An estimated 2,000 Panhandle residents, many of them students, were able to explore North America in a whole new way this month using National Geographic’s Giant Traveling Map.
The map, measuring 35 feet by 26 feet, toured the Panhandle for two weeks, giving students an interactive way to experience the geography of the continent. The magazine’s Giant Traveling Maps program is organized by National Geographic Live, the public programming division of the National Geographic Society.
Tara Dunn, a teacher at Sioux County schools, learned about the program at a geography conference several years ago and worked to bring it to the Panhandle. In the last two years, students throughout the region have been able to explore Asia and South America via the giant maps as well.
The North America map visited Banner County, two elementary schools in Gering, Mitchell Elementary, St. Agnes School in Scottsbluff and Sioux County Schools over the last two weeks. Marty McAndrew, a member of Geographic Educators of Nebraska, also took the map to KidzExplore in Mitchell.
The giant, vinyl maps illustrate oceans, seas, rivers, mountains, countries and capitals. Designed for grades kindergarten through eighth, the map is accompanied by a trunk full of activities, including interactive games, geography adventures, atlases and books that teach students about the physical characteristics of the continent along with history and cultures. This year’s trunk for North America includes “A Tale of Twenty Cities,” which explores the physical and economic reasons behind the locations of 20 North American cities.
“The National Geographic Society has truly created an amazing resource to excite students and teachers for learning about geography,” Dunn said.
The Society introduced the traveling maps program in 2006 with Africa and has now expanded to include North America, Asia, South America, Europe and the Pacific Ocean.
“Experiencing a map of this size can really awaken a student to the power of maps and the limitless depth of geography,” said Dan Beaupre, the director of education partnerships for National Geographic Live. “Whether they are using the map to learn place names or to compare state-to-state carbon dioxide emissions, students are physically involved in a hands-and-feet-on way that makes geography in to an event.”
To learn more about the Giant Traveling Map project, for borrowing information, or to download map activities, visit www.nationalgeographic.com/giantmaps.