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Big map exposes big world to students

Teacher David Huebner directs his Ravenwood world geography students to a country on the huge National Geographic Society map on loan to RHS for two weeks.
'Asia' on loan to Ravenwood High School

Brentwood Home Page intern
If given a map, would you be able to pinpoint Mecca in Saudi Arabia? What about Mount Everest or the Maldive Islands? Could you locate the Strait of Hormuz?
Thanks to the resources of the Tennessee Geographic Alliance, world geography students at Ravenwood High School can. The nonprofit organization, which collaborates with schools and colleges in the state, recently paid $375 for Ravenwood to rent a 31-by-41-foot map of Asia for two weeks.
“I’ve had some seniors that I used to have as students walk by and say ‘Hey, why didn’t we get this?’

-- Teacher David Huebner
The sprawling 140-pound, vinyl map travels among schools as a loan from the National Geographic Society. And with a price tag of $10,000, the map’s value as a learning resource proves quite steep.
Beginning last week, students of David Huebner’s five world geography classes have used the map as an interactive classroom, for activities like a game of Simon Says. During the game, Huebner called out geographic locations, and students were given 10 seconds to walk across the map to the correct spot.
When asked to find the home of Borat, students immediately shouted, “Kazakhstan!” and jumped to the Eurasian country.  “The beauty of it is that students have to walk and identify places, which makes them think and move around,” Huebner says.
But acquiring the map did not come easy, according to Huebner. “You have to request it a year or more in advance,” Huebner says. Following an unanswered request for a map of Africa two years ago, Huebner says, “When we didn’t get it, I bugged them and persistence pays off. They knew we really wanted it.”
Ravenwood represents the only school in the area to be loaned the highly coveted map, which shipped from Houston, Texas and will continue on to South Carolina next week.
“There are only 10 maps like this in the whole U.S.— four of Asia, three of Africa, and three of North America,” Huebner says.
Over 150 students participated in the map activities, held in Ravenwood’s main lobby and auxiliary gym. Those lucky enough to participate, including mostly freshmen, seemed to enjoy the hands-on learning experience.
“It’s a lot of fun because it puts it more in perspective when you see Asia and Eastern Europe all together. Because of the activities, it pinpoints areas that people don’t always look at,” junior Sara Rosenfield says.
The experience even created some envy among upperclassman. “I’ve had some seniors that I used to have as students walk by and say ‘Hey, why didn’t we get this?’,” Huebner says.
Additionally, the students seem to appreciate a break from the sometimes monotonous, classroom work. “It’s a good way to get out of the class and on a large scale. Now, we can say, ‘Hey, I’ve been there!’” says sophomore Taylor Suiter. Fellow sophomore Ashley Jones adds, “It’s less boring. Before we’d sit and look at a map and review.”
If given the unique opportunity to lease the National Geographic Society map another year, the administration would certainly jump at the chance.
Ravenwood principal, Dr. Pam Vaden, center, gets in on the fun learning experience last Thursday.
To Principal Dr. Pam Vaden, who joined in on a Thursday afternoon class, world geography holds a crucial slot in the high school curriculum. “Some schools offer it just as an elective, but we offer it to freshmen, and it’s beneficial because they have a foundation before going into World History,” she says.
To boot, engaging students in games and activities can greatly bolster learning. “You just can’t get enough of this,” Vaden says.  That’s a sentiment with which school board members and administrators across the state are sure to agree.
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