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Giant map allows students to explore Pacific Ocean

Students from Kotzebue to Craig will dive into the wonders of the Pacific Ocean this month with a gymnasium-sized map of the world’s largest ocean. The map, measuring 26 feet by 35 feet, will give student explorers a fun, interactive experience through rich content and exciting activities that enliven the study of geography.

Designed for grades kindergarten through eight, the map is on loan to the geography department at the University of Alaska Fairbanks and the Alaska Geographic Alliance throughout January as part of National Geographic’s Giant Traveling Maps program, managed by National Geographic Live, the public programming division of the National Geographic Society.

The brightly colored vinyl surface of the map will allow students to explore some of the unexpected geography at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean: from the deepest place on earth, the Mariana Trench, to the world’s tallest mountain, Hawaii’s Mauna Kea, which has its base on the ocean floor. Most of all, students will experience the Pacific as a living entity, with active volcanoes giving birth to new islands, deep sea vents supporting new life forms, phytoplankton blooms providing over half of the planet’s fresh air and the Great Barrier Reef, the largest living structure in the world.

Katie Kennedy, UAF geography education and outreach coordinator, will lead activities to help students interact with the map: “Cities in the Sea” invites students to explore the extraordinary biodiversity of four reef ecosystems; “The Deep and the Dark” simulates the depth of the Mariana Trench and 15 other ocean floor trenches; and “Ocean Commotion” allows students to travel the ocean surface along the paths of eight major currents, finishing in the middle of the Pacific garbage patch, where they learn about human impacts on ocean health. Also accompanying the maps are lavish photo cards of animals and plants, hand-held models of volcanoes and colorful coral reef replicas.

National Geographic’s Giant Traveling Maps program was introduced in 2006 with a map of Africa. Since then, the program has expanded to include maps of North America, Asia, South America and the Pacific Ocean. The maps reinforce National Geographic’s commitment to increasing geo-literacy through teacher professional development, K-12 curriculum, live events and academic competitions.

To learn more about the Giant Traveling Map project, visit www.nationalgeographic.com/giantmaps.

Schedule:

Jan. 9, Craig City School, Craig

Jan. 14, Pearl Creek Elementary School, Fairbanks

Jan. 15, Barnette Magnet School, Fairbanks

Jan. 16, Ladd Elementary School, Fairbanks

Jan. 17, Ticasuk Brown Elementary School, North Pole

Jan. 23, Deering School, Deering

Jan. 28, Kotzebue Middle School, Kotzebue

Jan. 28, Community Science Night, Kotzebue

Jan. 31, Chester Valley Elementary School, Anchorage

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