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Mississippi students will soon be exploring North America in a big way — with one of the world’s largest maps of the continent. The map, measuring 35 feet by 26 feet gives student explorers a fun, interactive experience through rich content and exciting activities that enliven the study of geography.

The Mississippi Geographic Alliance at the University of Mississippi and its partners, the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science, and the Schools of Education at Mississippi State University and the University of Mississippi, will bring the map to various locations throughout the state. It will be at the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science February 11th – February 23nd, at Mississippi State University February 25th – March 2nd, and at the University of Mississippi March 4th – March 7th as part of National Geographic’s Giant Traveling Maps program, organized by National Geographic Live, the public programming division of the National Geographic Society.

The brightly colored, smooth vinyl surface of the map accurately illustrates North America’s oceans, seas, rivers, mountains, countries and capitals. The map, designed for grades K-8, comes with a trunk full of accessories, including interactive games, geography adventures, atlases and books that teach students about the physical characteristics of the continent as well as its rich history and varied cultures. One of the activities included is “A Tale of Twenty Cities,” in which students explore the physical and economic reasons behind the locations of North American cities.

“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. “Whether they are using the map to learn place names or to compare state-to-state CO2 emissions, students are physically involved in a hands- and feet-on way that makes geography into an event.”

Carley Lovorn, Assistant Director of the Mississippi Geographic Alliance at the University of Mississippi said “Getting students on the giant map is a wonderful way to get them excited about the world around them. The North America map in particular is exciting for the students because they can identify where they live. The sheer size of the map engages the students and while they are having fun, they’re also improving their geographic, mapping, and spatial thinking skills.”

National Geographic’s Giant Traveling Maps program was introduced in 2006 with a map of Africa, and has since expanded to maps of North America, Asia, South America, and the Pacific Ocean. The maps measure 26 feet by 35 feet and are loaned to schools and other hosts with an assortment of activities. In the 2011-2012 school year it is estimated that more than 450,000 students interacted with one of these maps.

The maps also help showcase My Wonderful World, a multiyear, National Geographic-led campaign to improve geographic literacy and to help students become more informed global citizens. The campaign (mywonderfulworld.org) is designed to improve the geographic literacy of young people ages 8-17 by motivating parents and educators to make geography more available and accessible in school, at home and in the community.

To learn more about the Giant Traveling Map project or to download map activities, visit www.nationalgeographic.com/giantmaps.

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