OXFORD, Miss. – Every state in the union will visit the University of Mississippi during the first week of March in the form of a 35-by 26-foot traveling map of North America.
Area elementary school students, Ole Miss students and the general public can experience the map firsthand March 4-7 at the university’s Jackson Avenue Center. The map accurately illustrates oceans, seas, rivers, mountains, countries and capitals. Made of durable vinyl, it allows students to dive feet-first into geography.
“The map lets individuals interact with a geography in a much different way than on a cell phone, atlas or paper map,” said UM social studies education professor Ellen Foster. “You get to feel the scale. We often lose the concept of scale in geography. We’re talking about a map that’s going to fill a ballroom.”A trunk packed with activities for students, including oversized map keys, giant dice and flag football gear, will accompany the giant map. Foster and her students are managing the event and will facilitate group visits.
The map is part of the My Wonderful World campaign designed to help improve geographic literacy among students. The National Geographic Society introduced its first giant traveling map, of Africa, in 2006. Since then, four more maps have been unveiled, including North America, South America, Asia and the Pacific Ocean.
Before arriving at Ole Miss, the North America map will stop at the Museum of Natural Science in Jackson and at Mississippi State University during its trip across the state.
The Mississippi Geography Alliance, or MGA, donated funding to rent the giant map for four weeks through a grant from the National Geographic Education Foundation. MGA seeks to raise awareness of geographic literacy in Mississippi schools.
“Not only will children participate in the activities provided, but we can also tie in math through things like measurement and scale and science through landforms,” said senior elementary education major Emmie Angel, who is helping with the event. “The map is a wonderful, free and interactive way for the students to learn and have fun.”
To view the map, groups must register online with the Rebel Social Studies Program. The map is available between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. and can accommodate up to 45 students at once. Group scheduling will be finalized by Thursday (Feb. 14).
Schools signed up to participate include Batesville Intermediate, Della Davidson, Hickory Flat and Pontotoc elementary schools. The general public can visit the map without an appointment from 4 to 7 p.m. March 6.
“I feel like this is a great activity for our fifth-graders to see and understand the geography of our country,” said Martha McLarty, principal at Della Davidson Elementary School in Oxford. “The experience will be one that the students remember and will help them with their studies.”
To sign up for an activity time for the map, visit https://sites.google.com/site/rebelsocialstudies/.
For more information, visit the Mississippi Geographic Alliance, or http://speakupforgeography.rallycongress.com/4342/teaching-geography-is-fundamental-act/.