1. Introduce UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Explain to students that the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is a global organization with more than 190 member countries. UNESCO encourages the identification, protection, and preservation of cultural and natural sites around the world. UNESCO has designated more than 900 places as having outstanding value to humanity, naming them World Heritage Sites. Some of the sites have cultural significance, some have natural or environmental significance, and some are both cultural and natural. UNESCO member countries commit to protecting these sites. Ask: Why should we care about protecting cultural and natural sites? Have you ever visited a place that you think needs protection? Is that place cultural, natural, or both? Invite one or more volunteers to share their answers.


2. Identify locations based on the geographic clues.

Project the UNESCO World Heritage Site cards for students. Explain that each card includes a photograph and description of a site. Have students focus on the photograph of each site and look for geographic clues in the photo, such as types of vegetation, cultural images, or animals. Ask them to guess the location of the site. To help focus students, ask: What geographic clues can you find in the photograph? As an example, tell students that a photograph of a lion in the wild is a geographic clue, because lions only live in the wild in Africa and not on any other continents. Then invite volunteers to read the descriptions aloud for the whole class.


3. Place the World Heritage sites on the map.

Have students use the clues gathered from the photographs and the descriptions of the sites to place the actual cards where they think the sites might be located on the map, one at a time. For each card, have students explain why they think the site might be located there. If students need support, model this for them with one of the site cards.


4. Discuss latitude and longitude.

Point out the lines of latitude and longitude included on the map. Explain to students that these lines form a grid that can be used to locate features on the map. Use a dry erase marker to draw, or have a volunteer draw, the Equator and prime meridian. Then label each quadrant of the map with its hemispheric identifier: NE, NW, SE, and SW. The NE quadrant is at top right, the SE quadrant is at bottom right, the SW quadrant is at bottom left, and the NW quadrant is at top left. Provide students with a few examples of latitude and longitude to find on the map. Try the following combinations:

  • 30° N, 95° W: a location close to Houston, Texas
  • 9° S, 140° W: a location close to the Marquesas Islands in the Pacific Ocean
  • 19° S, 47° E: a location close to Antananarivo, Madagascar
  • 60° N, 10° E: a location close to Oslo, Norway


5. Have students verify and adjust site locations using latitude and longitude coordinates.

As a large group, use the latitude and longitude list at the end of the site cards to check the locations of the site cards, one at a time, and adjust as necessary. Assist students with reading the lines of latitude and longitude. As each site card is correctly placed, invite a volunteer to read aloud the name of the country where the site is located.


6. Discuss World Heritage sites.

Ask: Which World Heritage site would you like to visit most? Why? Remind students that only a selection of World Heritage sites are included on this map. Ask: Are there areas on the map that you would expect to find more World Heritage sites? Explain. Use a dry erase marker to mark the sites that students suggest, or have students do so.


Subjects & Disciplines

Learning Objectives

Students will:

  • identify and analyze characteristics of UNESCO World Heritage sites
  • use photographs and text to extract geographic clues
  • find points on a map using lines of latitude and longitude

Teaching Approach

  • Learning-for-use

Teaching Methods

  • Discussions
  • Hands-on learning

National Standards, Principles, and Practices

National Geography Standards

Standard 1
How to use maps and other geographic representations, geospatial technologies, and spatial thinking to understand and communicate information
Standard 4
The physical and human characteristics of places


What You’ll Need

Materials You Provide

  • Dry erase markers
  • Removable tape or glue

Background & Vocabulary

Background Information

There are more than 900 World Heritage sites designated by UNESCO. They are located all over the world in 153 different countries. The sites range from culturally significant locations on the small Pacific island of Vanuatu to the geothermal geysers of Yellowstone National Park in the United States. Using large-format maps to locate World Heritage sites illustrates the geographic diversity of these world treasures and helps students to build map skills.

Prior Knowledge

  • None

Recommended Prior Activities

  • None


Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry



large settlement with a high population density.



one of the seven main land masses on Earth.

Encyclopedic Entry: continent



a set of numbers giving the precise location of a point, often its latitude and longitude.



geographic territory with a distinct name, flag, population, boundaries, and government.



imaginary line around the Earth, another planet, or star running east-west, 0 degrees latitude.

Encyclopedic Entry: equator



horizontal and vertical lines used to locate objects in relation to one another on a map.



distance north or south of the Equator, measured in degrees.

Encyclopedic Entry: latitude



distance east or west of the prime meridian, measured in degrees.

Encyclopedic Entry: longitude

physical features


naturally occurring geographic characteristics.

prime meridian


imaginary line around the Earth running north-south, 0 degrees longitude.

Encyclopedic Entry: prime meridian



one of four parts of a grid. Quadrants are divided into northwest, northeast, southeast and southwest.



political unit in a nation, such as the United States, Mexico, or Australia.



the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization.

Encyclopedic Entry: UNESCO


Media Credits

The audio, illustrations, photos, and videos are credited beneath the media asset, except for promotional images, which generally link to another page that contains the media credit. The Rights Holder for media is the person or group credited.


Sean P. O'Connor, National Geographic Society
Justine Kendall, National Geographic Society


Anne Haywood, National Geographic Society
Sean P. O'Connor, National Geographic Society

Educator Reviewer

Lydia Lewis, M.Ed., Grade 5 U.S. History/Geography Educator; National Cathedral School, Washington, D.C.

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