National Geographic Giant Traveling Map makes geography fun and physical for elementary school students

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) – There’s a giant map moving around schools in north Alabama, teaching geo-literacy to children.

The vinyl map is so big, it can’t fit into a classroom.  It’s 26 feet by 26 feet.  But kids can easily learn from it.

That’s because it’s a fun and physical way to learn about geography.

Highlands Elementary School teacher Linda Hardee got the National Geographic Giant Traveling Map of Europe Wednesday night and had to use the gym at Highlands Elementary School to lay it out for Thursday.

It covers most of the floor and allows students, K-8th grade, to walk on land and water, so to speak, to learn perspective about the size and location of European countries.

“Because we are part of a global community, we want our students to be aware of the rest of the world,” said Hardee.

She insists the experience leaves an impression.

“They still remembered last year when we had the traveling map from Africa,” said Hardee.

“I learned about the different countries in Africa,” said Massiah Morris, a 5th grader.

He and other students say it’s easy to remember what they learn.

“We get to do fun activities with the map,” said Timothy Tran, another 5th grade.  “We do fun games like find the countries and stuff.”

Hardee gets the kids involved by giving them cards with different names of countries, bodies of water, mountain ranges and other sites.  The children then have to find the places on the Giant Map.

She also plays “Simon Says” and directs them to one area or another.

And just as quickly as it came to Highlands Elementary, it leaves.

The map’s next stop is Ridgecrest Elementary School on Monday and then it moves to Westlawn Elementary School.  Then, school officials will return the map to the University of North Alabama, which paid to rent it out and send it around the state.

National Geographic started the program in 2006 with a giant map of Africa.

It now has maps of North America, South America, Asia and the Pacific Ocean too.

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