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Dover, New Jersey 1903

[Detail] Dover, New Jersey 1903

Lesson Overview

Students often think of history as tattered documents, worn photographs, and musty books, all of which have little or no relevance to their lives. Maps provide an often-overlooked source of information and a new and compelling perspective on the past. By revising the work of early twentieth century cartographers, and understanding the underlying motivation for their work, students can claim a historical spot of their own.

In an era of great mobility and immigration of families from other countries, students' homes are a haven and an anchor in a neighborhood. By learning about architectural styles and periods and identifying the best features of their homes, students begin to see their homes as places of value in relation to the broader community portrayed on the panoramic map of their town.

Students create their town’s history for coming generations and place themselves on the map in a literal as well as figurative sense, by producing portions of an updated version of an early twentieth century panoramic map from the American Memory collections. To complete this project, they gather information from a variety of primary sources, including the early twentieth century map, photographs, drawings, and site visits. Each student contributes to the revised map by creating a contemporary map of her or his block.


Students will be able to:

  • become familiar with panoramic and other kinds of maps as primary sources of historical information and become proficient at observing and interpreting maps;
  • appreciate their own role in affecting and making history; and
  • contribute to a revised panoramic map of their town.


Time Required

Three to four weeks

Recommended Grade Level

  • 3-5
  • 6-8


  • City & Regional History
  • Maps & Geography


  • Progressive Era to New Era, 1900-1929
  • Postwar United States, 1945-present


Judy Klement and Elizabeth Park