By Greg Kennedy, Secondary Education graduate, University of Mississippi
North Mississippi residents recently had the opportunity to travel to all parts of North America without actually leaving the state.
The geography lesson came about on Wednesday night, when the National Geographic “Gigantic Travelling Map of North America” was on display at the Jackson Avenue Center in Oxford, offering children and adults an opportunity to learn about geography in a very “big” way.
Ole Miss, along with the Mississippi Geographic Alliance (MGA), hosted the 36’ x 26’ map. Dr. Ellen Foster of the UM School of Education, and MGA coordinated and directed the event.
“The National Geographic Society rents the map for $300 a week to cover shipping. The map we have arrived in a 10 inch (diameter) by 10 foot (length) sewer pipe that comes with a 48” steamer trunk full of activities, and materials to be used with the map,” said Foster.
Foster, along students from the UM School of Education graduate program, spent the week travelling with the map to teach students the importance of geography.
“What the giant map brings in is a different perspective, uniqueness, and richness to the curriculum,” Foster said of the educational value of the map. “The lessons that come with the map are designed for a school to have the map for one week, so students can revisit it, and go back several times to notice things they learned the first time they worked with the map, and use new activities to blend it all together.”
On Wednesday night, the Jackson Avenue Center was open to the public for all to come and experience the gigantic map of North America. Melinda Valliant was one parent who took this opportunity to show her children that learning about geography is important, and can even be fun.
“I brought them mainly because both of them are interested in geography, and we have a United States map at our house that they like to study,” said Valliant. “Also, they are fortunate enough to have kids in their class from different states and countries, and so they talk about that a lot at school.”
During the course of the evening, adults and children were exposed to different geographic features of North America such as mountain ranges, bodies of water, natural and man-made geographic boundaries.
Henry Jones, a six-year-old kindergarten student and Oxford resident, was excited before he even got there.
“I thought it was going to be neat,” Jones said of his reason for attending the event. “I have learned about maps and geography in the past few weeks at school.”
Four-year-old Noah Bing was asked what he liked best.
“Mississippi,” said Noah.
The map travels next to Boston on its journey to bring attention to the importance of geographic education, not only for students, but also for people of all ages.