Fairbanks students to walk on water

This 3-story tall map from National Geographic will be touring different elementary and middle schools around Alaska.

Meghan Murphy

Students across Alaska will soon walk on water as they explore the Pacific Ocean with one of the world’s largest maps. An outreach coordinator from the University of Alaska Fairbanks will visit elementary and middle schools in Fairbanks, Anchorage and Alaska rural communities from Nov. 11 to Dec. 12 with a map taller than a three-story building. The map will give students an interactive experience that enlivens the study of geography.

“I think one of the coolest things about this map is that it shows the ocean floor in a way that students have never seen before,” said Katie Kennedy, who is part of UAF’s geosciences department. “Many students have seen ocean waves, but never realized that there were mountains, trenches and this whole amazing landscape underneath the water’s surface.”

The map measures 26 feet by 35 feet and is designed for grades K-8. Kennedy borrowed the map from National Geographic’s Giant Traveling Maps program. Kennedy will bring the map to schools in Fairbanks, Nome, Yakutat, Cordova, Unalaska and Anchorage.

Students can walk on the vinyl map and stand in the Pacific Ocean’s shallow and deep areas while exploring a place that holds 46 percent of the Earth’s water surface. Students learn about geographic features like the deepest place on earth, the Mariana Trench, and 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 forming the largest living structure in the world.

CONTACT: Katie Kennedy, education and outreach coordinator, UAF Geosciences Department, 907-474-6121, cmkennedy@alaska.edu.

ON THE WEB: To learn more about the Giant Traveling Map project, for borrowing information or to download map activities, visit www.nationalgeographic.com/giantmaps.