My someday-classroom: map

I call this project: “Tomi and Emily recreate American geography”

Remember this blah wall in “my” classroom?

Well now it looks like this:

Not bad, huh? Not great, but definitely an improvement. It’s certainly more ” artistic rendering” of America than “geographical accuracy”, that’s for sure. All of Appalachia became a whole lot lower… the Pacific coast, on the other hand, became pretty complex… and the coasts of Mexico and Canada were just guesswork. But like I said, it’s an improvement! Be positive!!

And at least it’s finished (more or less… see below). This was a project that had been in the planning stage since, hm, about February. I talked it over endlessly with colleagues, school administration, and enthusiastic students. Somehow every time I planned a step forward, nothing ever came of it, or something got in the way, or plans changed. Finally at the beginning of last week I had a “now or never” moment, when I just got fed up with everything (mostly with myself, I mean) and decided to dive in. Unlike some of my dive-right-in projects (ahem, half-stripped wallpaper in the hallway, cough), this one didn’t falter midstream. Luckily!

The actual work went very quickly. I spent about an hour tracing an outline – and by an hour, I mean that 40 minutes was spent tracking down a working projector, and 20 minutes actually tracing. We asked a friend of ours, who paints murals as a side job, about paint and he pointed us in the right direction. Then Tomi and I spent a couple of hours on two afternoons painting.

Here’s the step-by-step:

Coasts and borders mostly finished. Notice the very faulty outline of Novia Scotia / New Brunswick (the northeast corner). We had to get a map and re-do that part. And I just noticed right now, with another mini-heart attack, that we painted Novia Scotia off the map. Oops; add that to the list of re-touches.

This (above) is what it looked like at the end of the first day.

The second day was harder. We didn’t have a great plan for painting all the contours. Or rather, I did have a great plan, which was using the projector to again project the map and trace them. First, getting a working projector was nearly impossible, because the IT situation in my school is atrocious. And even when we got it, it was really hard to see. So…. we started to improvise a little.

So that’s how it stands now. Next week, I want to do a bit of touching up:
– get rid of the paint dribbles (that new, long island west of Florida, maybe)
– whiten the yellowed patches, and touch up the white walls
– smooth out Mexico
– raise Nova Scotia back from the ocean
– touch up Vancouver island

There is also the possibility to add some pictures around the sides of the map. The original plan, way back when, called for some sepia-toned pictures of various American landmarks.

In addition to fixing the problems listed above, what else should be done? Here’s the poll: you can vote for as many as you like, and you can vote more than once (if you feel that strongly about it 🙂 )

PS. Some tips:

If anyone is considering a similar project, here is some advice (i.e. what I wish I had know before I started). First in connection with the projector. First, get yourself a projector that you can use for the duration of the project, and don’t move it! I ended up using three different ones and it was always super hard to align the stupid thing. Also, don’t try to trace a color anything. Really, just don’t: the colors that look lovely and separate on your computer screen will be fuzzy and pixel-y when projected on the wall, and you will hurt your eyes (and your brain) trying to trace them. If I did it again, I would only trace from a black-and-white line drawing.

Also, have enough pots or bowls to hold all your colors. Probably anyone with any sense of planning would have thought of this, but we had two plastic tubs for mixing colors in, so we had to dump out “finished” colors to mix new ones. Except… you’re never finished with a color: if you make a mistake (paint a wrong line, dribble some paint) and want to retouch, you have to mix up the exact same shade… which is a tiny bit difficult.

And get a variety of brushes. Really, you’ll need way more different sizes than you think, and more brushes than you think – especially if multiple people are painting. We had 6 brushes ranging from 2″ (50 mm) to 0.5″, and that was kind of enough for two people, but we really could have used some smaller brushes for smaller details.

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6 Responses to My someday-classroom: map

  1. Claire says:

    I think this is amazing! I’m so impressed with you and Tomi and your combined artistic skills. I voted for rivers & lakes, as well as “other” and here’s my reasoning: You’ve got a topographical map, so it makes sense to add rivers & lakes because those are geographical features. My idea for “other” is to cover it with some kind of sealant or something to preserve the paint. Then you can add states, cities, highways, national parks, landmarks, dream homes or whatever else you might be studying at the time. Just use a bit of tape and stick things on the map.

    Not to give you more work to do or anything, but you might want your next project to be alaska & hawai’i. Really though, this is awesome 🙂

    • Emily Handler says:

      A sealant of some kind would probably be a very good idea. Hm, I wonder is there is a type of sealant what would make it wipe-able, like so that I could use white-board markers on it? Now that would be amazing!

      And yeah, Alaska and Hawaii are definitely part of the plan. But I’d like to add them more or less in their proper sizes and in their proper locations – which means Alaska has to go way up near the ceiling somewhere, and Hawaii might be covered by the blackboard on the front wall… 🙂 I have to find some way of counting it out. There’s a good project for the students next year!

  2. Nancy says:

    Very impressive! It looks great! I second Claire’s vote for adding geographical features, and I think your idea of adding pictures of landmarks is excellent, since it would help students associate the places they’ve heard of with their locations.

    If you need the state lines, cities, highways, etc. for a particular lesson, maybe you could use the projector to temporarily overlay that information on the map — that is, if you can get your hands on a projector again. 🙂

    Nice work!

  3. Amy says:

    Awesome job, Emily and Tomi! It is really cool and about time that there is something amcsi-related on the walls. There is already a lot of good stuff going on with the map that I would not add a lot more to it or it will become hard to read. I would cosnider large rivers and lakes, like Mississippi, Missouri, etc. Also if you put a few landmarks in (Statue of Liberty, Mt. Rushmore, Gateway Arch, Capitol, etc.) you would not have to add large city names. Or if you don’t want to draw in the landmarks, then just write in a few larger city names.

    If you wanted to make it interactive, you could write city and landmark names on cards and attach tape to the back of them and have students guess where they go on the map. If you want THEM to take more ownership in the classroom too, you could have them write the names of cities and landmarks on cards themselves…something like” What do you think are the most popular cities and landmarks in the U.S.?”. Then you could have an ongoing activity with teams and once a week have each team guess one and continue the points throughout the year. The options are endless!

    • Emily Handler says:

      That’s a cool idea! You know I love anything that smacks of “interactive” 🙂 Like I mentioned to Claire above, I definitely have to look into different ideas of how to seal it, in order to make the whole thing more usibale.

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