Illustrated Maps: How Drawing One Map Can Support the Explore Shared Foundation

Illustrated maps are creative representations of a region. They are colorful, fun and interesting. These maps can be found on purses, shirts, coffee mugs, posters, and in books. When you look closely at these maps, you’ll realize the research that went into designing the artwork. An illustrator must find a location, identify popular places, and research icons. When the information is collected, the artist can begin to construct the composition.

The work that goes into illustrating maps supports the AASL Standards Framework for Learners. Drawing one illustrated map hits all of the Domains in the Explore Shared Foundation. Consider having learners explore and create maps. They could illustrate a place they want to visit, a setting from a story, or a favorite spot.

I made the map in this blog post to illustrate my trip to Louisville, Kentucky, during the 2019 AASL National Conference. I followed Anne Bollman’s class on Skillshare to learn about map illustration. Skillshare is a subscription-based website for online learning. Some classes are free.

The map I created is basic, not to scale, and the icons are in random places. That’s the beauty of creating these maps. Anything goes, as long as the map demonstrates a purpose for an intended audience. I designed this map for myself so I could understand the process. It was fun, and I learned more about Louisville.

Follow the lesson ideas below to turn map illustration into a lesson that meets the AASL Standards Framework for Learners.


V.A.3 Learners develop and satisfy personal curiosity by engaging in inquiry-based processes for personal growth.

  • Brainstorm different locations for learners to illustrate. They might consider mapping the school library or perhaps a place they are studying in class. A picture book lesson idea from a previous Knowledge Quest post of mine may inspire some to map remote villages with limited water resources.
  • Invite learners to explore illustrated maps online. Ask learners what they notice about the maps. What is important to include?
  • Visit Google Maps to research a location. Direct learners to consider what part of the map they want to capture.


V.B.1 Learners construct new knowledge by problem solving through cycles of design, implementation, and reflection.

  • Begin sketching maps. This will take some time as learners work through different drafts of their design. My first draft included all highways and major roads. I found it to be too busy. I decided to stick with two main highways.
  • Direct learners to identify popular places. Suggest searching for images about the location. This will inspire learners to think about how they can represent the location with an icon. Invite learners to practice drawing icons on a separate sheet of paper. They’ll need to consider the size of each icon and where it will fit on the map.


V.C.1 Learners engage with the learning community by expressing curiosity about a topic of personal interest or curricular relevance.

  • Research “how-to” instructions to learn more about drawing icons and illustrating maps. There are plenty of free tutorials available online. I always appreciate artists who are willing to share their craft so others can learn new techniques!


V.D.3 Learners develop through experience and reflection by open-mindedly accepting feedback for positive and constructive growth.

  • Consider holding a museum walk of map illustrations. Display maps on tables. Leave sticky notes and pencils near maps. Invite classmates to jot questions and notes for the illustrator.

Books with Maps

Camilla, Cartographer by Julie Dillemuth and Laura Wood

Camilla, Cartographer is an engaging story about a warthog who loves maps. One day, when her friend gets lost, Camilla uses her mapping skills to find their way. A double-page spread of a hand-drawn map may inspire learners to draw a map of their own. Ask learners to draw a treasure map of your library. They can point to a favorite author in the library collection and ask a buddy to follow the map. Another lesson idea that supports the AASL Standards can be found on my Library Lessons site.

A Green Place to Be: The Creation of Central Park by Ashley Benham Yazdani

Imagine hearing about a contest to design a park. What would you include? How would you present the pitch? Architect Calvert Vaux and landscape expert Frederick Law Olmsted drew a 10-foot long illustrated map for Central Park. They included bridges, roads, lakes, paths, gardens, and trees. Their detailed plan won the contest. Invite learners to illustrate a map for a park in their community. Ask them to consider ideas that will benefit everyone. Learn more about the history of Central Park with this lesson idea from my Library Lessons site.



Author: Maureen Schlosser

Author: Lessons Inspired by Picture Books for Primary Grades and Social and Emotional Learning for Picture Book Readers published by ALA Editions
Skillshare Teacher:

Categories: Blog Topics, Student Engagement/ Teaching Models

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