National Geographic map sends Lincolnshire students globetrotting
A class of Half Day school fourth graders walk on an interactive map of North America. National Geographic brought the room-sized map to Half Day School for the students to further their knowledge of geography. | Michelle LaVigne~Sun-Times Media
Updated: March 25, 2013 1:17AM
LINCOLNSHIRE — At Half Day Elementary School, the teachers take their students on field trips all across North America, then back to Lincolnshire, in a single day. But the kids have to take their shoes off, first.
These laws-of-physics-and-footwear-defying excursions take place entirely in Half Day’s gymnasium, on what is believed to be the world’s largest map of North America. Last week, students treaded from Trinidad and Tobago to the Aleutian Islands, thanks to the 35-by-26-foot map of the continent brought to Lincolnshire by the National Geographic Society.
“It’s really eye-opening, when you’re on the map itself,” said Half Day principal and map-trotter Jill Mau. “Far different from a book. Way different.”
The chart invites a variety of children’s games (once the students take their shoes off, to protect the vinyl). Throughout last week, students played Simon Says by hopping on one foot from the bottom of Central America (south of the 10-degrees-north latitudinal line) past Chicago (about 42 degrees north) all the way up to the North Pole, or the Magnetic North Pole.
Students seemed to approve of the Society’s work.
“It has lots of good places on it,” fourth-grader Rohit Chintakindi said. “It’s in good order.”
Alex Mitchell, however, had a few suggestions: the next generation of N.G. maps should be a physical map, with rises for mountains and pits for canyons and aquatic trenches. But, he said he was making due with what he had, and was coming to appreciate “how separated things are, how big they are.”
National Geographic has built several of the gigantic layouts, which they tour from school to school throughout the U.S. Last year, Half Day featured the Society’s gigantic chart of Africa, and Mau said she had been surprised to discover how many kids had visited that continent.
“Their experiences show up, in different ways, when they’re actually on the map,” she said.
Mau did not know if the enormous, but flat, map took the earth’s curvature into a account, or if polar ice cap shrinkage was notable in National Geographic’s newest model.
The teachers had laid it out to be symmetrical with the gym’s walls — which brought it close to having its compass line up with the real North America’s directions. As it was, “north” on the map was only about five degrees to the west of true north.
But as Simon instructed them to swim through the Great Lakes, the kids made no note of this. And considering that on the wall of the same gym hangs the famous photo of Earth taken from the moon — which would, in theory, give the kids the chance to cross the entire globe in a class period — it seemed that the map was getting its job done.