Fifth-graders learn history by making maps

SAN MARCOS — Fifth-graders at San Marcos’ Paloma Elementary School learned about their country from the ground up. For three weeks, students methodically constructed a poster-sized map of the United States as a final project before graduating from elementary school.
“It’s kind of the rite of passage when they get to fifth grade here. Everybody knows about the fifth-grade map project,” teacher Aldene Yeo said. Yeo is one of the five fifth-grade teachers at Paloma Elementary.
Each map displays a wealth of information. Given a blank map of the country, students filled in 38 separate items, including rivers, historic trails, battlefields and land acquisitions. The experience teaches children about history and geography at the same time. Yeo said it is a valuable break from the state-mandated curriculum.
“It’s sad because throughout the year, we don’t do a lot of social studies because we’re not tested on it,” Yeo said. “We’re tested on science, language arts and math.” Yeo added the project was a good way to keep the children motivated in the last weeks of the school year after the slew of standardized tests.
The map also gives students a taste of how to handle big projects with many pieces.
“They’re taking this giant thing that is so overwhelming when they get it,” parent Kathleen Hilton said. “When they get to middle school and their teacher hands them a big project, it shouldn’t be a panic because they realize they can break it into chunks and they can accomplish it.”


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