Using “Google My Maps” to create a Heritage Map

As my AP Human Geography class began studying migration last week, I wanted to start with an understanding of how we got here. I told my students that I wanted to know how they got to our classroom today. I wanted to know what brought their family to this area. I wanted them to SEE how the movement of multiple generations of their family led to them sitting in our classroom that day.

Google My Maps allows the user to create a custom map that uses the same interface as any public Google Maps search. First, the students chose a base map that best suited their tastes (satellite, terrain, political, etc.). Once they set the base map they dropped pins on the birthplaces of their relatives and tracked their migration by adding lines and additional points. Ideally, they would map the migration of both sets of grandparents, their parents, and themselves, but every student’s map would be unique to the structure of their family.

For many students there was an overwhelming amount of data to process, and it was difficult to filter which points were essential to the map. I reminded them about the question we were trying to answer: what brought you here…to this place?

We made it so that each family member had their own layer on the map so that we have the option to only view one side of their family at a time or one generation at a time. I was proud of my students not only for their ability to utilize the technology, but, more importantly, for their curiosity and desire to explore their heritage.