Every student at Patrick Marsh Middle School departed on the ultimate international field trip last week — no passports needed — with the arrival of one of the world’s largest maps of Europe. The National Geographic’s Giant Traveling Map of Europe, measuring 26 feet by 26 feet, enabled students to embark on a two-day mock tour of the world’s second-smallest continent while learning about its rich history and diverse geography.
National Geographic’s Giant Traveling Maps, produced by National Geographic Live, tour the country’s schools, bringing hands- and feet-on geography education to hundreds of thousands students each year. Designed to promote geographic literacy by igniting interest in geography, the maps are enormously entertaining and educationally powerful tools for introducing geography and map reading skills to students. What better way to teach young people the power of maps and the limitless depth of geography than a large map of a continent on which they can explore, travel from country to country, hop around, compete, collaborate and have lots of fun?
Reading Specialist and Go Global Club Advisor Sandra Kowalczyk initiated and coordinated the map event with Bonnie Kieffer, a retired middle school geography teacher from Beaver Dam. Kieffer travels with the map through an arrangement with the Wisconsin Geographic Alliance.
Physical education teachers Crystal Brandl, Ryan Fiskey and Neal Chase were on board to help lead activities that incorporated physical movement and games to teach students place names, physical geography and cultural geography, as well as map reading skills.
The vibrant vinyl map guided students through lessons and fun activities related to Europe’s climate, natural resources, famous landmarks, demographics and more. The map travels with a trunk of accessories designed to enhance the lessons and encourage student engagement with content-rich games suitable for various age groups and class sizes.
Among the activities are a geography-themed version of “Simon Says,” in which students utilize movement and knowledge to locate key places on the map; “All Aboard the Landmark Carousel,” which explores iconic European landmarks and human geography; and “The Grid Game,” which reviews the concept of identifying a location using latitudinal and longitudinal coordinates.
Library Media Specialist Chris Schiemann introduced students to fiction and nonfiction books featuring European countries. In one activity, after selecting a book, students physically stood on the map site of the individual countries in their books and spoke of features of the countries.
“In addition to hosting the National Geographic Traveling Map of Europe this year, twice previously the Giant Traveling Map of Asia visited Patrick Marsh,” Kowalczyk explained. “And if we are fortunate enough, we hope to introduce students to the Giant Traveling Map of Africa next spring. We are always seeking new and innovative ways to bring the world into classrooms.”