May 16, 2011

TOS Review: WonderMaps


When I was a little kid I used to pull out our atlas and pore over it, just for fun. I loved to plan trips to places, and look up locations mentioned in the books I read. Now, I am bequeathing this love of maps to my kids. We have a US map taking up part of our limited and therefor precious wall space, we have an atlas, and we have a globe, I have tons of websites for free, printable maps bookmarked, but such is our love for maps that we were delighted to receive Wondermaps from Bright Ideas Press to review.
Wondermaps is a "customizable collection of over 350 maps" and is truly amazing and lots of fun to play with! :)  The download was simple and easy. Then I was able to choose from four categories: World Continents, Regions, Nations; United States of America; Historical maps; and Thematic maps.


Rather than trying to explain to you what all you can do with these maps, I will direct you to a moderately short (6 minute) video that you can find here because it does a much better job than I can! (scroll down a little). Instead, I'll tell you how I liked this program and how I plan to use it in our school.
I love that I can turn all of the features off and on before I print out a map. Since I can take out names and locations of cities, capitols, and geographic landmarks, I can use a completely labeled map to illustrate a read-aloud. I can use a partially labeled map for the kids to circle, trace, color or find newly-introduced locations on the map. I can use a blank map to quiz them when we have finished our topic. I love that I can add color to my maps for my more visual kids or leave off the color when I need to save on ink. I love that I now have access to Biblical maps and maps from specific time periods in history. Those types of maps are very very hard to find free on the Internet! I can also just sit a kid at the computer and let them "play" with the maps themselves. They have highly enjoyed doing this!
If you use Mystery of History Vol 1-3 or All American History Vol 1-2, each and every map you need is on Wondermaps. I'm happy about that because we will be using MOH Vol 2 next year. It is going to be so handy to have all those maps at my fingertips.
One thing I do not like about Wondermaps is that not every country has it's own map. It is very US-centric. For example, while every state and geographic region of the US has a map, the only country in Africa that has its own map is Egypt. Another crew member suggested enlarging the map so the nation fills the page, then selecting "print current view", but when I tried this it was awkward and I wasn't happy with the results. This squashes my hopes of using Wondermaps for World Geography, but it is still an excellent resource for US Geography and History.
Wondermaps also has a Teacher's Guide that gives lots of interesting ideas for geography, including 50 Bright Ideas for Using Outline Maps.


For other TOS Crew Member reviews, go here.


I received a free download of Wondermaps in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

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