Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and Online Mapping

Mapmachine Today is GIS Day!

Geography is more than just maps—it’s about understanding our world and the innumerable factors that have created place over time. However, maps are one of the most essential tools that geographers use to understand the constant changes of our planet and its inhabitants.

An important modernization of mapping has been the development of geographic information systems (GIS): computer systems and associated technology that allow users to create maps to display, analyze, and interact with valuable geographic information.


Geographers, explorers, and scientists alike are using GIS to map the African continent in new and exciting ways. We can now track the migration of elephants through national parks, find areas of deforestation in Africa’s rain forests, evaluate the use and distribution of natural resources, and much more.

Map your own exploration of Africa!

Image of National Geographic’s MapMachine

Test Your Africa IQ with our interactive quiz on Google Earth.


About GIS

  • The Guide to GIS (ESRI)
  • What Is GIS? (Flash presentation) (ESRI)
  • Introduction to GIS (FEMA)

    Online Maps

  • MapMachine (National Geographic and ESRI)
  • Geography Network (ESRI)
  • Google Maps
  • Google Earth 3-D Globe
  • National Atlas (U.S. Department of the Interior)
  • World Wind (NASA)

    In Google Earth

  • Tracks4Africa
    Google Earth is all about GIS and mapping, of course. Fitting in perfectly with our Africa theme is a new featured layer on the 3-D globe—Tracks4Africa, a pan-Africa mapping initiative. To view it, open Google Earth (get it free here) and click the box next to "Tracks4Africa" in the Featured Content folder. Then zoom into the African continent, click on the "4" icons, and explore! (Learn more about Tracks4Africa.)

    GeoCaching (Real-Life "Treasure" Hunting Using GPS)

  • EarthCache
  • Geocaching
  • Navicache
  • TerraCaching
  • Waymarking

    Map Mashups (Maps Plus Videos, Photos, More)

  • GCensus
  • Maplandia
  • Virtual Tourism
  • World Heritage Sites

    Make Your Own Maps

  • StickyMap
  • Topographic Maps
  • Wayfaring


    Lessons From National Geographic Xpeditions

  • Grades K-2: Explore Your State With Maps
  • Grades K-2: Getting Lost
  • Grades K-2: Introduction to Latitude and Longitude
  • Grades K-2: Over the River and Through the Woods: Traveling by Memory (Mental Maps)
  • Grades K-2: Using Maps to See Regions
  • Grades 3-5: Comparing the Continents
  • Grades 3-5: Make State Maps With MapMachine
  • Grades 3-5: Mental Map of Your Classroom
  • Grades 3-5: Planning a Road Trip
  • Grades 3-5: Satellite Spyglass: Formal, Functional, and Perceptual Regions
  • Grades 3-5: What We Can Learn From Maps
  • Grades 3-5: Which Direction Should I Go?
  • Grades 6-8: Contour Maps with DOGTAILS
  • Grades 6-8: GIS: Helping to Save the African Wild
  • Grades 6-8: How Can Maps Help?
  • Grades 6-8: How Do We Find Our Way?
  • Grades 6-8: Latitude, Longitude, and Mapmaking
  • Grades 6-8: School Space: An Analysis of Map Perceptions
  • Grades 6-8: Spatial Organizations: Identification of Functional Regions
  • Grades 6-8: Using Maps in Ocean Research
  • Grades 9-12: A Look at the Population Density of the U.S.
  • Grades 9-12: Map Projections
  • Grades 9-12: Map Projections and Careers in Geography
  • Grades 9-12: Maps and Current Events
  • Grades 9-12: Regional Layers: Low-Tech Geographic Information Systems
  • Grades 9-12: What Can We Learn From Satellite Images?

    Lessons and Tools From ESRI

  • Africa Map-Related Lessons (Geography Awareness Week)
  • GIS for Schools
  • GIS for Higher Education
  • ArcWeb Services for Students and Educators
  • ArcLessons

    Lessons and Tools From the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)

  • GIS Lessons
  • Working With Maps

    Geography Awareness Week Home | My Wonderful World Home  |  About My Wonderful World  |  Sign Up for Updates

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