Mapmaking Contest

Osher Map Library and Smith Center for Cartographic Education Mapmaking Contest!

Inviting all Maine 4th, 5th, 6th Graders…

…to enter our Illustrated Mapmaking Contest for the chance to win a $1,000 first prize ($500 for you, $500 for your class)! Prizes will also be awarded for second and third places, as well as “Best in Grade.”


Important Dates:

  • Tuesday, April 23, 2024 – maps submitted by mail should be postmarked by this date.
  • Thursday, April 25, 2024 – digital submissions must be emailed by this date (if dropping off in person, do so by 4:00pm of this date).
  • Saturday, May 11, 2024 – 12 finalists announced, online voting begins at 12:00pm.
  • Saturday, May 18, 2024 – online voting ends, and winner is revealed the next day!

*For Teachers: you may schedule a free mapmaking workshop during school hours for your students by form or by email.

Important Things to Know:

  • Your map must be flat (2-dimensional) and no larger than 11×17 inches. Beware: A lot of construction paper is 18×12 inches, which is too large for our scanner.
  • Your map may be created on or with a computer as long as the work is all yours.
  • If you submit by mail, please make a photocopy if you would like to keep one, because the maps will not be mailed back. You may also submit a copy and keep the original, but your photocopy must be high-quality. If the quality of the photocopy isn’t good, it may hurt your chances of getting chosen for the Top Twelve.
  • If you choose to submit a scan of your map by email (, the scan must be high-quality and appropriately cropped. Please double check that scans have the entire map included before emailing. No photographs please. Photographs have uneven lighting and if the lens axis is not exactly perpendicular to the map, the map will be distorted, so please use an actual scanner if you want to submit by email. If you do not have a scanner at home, you can scan your map at Staples or FedEx for a small cost ($0.49). File extension .jpg is preferred. Please avoid .pdf as some programs try to auto-recognize text, which can distort handwritten labels.
  • Your map should be original, creative, and unassisted.
  • Your map may depict any real or imaginary place, but should be illustrated (in other words, use pictures).
  • Your completed Entry Release Form should be taped to the back side of the map.
  • If you are home-schooled, include the name of the public library that you use the most on your entry release form.
  • Still have questions? Email K-12 Outreach Coordinator, Renee Keul, at

How to Submit Your Map:

Option 1 (preferred): Mail your map and Entry Release Form to:
     Osher Map Library & Smith Center for Cartographic Education
     (Attn: Mapmaking Contest)
     P.O. Box 9301
     Portland, Maine 04104

Option 2: email a high quality scan to: Please note that the scan must be high-quality and appropriately cropped. Please double-check your scan before emailing. JPG is preferred. No photographs please, as photographs have uneven lighting and if the lens axis is not exactly perpendicular to the map, the map will be distorted.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Q.      Does my map have to be of a real place?
A.      No, it can be a map of a real place or someplace or something completely imaginary! If you’re looking for inspiration or ideas, check out our Map Idea Generator.

Q.      Can I work with another student to make my map?
A.      Sorry, no. All the work needs to be your own!

Q.      How are maps judged?
A.      Every year, we bring together an independent panel of educators, artists, and cartographers to help OML staff with the judging of our annual mapmaking contest. All submissions are reviewed by the panel, and after extensive discussion, the panel selects 12 finalists to go on to the online community voting round. Maps are judged blindly; judges do not see names or schools. This year, because we have maps being sent in by 4th, 5th, and 6th Graders, we have a new prize category: “Best in Grade.” The three “Best in Grade” maps will be selected by the judging panel. It is possible that a map selected as “Best in Grade” will not be among the Top Twelve Finalists.

Q.      Which will be more likely to win: maps made on computers or hand-drawn maps?
A.      Remember that the final winner will be chosen by online voting. However, the 12 finalists will be chosen by committee based on originality (creativity and uniqueness) and aesthetics (how nice they look). Maps made on the computer can be more mathematically precise, but that will not matter for this contest. Use whatever method allows you to create the most unique map you can!

Q.      Can I use any art material to make my map, so long as it is flat?
A.      You can use any standard art medium, but if you use something that might by messy, such as chalk pastels, you need to spray it with fixative. We will be scanning the finalist maps for online voting, and we can’t risk damaging our scanner!

Q.      Can I put printed images on a hand-drawn map?
A.      You can create images on the computer, print them off, and paste them on your map if you would like. However, if you’re using images you get online, a lot of that is protected by copyright laws, and we could theoretically get in trouble for displaying it on our website. For that reason, all of the illustrations should be your own.

Q.      When you say that my map can be created on a computer, are you talking about a certain program?
A.      There are multiple programs that can be used to design maps, but we were specifically thinking of software like Adobe Photoshop or GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program). GIMP is free online (, but it can be pretty tricky to use at first. If you want to try it, you will probably need to spend a few hours with the tutorials ( is also a good program with great tutorials, and it requires no downloads.

Q.      Can an illustrated map use words?
A.      Yes! In fact, most illustrated maps DO use words.

See Entries from 2023
See Entries from 2022
See Entries from 2021
See Entries from 2020
See Entries from 2019
See Entries from 2018
See Entries from 2017
See Entries from 2016

Questions? Email K-12 Outreach Coordinator, Renee Keul, at

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