An often cited experience by our 8th Graders during their graduation speeches is Teacher Peter’s memory map project. The challenge sounds almost insurmountable: draw a detailed map from memory of the United States, and in a later grade, the entire world. Many students’ initial reactions are that it will be “impossible” and yet every year, every single student proudly completes the project.
Creating a map from memory is more than simple memorization or a kind of rote cartography trick. Using aesthetics, science and history, students are actually learning how to geographically visualize their country, their world and where they fit in as a global citizen. This provides a foundation for real-world job skills like geographic information systems (GIS) and also creates an immensely useful mental database. If they ever need to know where Mozambique is located, they will not only know where in Africa it is but what it looks like and what countries border it. The once “insurmountable” job of mapping the world becomes one of their proudest educational achievements.