Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Pin Maps Tutorial

One of my favorite things that my daughter and I have done the past couple years has been pin maps.  I love to be able to see the locations at the end of the year when they are all pinned!  It's a tangible reminder of all the work in memorization that my daughter has accomplished for each year of geography.  I wanted to share with you how I go about making the Pin Maps for my schoolroom...

What You Need:
  • Engineering Copy of the map you want to use (mine is from the Foundation's Guide for the United States on page 220 and 221 from the 4th edition curriculum guide) - I used two maps.  This way I could have one with the physical features and one with the blank states for capitals.  You could use any blackline maps of the U.S. you like though.  We use the CC blackline maps since that is what we are currently using for our geography memory work and it helps with Memory Master later on. You can get engineering copies made for $3 at Staples.
  • Something to mount them on.  Amazon has these Board Dudes 22" x 35" Home Decor Cork Board (86040VA-4).  I used two framed cork boards.  Walmart  and Target have sometimes locally.  They are approximately 24"x36".  A friend found them on sale for $10 one year!
  • Labels - United States Geography can be purchased already color coded by physical features and State Capitals from Solagratiamom™ Pin Maps or as part of the Cycle 3 Bundle.
  • A craft knife
  • Scissors
  • Clear tape
  • Push Pins
  • Option 1:  Tape or hot glue gun
  • Option 2:  T-pins or Toothpicks
  • Option 3:  Avery Labels
  • (lamination -optional)
The first thing I do is take my engineering copy of the maps and lay them out on my board.  They are always just slightly bigger than the board, so they require some cutting to fit.  I place a light piece of tape on the sides to hold it in place and then using a craft knife, I begin to cut the top and bottom to fit within my board.  Lastly, I cut the sides I have taped so they fit as well.  Once all the sides are cut to fit inside the board, I stick push pins in them to hold them in place.  
To make the label pins themselves, there are three options:  t-pins, toothpicks or Avery labels.  The toothpicks are quick, easy and cheap.  The t-pins are nice and last longer, allowing you to re-use the labels for the next time the cycle comes up.  The Avery labels would be great for little ones who you don't feel would be safe with pins and toothpicks around but you still want to give them the experience of labeling their maps.  I will explain all three ways in detail below:

T-pin Labels - most durable/reusable/most time intensive!

First, cut up all your labels and then once they are cut you place them inside the laminating pouches with some space between each label.  Once you carefully run them through the laminator, you will want to cut them apart (thus the need for space to allow them to stay laminated once cut).  Next you will take your laminated, cut labels and hot glue them onto your t-pins.  I use School Smart Steel T Pins, 1 1/2" L (Pack of 100).  I keep mine all in an index file box or pencil box for each cycle so I can reuse them.  To organize them for pinning, I use small black rubber bands and band together each week's pins before I place them in the container.  It helps me to quickly locate them when I need them for the week to pin.  In the past, I have even taken the banded t-pins and placed them into my weekly folder to be pinned.  Whatever works best for your organizational style is great.  The downside to these, while they are the most durable and can be reused, is occasionally little hands will press the label too hard when pinning and pop off the label from the t-pin, requiring you to glue them back on.  We got good at just holding the shaft of the pin to label them on our map and push them in.

Toothpick Pin Labels - quick, easy and inexpensive!

Cut up your labels and then using a small piece of clear tape, tape the back of the label to the toothpick -as seen in the above pictures.  These work well and can be pushed through the cork board pretty easily.  They may require some adult help to use because of the pokey top for little hands.

Avery Labels - some time required to align document to labels, great for younger children or small siblings in reach of pin maps!

To make these you will have to mess around with the document a little bit to align them to your labels and printer settings.  We used Avery Easy Peel Address Labels, Inkjet Printers, White, 1 x 2.5/8 Inch, Box of 750 labels (25 Sheets / 30 per Sheet) (08160).  This is why I keep the document in Excel instead of PDF, so you can alter it to your needs.  Once you align the labels, then remove the borders on the document (that causes the lines to print around each label).  Print them out and then each week, just peel and have them stick the labels on the map.  These are great for sticking in your weekly folders if that is your style of organizing your CC weeks' work.  Easy peasy!  Great for younger kids for sure!
When doing geography for countries verses the United States, you can also print out passports and then glue in their country flag and get a date stamp to "officially" stamp it - like the one from Trodat Economy Self-Inking Date Stamp, Stamp Impression Size: 3/8 x 1-1/4 Inches, Black (E4820) at Amazon.  This was a lot of fun for our previous geography studies and my kids enjoyed it.  You can get blank passport books like this Hygloss Products Inc. My Passport Book 12 Books or you can go to Donna Ward website to print out some to make yourself, if you prefer.  
(The pin map documents from Solagratiamom™always have an extra set of flags for the purpose of the passports -when any cycles have countries as part of the geography memory work.  That obviously doesn't apply to the United States.) 

I hope that encourages you to have some 3D fun with geography this year!
United States Capitals and Features 
Pin Map Labels


  1. Looks like a great activity! I might use this idea for studying the countries this year with Jeremiah!

    1. Super! It's a great way to do geography in a hands on, memorable way for kids!

    2. We put together the pin map this summer and are eager to use it this fall! We are super excited to execute and complete this big picture project! Thanks so much!

  2. Wow, what a cool idea! Thanks for the links and detailed instructions--I'm thinking this would be great for our history and/or current events studies!

    1. Great! Hope it is a big hit at your home this year! Blessings - Colleen

  3. I like how it's kind of like a timeline equivalent for geography =) Thanks for sharing how you put it all together!