Education column: Giant maps to visit elementary schools

If you happen to be in the vicinity of Zia Elementary or La Casita Elementary schools next week, there is a distinct possibility that you may see students hopping across the Amazon, hiking across the Andes, or stretched out in the rain forests of Brazil as part of an interactive trek through the continent of South America.

National Geographic, partnering with Texas Tech University, will be bringing a giant traveling map of South America to the Clovis school to offer interactive tours for students, teachers, and community members to support and improve geography literacy.

Covering content standards such as distance, direction, symbols, scale and physical regions, the project is headed up by Dr. Reese Todd, associate professor at Texas Tech, along with a cadre of graduate docents, to facilitate interactive tours around the continent.

The Giant Traveling Maps program was introduced in 2006 with a giant map of Africa, followed by North America, Asia and South America. It is estimated that during the 2010-11 school year more than 300,000 students will have an opportunity to interact with the giant maps.

Just how big is the giant map? It measures about 25 by 36 feet — roughly half the size of a tennis court — and weighs over a hundred pounds. No wonder a team travels with it.

Jarilyn Butler, principal at Zia Elementary, said this will be a special treat for students and teachers after the stress of testing.

“We live in a global society, and it’s important for our students to have a better understanding and sense of the world,” said Butler.

Due to lack of space at Zia, Mrs. Butler has arranged for the map to be placed across the street at Central Baptist Church, (with whom Zia partners for the Whiz Kids tutoring program), and teachers will walk students across to participate in the interactive map learning activities.

Even though La Casita Elementary is undergoing construction, Sylvia Martinez is also taking advantage of the traveling giant map.

“With our students so involved with our Mileage Club both last year and this, they’ve developed a great understanding of geography as they’ve clocked thousands of virtual miles across the U.S., along with many of their parents. They’ll really benefit from the giant map of South America,” Martinez said.

The National Geographic Traveling Giant Map will be in Clovis at Zia Elementary (Central Baptist) on Tuesday and Wednesday and at La Casita Elementary on April 14-15.

Visit National Geographic’s to get more educational information about geography awareness.

For more information about the giant map and other possible viewing opportunities, email me or visit

President John F. Kennedy once said in a speech, “Geography has made us neighbors. History has made us friends. Economics has made us partners, and necessity has made us allies. Those whom God has so joined together, let no man put asunder.”

Cindy Kleyn-Kennedy is the Instructional Technology Coordinator for the Clovis Municipal Schools and can be reached at