything we needed to do a brief study on the important events of the War of 1812, without me spending all kinds of time hunting in frustration for the maps and the info.  We could do the extra research into details of the battles and the outcomes of the conflict if we wanted to.

In a similar fashion, we used this to help us identify the sites of the major battles of the American Revolution, and get familiar with the geography of the colonies at the time of the Revolution.  Right before Independence Day, so it worked out perfectly.  We also were able to do a brief study of Canada's geography and learn about its development as an independent nation in time for Canada Day on July 1st.

Just to give an idea of the Lesson Plans... for each map, the lessons are divided into two or three levels, based on the student's grade level.  For one of the maps for the American Revolution, Level A (Grades 1-4) instructions included:

  • label these battles along with their dates - Bunker Hill, Saratoga, Brandywine, Yorktown, Charleston, and Savannah.
  • label the area of Valley Forge
  • color the map
And for Levels B (Grades 5-8) and C (Grades 9-12), the instructions added to the above were:
  • label the remaining battles and all the cities (shown on the full-color map - the sites are marked on the outline map)
  • label the Northwest Territory and the three Great Lakes.
Often Levels B and C are combined in the Lesson Plans, but not always.

In addition, Kennady has been doing a unit study on the Olympics, as we await the opening of the London games.  The first lessons in her unit study were about the ancient games in Greece and their history, and about the references in the Bible to sports and athletics.  Out came the Map Trek book, and we had maps of Ancient Greece and the surrounding areas, and maps of the Roman Empire at the time of Paul's missionary journeys.  So we used those to learn where those ancient sites were.  A few lessons later, we were identifying all the countries that have participated in the Olympics by continent, and learning about all the cities that have hosted the Olympics so far.  Once again, Map Trek provided the maps we needed to locate all those countries and cities and get some great practice in world geography and map reading.

Just last week, we did start on our history curriculum.  We are doing America the Beautiful by Notgrass.  Although there isn't an integrated curriculum guide for this available at the Knowledge Quest site (yet - but I'm going to ask, because she does have guides available for two other Notgrass texts that we use - Exploring World History and Exploring America!), I am finding it easy to pull in maps and lesson plans from Map Trek to enhance what we are doing.

So far, we have looked at the major landmarks of North America, and the groups of Native American tribes by region - with maps and lessons from Map Trek.

As we go on through the year, we will be able to continue using Map Trek for outstanding and easy-to-use maps on subjects such as the European explorers of North America, the colonies and American Revolution, the Louisiana Purchase and Lewis & Clark expedition, the gold rush and westward expansion,  the Civil War, the World Wars, and more.  And that's just the US maps! Although we're not studying world history this year, there will be numerous occasions, I am sure, when we will want maps to help us understand the ancient civilizations of Rome or Egypt, maps to aid our Bible study, maps to help us find where great composers or artists lived, and maps to answer many other geography questions.  And I know that we will find all of that and more in this book.  I am confident that this resource will be used at least weekly until the last of my students has graduated, it is just that good and that adaptable.

Here are a couple of examples of European maps to give an idea of what the student version looks like. For each map, there are two printable versions - one with all the pertinent labels, that would be great for younger students or just to save some time in labeling if you need a quick reference; and one that looks like the ones below, with titles and cities/borders/sites marked but not labelled. The teacher's version of each map is in full color with all the necessary labels.
Photobucket Photobucket

What we liked best:

  • chronological maps from ancient civilization right up to modern times.  The last map in the historical map set is the Conflict in Iraq dated 2003.  No matter what time period on which continent we are studying, we can find a related map.
  • the maps are outlined boldly, and simply, so they are easy for even young students to read, but are accurate at the same time.
  • the lesson plans give good ideas on how to use the maps for further study and for quick reference.
  • the high-quality of the hardcover book really impressed me!
  • incredibly flexible and adaptable.  It can be used with any history curriculum.
What we weren't crazy about:
  • in case you couldn't tell, I am totally crazy about this resource and can't recommend it enough!  But just so you know I really thought about this, it occurred to me that there was one map I would have liked that wasn't included - a modern political map of Canada that showed the relatively new territory of Nunavut.  But I'm Canadian, and was specifically trying to teach my American-born kids Canada's geography.  If you're reading this, and you're not Canadian, I bet you've never even heard of Nunavut before.  In other words, if that's the only downside I could think of, my opinion of it is extremely high.
Would your students like to go on a Map Trek? Here's what you need to know:

Map Trek is available in e-book format, on CD-ROMS, or as a hardcover book with CD-ROM.  The e-book format is in six sets, seen below:
Individual e-books of the World Edition are $14.95, and the US Edition is $19.95.  A complete set of all six e-books is $47.  The hardcover book with CD-ROM is $55.  See all the options and get more info at the Knowledge Quest website.

You can see the free Curriculum Integration Guides available by clicking here.  Check out all the other products and resources Knowledge Quest offers on their Products page.  Some of my Crewmates reviewed TimeMaps.  You can visit the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog for more information about these products and to read other Crew member reviews.

Disclaimer: As part of the Schoolhouse Review Crew, we received a complimentary copy of this resource in exchange for our honest opinions.


Stefanie said...

Mackenzie and I have heard of Nunavut. Cuz we're well rounded like that. And we learned a song about the providences in 3rd grade that we just can't forget. It was our favorite. We're singing it as I type.

It was a hard choice for me between this and TimeMaps. I decided to go with TM since I have their older set of black lines. But I'm buying this when I'm allowed to spend money again. lol You know how I am about maps?

Kym said...

I thought maybe you learned about Nunavut from WP???? baaa haaa haaa!!!!

This is the updated version of the blacklines, because I have those too. And yes, I have an idea about how you feel about maps. These all include Iceland in the appropriate place, so you can let Mackenzie know that. ;-)

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