Saturday, September 8, 2012

Students use feet, hands to study geography

From the Decatur Daily: Students use feet, hands to study geography

Matt McKean/TimesDaily
Chelsey Crum, an elementary education major, gives a tour of a giant map of Asia to a group of kindergarten students at Cherokee Elementary School.
CHEROKEE — First-grader Brody Thompson admits that before Thursday, he didn’t know the world was so big.
But after a geography lesson at his school with the “biggest map I’ve ever seen,” the Cherokee Elementary student and his classmates are seeing the world a little differently.
Thanks to the Alabama Geographic Alliance, a subsidiary of the National Geographic Alliance, a traveling map of Asia, measuring 26-by-36 feet, has occupied much of the school gymnasium since Thursday morning.
National Geographic’s giant traveling maps program began in 2006 with a map of Africa and has since expanded to include maps of North America, South America, the Pacific Ocean and now Asia.
With the maps, students have interactive geography lessons where they walk on the map, plot countries, islands and famous landmarks among other activities and learn about each place.
Student interns from the University of North Alabama conducted the geography lessons. The map comes with a trunk of supplies and lesson plans for each continent.
Chelsey Crum, a senior education major at UNA, walked around Asia with the class and plotted famous landmarks such as the world’s highest mountain, Mount Everest. Marking it with a yellow cone, Crum put her foot on the name on the map.
“I have my foot on Mount Everest,” she told the students. “Now, how many people can say they’ve done that?”
Retired educators Micki McWilliams and Peggy Clay, both members of the Alabama Geographic Alliance, said the program is not only worthwhile, it’s especially needed because Alabama’s mandated curriculum requires little geography.
“Geography provides the perfect framework for all the curriculum,” said Clay, who served as the country’s first teacher-in-residence for the National Geographic Society.
She added that the benefit of the large map is that everything is magnified as opposed to just dots, giving the students a sense of reality.
McWilliams called the program “meaningful geography.”
“This is one of the greatest programs National Geographic has done,” she said.
Brody Thompson said he only knew America when he saw it on a map. Now, he said he would be able to locate Asia and Mount Everest.
“Really the only country I’ve ever really known about was America, but it sure wasn’t on that map,” he said. “I wish I had a map that big, but it would take up my whole house. Asia is a lot bigger than I thought.”
The traveling map moves next to Wilson School.

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