Authors: Rebecca Theobald*, University of Colorado Colorado Springs
Topics: Geography Education, Higher Education, Resources
Keywords: geography education, giant map, elementary, secondary, school
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded
“Weren’t you at my old school last year?” asked a student in a fourth-grade classroom in southwest Colorado. Geography is not a priority in most American elementary or secondary schools, despite the discipline’s versatility and ability to support language arts and mathematics, as well as being foundational for essential skills in discussions about climate change, globalization, community development, and navigation. In elementary grades in the United States, content and skills for science and social studies are often not taught regularly. Following the production of giant state floor maps by the National Geographic Education Foundation in 2016, schools across the state of Colorado hosted visits of the Giant Map of Colorado, where it was introduced by staff members of the Colorado Geographic Alliance as a teaching tool through demonstrations with students and for teachers. Although sometimes challenged by the logistics of transporting the map, finding a place to display it, and tracking accompanying materials, most educators observing how their students interacted with the map agreed that it was a useful teaching tool, illustrated by the question referenced earlier. Any time a student remembers an educational geographic activity, it counts as a step toward spatial understanding. This research uses qualitative coding tools to analyze responses from teachers to a follow-up survey after map visits and to assess unsolicited thank you notes from students, leading to a fuller understanding of why there are now more than fifty state Giant Maps in schools and nonprofit organizations across Colorado.