Each year, National Geographic rents out a giant map of a continent to schools across the nation. This year, the map was of Asia. The Minnesota Alliance for Geographic Education (MAGE) brings the giant traveling map to Minnesota for several weeks and Minnesota teachers can request to have the map at their school. In the fall, I applied for the map to visit us, and last week, Friends School of Minnesota was lucky enough to host the map for two school days.
The 26’ x 33’ map of Asia, printed on a heavy-duty tarp, was spread out over half of our gym’s basketball court. It came with a variety of materials and activities, ready for teachers to use. Most of the activities were fun games that focused on various geography skills such as people and places, latitude and longitude, and even animals.
During the game of Simon Says, students were asked to play close attention to the political and physical features, symbols, and boundaries on the map. Several classes played this game, including the 7th and 8th grade Humanities students with the kindergartners from the Mississippi.
Another game got teams of students racing to be the first to identify and mark points on the map using latitude and longitude. Teachers found the interactive activities to be a great way to get students excited about geography.
Being able to stand on and move around the map helped students develop a stronger mental map of the world and discover new places they never knew existed. One student became very excited with she found the De Long Islands, because De Long is part of her last name. I loved seeing students discover and learn while participating in active play, and I hope we are able to host a giant map again in the future.
To learn more about the National Geographic Giant Map program, visit http://events.nationalgeographic.com/special-events/giant-traveling-maps/.
– Melissa Andersen, Middle School Humanities Teacher