Map: Human Migration

National Geographic Genographic Project

Download this activity as a PDF.

The United States is often referred to as “a nation of immigrants,” and indeed it is. The population of the U.S. is made up of people who have come from other places – some many generations ago; others very recently.

The students in most classrooms are a microcosm of national immigration patterns.

Graphing Historical Data

a) Distribute copies of Activity #12-Handout 1 and sheets of graph paper. Instruct students to create bar graphs comparing the foreign-born population of the U.S. by region of birth for each of the four years for which data is provided. How have immigration patterns changed over the past 150 years?

Collecting/Presenting Data

b) Have students interview their parents or grandparents to find out approximately when their family first came to the U.S. and from which country.

c) Provide each student with a world map, preferably one that is “Americas-centered.” [See Americas-Centered Map]. Have each student locate the family’s country of origin and draw a colored line from that country to your location in the U.S. Have each student label the line with the approximate date of the family’s immigration.

d) Post a large Americas-centered map on the bulletin board and have each student add his/her immigration line to the map. Compare patterns on the class immigration map to the patterns observed in the national immigration graphs. Discuss similarities and differences.

Extending the Activity

Not only is the United States a popular target for international migration; people within the U.S. are very mobile as well. Each year people move in response to new jobs, changing family circumstances, or retirement.

a) Ask the students how many of them were born in the state where your school is located. Post a blank map of the U.S on the bulletin board and have students add their names to the states in which they were born. Ask how many students have lived in more than one state. Add this information to the map.

b) Visit this map of U.S. migration flows from the Pew Research Center. Examine the interactive maps on this web site that show movement of population among the regions of the U.S. over time. What patterns can be observed? What changes or events might explain these migration patterns? Click on the tab “States” and locate your state in the graph below the map. How does migration to and from your state compare to that of other states? Why do people move to or from your state?


  • 2014 National Geographic Geography Bee Finals with Virginia eighth grader Akhil Rekulapelli (right) and TUyua Bergson-Michelson (left)

    School Registration

    Get a reminder to register on September 15, 2014.

  • 2014 National Geographic Geography Bee Final with Virginia eighth grader Akhil Rekulapelli (left), Soledad O'Brien (center) and Ameya Mujumdar.

    National Geo Bee Champ Named

    A Virginia eighth grader trekked to the top spot of the 2014 National Geography Bee.

  • geobee-channelshow-990x742.jpg

    Watch the 2014 Geo Bee Online

    Did you miss the show, or want to hear the questions again? View the final round of the National Geographic Bee held on May 21, 2014.

  • geobee-ace-160.jpg

    How to Ace the National Geographic Bee

    The National Geographic Bee is this May. Are you ready? Learn how to prepare for the competition with How to Ace the National Geographic Bee, which includes a variety of questions actually used in past Bees, and The National Geographic Bee Ultimate Fact Book: Countries A-Z, chock-full of all the facts kids need to know to become a geography expert.

  • Photo: GeoBee video screenshot

    Only One Champion

    Each year students travel from across the United States to Washington, D.C. to compete in the ultimate test of geographic knowledge: the National Geographic Bee.

Quizzes to Go

  • Photo:  Screenshot from GeoBee Challenge HD for iPad

    Now on Your Favorite Mobile Device!

    Do you have what it takes to be the next National Geographic Bee Champion? Find out the fun way with the new GeoBee Challenge! Three types of game play make sure you really know your stuff and never get bored.

Google Earth Presents

  • google-video-990.jpg

    Hello World

    Virtually travel anywhere with the Google Earth team before you actually hit the ground. Geography does matter!

Download Google Earth »

Student Activities

Teachers can use these activities in the classroom to prepare students for the bee!

  • Photo: Map of the world showing areas of freshwater

    Geo-Scavenger Hunt

    Simply memorizing terms and place locations can be tedious and even boring. One solution is to make the task fun with an atlas-based scavenger game.

  • Photo: Map of languages

    Exploring Diffusion

    The movement of people, goods, or ideas from one place to another is a process known as diffusion, which plays an important role in shaping the characteristics of where we live.

  • Photo: Infared satellite image of hurricane Rita

    Tracking Violent Storms

    Springtime brings the possibility of extreme weather, including violent thunderstorms and tornadoes.

See More From the Study Corner »