From maple products to skating rinks, 43 Brattleboro fourth graders researched and mapped their interests.
Artist-in-residence Mollie Burke led the Academy School students through a project integrating mapmaking with the study of Vermont history. First, they found facts: Where are Vermont’s skating rinks? Sugaring facilities? Highest populations? Then, over ten days, the students sketched and hand painted maps depicting information about a favorite topic. “There were a number of steps,” said Mollie. “They learned to draw the shape of Vermont with a grid, practiced drawing a compass rose, found the location of cities and towns. I think the students were pleasantly surprised at the results.”
Now these fourth graders know where county lines and physiographic regions lie. They understand that Brattleboro is south of White River Junction and closer to Montpelier than Newport. They’ve seen it and drawn it. Mollie is confident that creating the maps gave the students “a visual reference for the state of Vermont, an understanding of geography, an awareness of the physical world, and understanding of the variety of our landscapes, a knowledge of the names and placement of our counties, and a connection to Vermont history and culture.”
“I believe that working with a map is particularly important in our digital age. One need have little understanding of direction, distance, and orientation in order to travel And yet, this removes us from the direct experience of being in a place.”
According to fourth grade teacher Kate Rabideau, “students were very motivated to complete maps based on their research. The contrast in skills before and after the project was quite strong.”
Arts integrated learning can feel like fun; Mollie knows this. “I was naturally counting on the project to engage the students and inspire them to produce their best work. I believe that happened.”
This story first appeared in the Council’s FY2016 Annual Report.
— photos by Kristopher Radder
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