The following lessons were written by members of the Minnesota Alliance for Geographic Education (MAGE). They were inspired by the Minnesota History Center’s exhibit, ‘Minnesota on the Map’. All of the lessons are based on the Minnesota State Geography and History Standards. Each lesson stands on its own, but do not hesitate to be creative with their use. Teaching strategies include group and individual work, research, discussion, writing and presentation. We encourage you to assign different lessons to different students based on their ability or interest. All of the lessons include additional extensions to challenge your students.

Finally, do not miss the opportuntity to visit the exhibit at the Minnesota History Center, and consider taking your students to see these wonderful maps in person. These are original maps from the history of Minnesota, and the exhibit provides a unique opportunity for students to see the documents which guided the early explorers, settlers, and leaders of our state.

Note: If you are unable to bring your students to the Minnesota History Center, you may still utilize the majority of the lessons listed below because the maps which are used in these lessons have been provided on this website in digital high resolution. See the Map & Podcast Index to locate each map.

Reading and Interpreting Historical Maps
Overview: This is a generic lesson on map reading, which will allow participants to examine the features of maps, and relate the map content to Minnesota history. Students will use a choice of maps to identify features, shapes, and boundaries of Minnesota through time. The historical maps will give participants the opportunity to follow the course of history in a visual format.  Advanced students will be able to apply higher order skills by comparing and contrasting map information.
Minneapolis in Maps
Overview: Students will learn how Minneapolis grew next to St. Anthony Falls, the only falls on the Mississippi River, to utilize its power to run the mills of Minneapolis. The historical maps of Minneapolis and St. Anthony reflect the important presence of the river, falls, and islands within the falls along with the cartographers’ grid systems that aided in the development of this prairie city.
Seen Through Indian Eyes
Overview: Joseph N. Nicollet, the first scientifically trained cartographer and geographer, surveyed the Upper Mississippi River 1836-39 and produced the finest map of North America in the 19th century. He took particular interest in Native American culture and made great effort to preserve their place names on his map. This lesson helps students to compare his map with earlier and later maps to see what happened to Native American place names.
Minnesota Map Bingo
Overview:  Students will be looking at the antique maps in the Minnesota History Museum Minnesota Map exhibit and filling out their Bingo board based on the information found in a variety of different types and era maps of Minnesota.
The Five Themes of Geography and Minnesota Maps
Overview:  This lesson is to be used in conjunction with the “Minnesota on the Map” exhibit at the Minnesota History Center to explore and learn about the five themes of geography.
Big Minnesota/Little Minnesota
Overview:  Students will be evaluating the effectiveness of the current boundaries in the state of Minnesota as well as the implications of different boundaries on the state.  Students will be able to recognize the different types of boundaries for the state of Minnesota and use those terms to define the different boundary types found in Minnesota.
The Influence of Boats, Rails, Busses, and Cars on the Development of Minnesota
Overview: Using historical maps from the Minnesota Historical Society, student will be able to explain the routes and modes of transportation used in Minnesota.  Student will also be able to explain how these patterns influenced the urban and economic development of the State.
Changing Themes
Overview: Students will choose one of the Five Themes of Geography and use it to analyze how Minnesota has changed in each of the last five centuries.




























Maps (provided by the Minnesota Historical Society) and lessons may be reproduced for educational purposes only.