Giant map to demonstrate geography at UCCS, statewide

Third graders measure the depth of a trench on the Pacific Ring of Fire. Photograph by Scott Schilling, National Geographic
Third graders measure the depth of a trench on the Pacific Ring of Fire.
Photograph by Scott Schilling, National Geographic

Students across Colorado will dive into the wonders of the Pacific Ocean with one of the world’s largest maps of the world’s largest ocean Sept. 30-Oct. 11.

The map, measuring 26 feet by 35 feet, will give student explorers a fun, interactive experience to enliven the study of geography. Designed for students in grades K-8, the map will be on loan to the Colorado Geographic Alliance based at UCCS as part of National Geographic’s Giant Traveling Maps program. The program is managed by National Geographic Live, the public programming division of the National Geographic Society. The Pacific Ocean maps and curriculum were developed and funded by two $1 million Oracle Commitment Grants, awarded to National Geographic.

The brightly colored, smooth vinyl surface of the map will encourage elementary and middle school students to explore some of the unexpected geography at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean. The map includes 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. They will also have a chance to identify the location of one of the newest discoveries, the Tamu Massif, which is 400 miles wide. 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 that provide more than half of the planet’s fresh air, and the Great Barrier Reef, the largest living structure in the world.

The map arrives with a set of fun, content-rich 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 & the Dark” simulates for students the depth of the Mariana Trench and fifteen 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 photo cards of animals and plants, hand-held models of volcanoes, and colorful coral reef replicas.

Steve Rothstein, president, Colorado Springs Science Center Project, one of the primary organizers of the Oct. 5 Cool Science Carnival Day at UCCS, said: “The Giant Traveling Map of the Pacific Ocean is a tremendous addition to our lineup. Kids in Colorado rarely have a chance visit the Pacific Ocean, let alone think about the vitally important connections this far-away body of water has on our lives.  Exploring this giant map and incorporating National Geographic’s resources into their learning experience will help them understand why we all need to get a sense of how the Pacific Ocean eco-system works, how it affects us, and more importantly, how we affect it.”

This visit of the Giant Traveling Map of the Pacific Ocean is being sponsored by the Colorado Geographic Alliance (COGA), part of the Network of Geographic Alliances, funded in part through National Geographic and housed at UCCS. The alliance connects educators, administrators, non-profits, geographic corporations, and legislators with each other, forming a community of stakeholders in geographic education across the state of Colorado.  COGA’s mission is to instill and nurture spatial awareness and geographic literacy by changing our understanding and experience of the world. For more information, visit

In addition to the Oct. 5 appearance at UCCS campus for the opening event of the Colorado Springs Science Festival, the map will be at Castle Rock Middle School October 1 – 2, Queen Palmer Elementary School in Colorado Springs District 11 October 3 – 4, the Weld Re4 School District in Windsor October 7 – 9, and at Vail Mountain School October 10 – 11.  Teachers and librarians at these schools are preparing their students for the visit by having them read books about the ocean and even connecting them to students in Hawai’i.

“The Giant Traveling Maps program is an innovative way to engage and inspire students to learn about science and the world,” Colleen Cassity, executive director, Oracle Education Foundation and Oracle Giving & Volunteers, said.  “We have awarded National Geographic two grants to support their science and environmental education efforts.”

National Geographic’s Giant Traveling Maps program was introduced in 2006 with a map of Africa created following National Geographic magazine’s 2005 special issue devoted entirely to that continent. The program has expanded to include maps of North America, Asia and South America, Europe, and the Pacific Ocean.  In the 2013-2014 school year hundreds of thousands students will interact with these maps. In addition to school venues, the maps appear at museums, festivals, fairs, and corporate and educational conferences. The maps also 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, for borrowing information or to download map activities, visit

–Rebecca Theobald, Colorado Geographic Alliance

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