Map puts world at Sterling students' feet

By Denise Coffey - Staff Writer
Sterling - posted Mon., Mar. 11, 2013
Members of the Junior Grange stand in front of the map they raised funds to purchase. Photos by D. Coffey.
Members of the Junior Grange stand in front of the map they raised funds to purchase. Photos by D. Coffey.

When students at the Sterling Community School climb the stairs to the second floor, they are greeted by a map of the whole wide world. An 8-foot-by-13-foot map now hangs in the hallway, compliments of the Ekonk Junior Grange. Grange members raised the $170 to purchase the map with fundraisers held all year long. Those efforts have now brought the world to their classmates' feet – and into their classrooms.

Every year the Junior Grange supports a teacher with a donation. This year the group voted to use those funds to buy the map. Sixth-grade teacher Jackie Angelone, who lobbied for a map, said this was a purchase that could support multiple teachers. Recently a plaque was put up acknowledging the Junior Grange for the contribution. The map hangs in eight moveable panels, which makes it easy to manipulate. Teachers can even take pieces of the map into their classrooms to use as teaching aids.

Angelone said the map is an extraordinary tool for teaching geography. Latitude and longitude are marked off, topographical details show mountain ranges and coastal plains, it's dense with words, and students and teachers can write on it with dry erase markers.

Angelone has been covering the subject of human and animal migration over the Bering Strait in her classes. In order to show how the Bering Strait connects the eastern hemisphere with the western hemisphere, she was able to move the map panels. Usually world maps show the western hemisphere - with the Americas - on the left side of the map, and the eastern hemisphere - with Europe, Asia, Africa and Australasia - on the right side of the map.

Angelone moved the map panels so that students could more easily understand the connection between the northeastern portion of Russia and northwestern North America. “The students could see where the Bering Strait froze over during the Last Glacier Maximum and how humans and animals migrated into North America,” she said. When Angelone teaches something else, she will be able to move the map back around.

The frame for the map was constructed by Russell Bonner, the school's maintenance director. Town resident Betsy Molodich wallpapered the map sections onto panels. “It gives kids a chance to see the world from different angles,” Angelone said. “Letting them visualize, it gives them a whole different perspective.”

Social studies teacher Barbara Siner agrees that the map is a useful teaching tool. “Most kids are woefully deficient in their knowledge of the earth,” she said. “That's because geography isn't a big part of the curriculum. This gives them a chance to see it every day.”

The map makes all the difference for a small school in a small town in a small state, she added. “It's stunning,” she said. “It gives you a whole different perspective of the Rockies.” Topographical details showed the mountain range going from Alaska through Canada and the United States, through Central and South America, all the way to the tip of Chile. “How exciting is that?” she asked. “They have no idea how blessed they are, and it's not just because of the map.”

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