Mapping out a bright future in Glenwood Springs |

Mapping out a bright future in Glenwood Springs

Kelley Cox Post Independent

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado ” Liam Sowash and Ashley Emery had no idea what continent Kyrgyzstan was on, let alone how to spell it ” until this week.

Though one of the smaller countries in Asia, the St. Stephen’s School second graders didn’t even have to squint when teacher Laura Carter pointed out this unique country, sandwiched between China, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.

That’s because her students happened to be sitting right smack in the middle of the 30-by-40 foot vinyl map she was using for Tuesday’s lesson in the basement of St. Stephen’s Catholic Church.

The map is one of five National Geographic education program traveling maps making their way around to schools all across the country. St. Stephen’s was able to line up one of the two Asian maps, which students have been using in their geography studies during its two-week stay in Glenwood Springs.

“I applied for one of the maps at the beginning of the school year, but it was already booked and they said to try again for next year,” St. Stephen’s social studies and literature teacher Olivia Lowe said.

She got a call back recently saying that two schools in Colorado had to back out, and wondering if St. Stephen’s would still be interested.

“I told them, ‘absolutely,'” Lowe said. “It’s highly detailed, with the names of cities and small islands. The kids just love it.”

The map comes with a trunk full of age-specific teaching materials for kindergarten through eighth grade. Different games help students learn how to find a specific country, or a specific longitude and latitude.

“It’s huge,” Sowash said as he and his classmates took turns picking placards with information about a certain country, then placing a cone on the country after they located it on the map.

“There are a lot of countries in Asia,” he observed.

Forty-seven to be exact.

“It’s fun to learn where the countries are,” added Emery.

Grant Borchelt recited a poem about the Asian continent during a readers theater project ” and again during this interview. As if on cue, his classmates being reciting another poem about all seven of the continents.

“This really brings it alive and makes it real for the kids,” Carter said of the map. “It’s a great visual tool, and it’s fun because the kids can take off their shoes and walk on it. It’s just another way to make geography more interesting.”

This is the third year National Geographic has had the traveling maps, said Dan Beaupre, director of educational partnerships for National Geographic.

In addition to the two maps of Asia, there are two North American maps and one of Africa. A second African map is being made, and the first map of Europe will be ready for next school year, he said.

“I just felt it was time to think big about geography, and make it a more interactive, physical experience,” Beaupre said. “And studies show that kids learn better when they are physically involved.”

Contact John Stroud: 384-9160

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