LONG BEACH, MS (WLOX) - Geography lessons are coming to life this week for hundreds of South Mississippi students. On Tuesday, a program created by the National Geographic Society came to a Long Beach school. It allowed students to travel to other countries without having to pack a suitcase.
They walked more than 4,000 miles along the Amazon River in a matter of seconds. And they scaled the highest peak of the Andes Mountains with no shoes on their feet. From the Brazilian rain forest to the Galapagos Islands, you can find them all on the gym floor at Harper McCaughan Elementary School in Long Beach.
"At first I thought, 'Wow, this is going to be a really big lesson,'" said ten-year-old Justin Walgren.
The Mississippi Geographic Alliance leased the "Giant Traveling Map" for one month to bring South America to Mississippi students.
"I thought, 'Whoa, this is a big map. We're going to have tons of fun learning about our place," said ten-year-old Emma Marrell.
"It was so heavy and to see this beautiful National Geographic map spread out on the floor was just amazing," said Carol Paola, a gifted teacher in Long Beach.
The 25x36 foot map will give more than 800 students in Long Beach, Gulfport, and D'Iberville hands-on or rather "feet-on" experience about geography.
"It was very fun and slippery," said nine-year-old Marissa Flores.
"Faces light up when they see it. When they have the opportunity to sit upon it and to touch and slide on it, of course, it just makes learning so much fun," said Paola.
The South America map, and a smaller one of the United States, also teach students about each country's history, economy, as well as science, social studies, literacy rates, and current events.
"To see how they compare with the United States, so they have a sense of place. They have an understanding of what other cultures are like," said Paola.
"I want to be a scientist when I grow up and my mom and my dad said I have to learn a lot about the world and what happens in it and that really helped me a lot," said nine year old Maelyn Cook.
The walking tour through the continent has sparked their imagination and their interest in traveling to South America in person.
Long Beach parents also got a chance to see the huge maps Tuesday night. Later this week, the maps will head to schools in Pascagoula, then, it's on to schools in Hattiesburg, Jackson, and north Mississippi.