Candy Maps FOR THE WIN!

Thursday, September 23, 2021

In 5th grade our 1st unit of study in social studies (in Alabama) reads: Locate on a map physical features that impacted the exploration and settlement of the Americas. This includes locating on a map states and capitals east of the Mississippi River and Identifying natural harbors, important mountain ranges, etc. on a map of the United States. If that isn't your standard in your state, I hope that you can take what we do and revise it to meet the needs of your kiddos! You can do so many different things with candy maps!

In order to make sure our kiddos can properly identify these things, we spend a bit of time talking about how to read a map. It is important for kiddos to know what a map key and scale are and how to use them. It is also important that they are able to locate features on a map not only using a key, but also using longitude and latitude. For a fun longitude and latitude activity, check out my previous blog post where I share how I use our school safety map as a FUN way to apply longitude and latitude practice. You can also check out my longitude/latitude battleship game that is available in my TPT store. It is always a crowd favorite in my classroom and is another way to apply the skill.

Once I feel confident that my students understand the parts of a map and can locate physical features using both longitude and latitude and a map legend, we culminate our unit by creating CANDY MAPS. I've never seen kiddos having so much fun - because - candy makes everything more fun, right?

My 5th grade team (at my school) collaborated together to determine items in the United States we thought were important and impacted the exploration and settlement of the Americas. We picked several important rivers, mountain ranges, forests, and also chose to highlight several different regions such as deserts and plains. Then - my awesome coworker, Mrs. Snable, created a Google Document for students to use with their maps. The goal of the candy maps is for students to explore the important features in the United States in a way that they will hopefully remember them later. 

Students are given a map of the United States, access to the Google Document, and the candy items they need for their map. Then - they work with a partner to add each important feature to their map. We have seen that when given our kiddos the chance to physically place the feature on their map and create a map key, they are much more likely to remember. We take a photo of each child's final map and upload it to Google Classroom so that they have a reference when needed.

Teacher Prep: 

  • About a week before this assignment, I send out a "Sign-Up Genius" to the parents in my class and ask them to contribute different items needed for our map. For this project you will need the following for each kid (based on Google Slides): 6 Swedish fish to locate harbors, 8 gumdrops to identify the Appalachian Mountains, 8 Hershey Kisses to identify the Rocky Mountains, Twizzler Pull-Aparts to identify major rivers such as the Mississippi River, Missouri River, and Colorado River, Graham crackers to identify the Great Plains and the Great Desert Basin, Candy Corn to identify several forests, and icing to "glue" everything down and show the Coastal Plains.
  • Print a map of the United States on larger paper (we use 11 x 17 card-stock).
  • Edit the Google Slides from our school to meet the needs of your students and share it virtually with students on Google Classroom (or you can project it on your board if you want to do it whole group.)

Overall - this simple but easy activity is a HIT in our classrooms and we love that it allows for hands-on learning, application, and FUN. If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to me in the comments or on Instagram. 


  1. The Google slides link isn’t working for me. I would love to do this activity with my students!

  2. But won't the kids eat everything?
    It's a great idea to increase engagement.