From sea to shining sea

| 22 Feb 2012 | 01:50

New U.S. state maps at Pine Tree Elementary mix learning and fun with geography MONROE - On a bright and crisp morning signaling the advent of fall this past Wednesday, Pine Tree Elementary School fifth-grade teacher John Warbrick was turning the playground into a learning opportunity. On the blacktop was a newly created 35 by 45 foot map of the United States, the Girl Scout Gold Award project of Monroe resident Kendra Doering, a Pine Tree alumnus who is now a senior at Monroe-Woodbury High School. As students gathered around the map, Warbrick began quizzing them about basic state geography. “We’re having some fun,” he told a visitor as students raised their hands looking to be chosen for the challenge. As Warbrick selected students, he directed them to find and stand on certain states. Where is Pennsylvania? New York? Maine? Most knew exactly where to go; a few needed some guidance. And those western states, well … they were challenging. But, that’s okay. School’s been in session for less than two weeks and there’s plenty of time to become knowledgeable about state locations. Each of the four grade levels based at Pine Tree will have opportunities to use the two maps created by Doering and her team to increase their U.S. state geography proficiency. Hop scotch with purpose “I always wanted a hop scotch game or another type of playground game on the blacktop,” said Doering, a Senior Girl Scout with Troop 495 in Monroe. “I thought about my Gold Award project and thought maybe they (Pine Tree students) could use some playground painting.” And over the summer, she and her team painted five hop scotch boards, two “Four Squares” games and two U.S. maps: One is a four-colored map which will shortly have state names added to it; the other is an simply an outline of the 48 contiguous states plus Alaska and Hawaii which will be used for more advanced work. Her project, launched last September, required her to take her idea and develop a plan, a method of implementation, how it would benefit the school community, budget, timeline, estimated hours to complete and other prerequisites, including how the money would be raised. While the specialized blacktop paint was donated by the Verizon Foundation, Doering needed to raise $600 in related project costs herself. To do this, she marketed, sold and baked customized special occasion cakes at $25 each. Supplement classroom work A year later, the paint work only needs some concluding touches. Next to be finalized are activity packages for each second, third, fourth and fifth grade teacher with suggested activities they can do with the maps to supplement classroom work. For example, second-grade students can use bean bags to toss on a particular state and then listen to their teachers tell them what that state is and facts about it. Third-graders can toss a bean bag onto a state and identify that state by name. Fourth-graders can use the outline of the map to test their identification knowledge; while fifth-graders can be asked to name a particular state and its capital. “I want to be a teacher when I get older,” said Doering, who is close to finalizing her choice for college next year. “I think it’s easier for kids to learn when it’s fun for them. And I do think everyone should know the states, their capitals and locations.” New York, New York Students in Warbrick’s were ready to do just that. “I need to work on the western states,” said 10-year-old Ellie McNeilly of Monroe. “They all look square to me. But I think I will be better at this.” “I think it’s neat,” said her classmate William Alexander, age 10, also of Monroe. “This help kids work on their maps.” What was the easiest state for them to identify? “New York,” said William, as if there could be no other answer. “It’s my state.” “New York and Alaska,” added Ellie. “We did a lot of things with Alaska in the fourth-grade.” Pine Tree Assistant Principal Karen Brock was thrilled with the project’s outcome. “Learning just doesn’t take place in the classroom,” she said. “It also takes place outside the classroom. This is one way we’re expanding our classroom outdoors.” Warbrick, who has taught in the district for 43 years, was not only pleased to have the new maps on the Pine Tree campus, he was happy they were created by Doering, who was his fifth-grade student eight years ago. “With the Internet and GPS systems, maps don’t seem to be important,” Warbrick said. “Many kids are not using maps and don’t know where the states are located. One my students told me he went to Tennessee over the summer. I asked him how he got there and he couldn’t tell me.” That will change. “After they (his students) get past me,” he added, “they will all be geography savvy.” With the Internet and GPS systems, maps don’t seem to be important. Many kids are not using maps and don’t know where the states are located. One of my students told me he went to Tennessee over the summer. I asked him how he got there and he couldn’t tell me.” Pine Tree Elementary School fifth-grade teacher John Warbrick