Giant map revs up Rivercrest classes

Rivercrest Elementary students sprawl across the giant map on a lab floor at their school, Rivercrest Elementary in Bartlett.

Kids coast to coast! it takes just five pre-kindergarteners to cover North America, at least on this giant map at Rivercrest Elementary School in Bartlett. From left are Matthew, Grace, Gabriela, Nina and Isaac.
Photo by Carolyn Bahm

Geography fans and the geography-shy students got a treat last week at Rivercrest Elementary.

The school rented a giant 35-foot by 26-foot National Geographic map and spread it across the lab floor for educational programs all week.

The North American map stretched wall to wall and let the students walk across states and countries to get a real feel for the geography.

The giant map comes with a trunk full of fun accessories, including games, adventures, atlases and books that teach students about North America’s interesting physical characteristics, rich history and diverse cultures.

The experience is hands-on and feet-on, turning the lessons into a unique learning event.

Rivercrest APEX teacher Dianne Larson said, “This has been so awesome. Even with the little pre-K’s, they have learned where some things are, simply because they could engage their whole bodies.”

Older children played educational games on the map’s surface, such as “To What Degree,” finding specific latitudes and longitudes, or versions of “Simon Says.”

They learned more than just where places are, she explained. Students talked about the top 10 cities in population from 1900 to 2005 and walked around the map to see where populations migrated and to speculate why.

It helps in lessons about math, reading and science too, Larson said.

She smiled as she looked over the vast map. “I just wish we could keep it.”

She also noted that the school is extremely grateful to the Bartlett Education Foundation for the grant that made the map rental possible and to Drew Gentry of Lowe’s for accepting the delivery and bringing the large shipment to the school.

National Geographic echoes Larson’s valuation of the map as a powerful teaching tool.

“Experiencing a map of this size can really awaken a student to the power of maps and the limitless depth of geography,” said Dan Beaupré, National Geographic’s director of education partnerships for National Geographic Live, the public programming division of the National Geographic Society.

For more information on this educational maps program, go to

Written by Carolyn Bahm, Express editor. Contact her at (901) 288-4070 or via email to