Students need more than computers and digital materials to learn.

Students need more than computers and digital materials to learn.

That's why the Carthage School District purchased new maps and globs for all the elementary classrooms and for social studies classrooms in the upper grades this year.

It was part of a $400,000 upgrade to the R-9 School District's social studies program that administrators hope will help all students in that subject and other subjects.

“It had been five years since we had upgraded our social studies curriculum and our test scores indicated that we needed to make some changes,” said Assistant Superintendent Deborah Swarens. “We needed to improve, have more items, for instance, that were hands on. We have so many students in our district that are learning a second language. And any time, the research tells us, that we have items that they can touch, like a globe or a wall map, that is going to help them learn the vocabulary specific to that content area.”

Sonia Resa, principal at Columbian Elementary School said before this school year, the maps in classrooms were so obsolete, teachers had stopped referring to them and some had taken them out of their classrooms.

“Now we're hoping to rejuvenate the idea of using physical maps and looking at them that way and providing great learning opportunities for our kids,” Resa said. “We do use the computers and we do pull up maps that way, but to also have a physical map they can look at is very important.”
Swarens said the district sent an employee into every classroom in the district last year to take an inventory of all the maps and globes.

“It was on the pitiful side,” Swarens said. “We had gotten rid of a lot of our maps because they were so outdated. And the world was changing fast. Probably 60 minutes after we placed our order, something changed in the world.”

She said all students, and especially those who are learning English as a second language or have other special education needs, need to be able to see the maps up close, and feel them, something not really possible with maps on a computer screen.

Swarens said technology is good and can help students learn, but sometimes technology is not enough.

“The thing is, our super subgroup students, they need visuals,” Swarens said. “All of our students do, I'm a visual learner, but those students, for sure, they need to put their hands on globes, they need to have those visual representations.”

Swarens said maps and globes can help, not only with social studies classes, but in all different subjects.

“You can bring the maps into math and reading,” Swarens said. “Our teachers use a lot of technology, but it's kind of a pain, they tell me, to have a program or an exercise on the smart board, and then they miss teachable moments when it requires a map. We hope we've taken care of that.”