Mapwalking in CSU's Woodling Gym

Students "walking" the world map
Students “walking” the world map

A CSU Tradition
Each year Professor Stephen Cory reserves the Woodling Gym and carefully lays out over 500 tactical pilotage charts which make up a world map the size of basketball court.  He started this tradition for his courses on the Middle East, realizing that many students did not have basic geographic knowledge of the area.  His maps now cover most of the world and he is working on completing sub-Saharan Africa this summer.
Teaching the Middle East and the Islamic World
The map itself offers students a unique spatial perspective on the non-western world.  The primary question for teachers is how can we make this experience pedagogically useful for students?  Professor Cory answers this by conducting regular tours of the Middle East throughout the day and assigning his students specific activities that relate the map experience to his courses.  More recently, Professor Cory has developed QR code tours which trace the journeys of ancient travelers and migrants, allowing students to use their smartphones or tablets to link the physical map to a website tailored to that site.  This technique, sort of an historical geocaching, was well-received by participants in the Spring 2013 Map Walk as they followed medieval traveler Ibn Battuta across Asia, Europe and Africa.  Professor Cory is currently working on a tour following the Mongols for next year’s mapwalk.
Historical and Geographic Thinking 
As a newcomer to the mapwalk activity (2013 was only my second mapwalk) I wondered how we could use this amazing resource in other ways to foster historical thinking and deep learning in our classes.  I chose an individual assignment for the 2013 mapwalk.  Each student planned a “trip itinerary” that related to our course materials.  The world history students were required to find an historical journey which reflects global connections.  The geography students had even more flexibility. They planned a trip that pertained to any geographic concept, theme or region and explored the map with this topic in mind.  After the mapwalk they wrote a 1-page reflection on their journey for a quiz grade.  The student submissions were creative, ranging from Alexander the Great or the Silk Road to studying the topography in Australia.  I will use this assignment for future mapwalks – it pushes students to interact with the map and make connections between the physical space of the map and the global connections we study in both classes.
Student Journeys
Several of my students volunteered to have their map walk journeys posted here as examples of the diverse topics this activity supports.  I will be posting their reflections individually as part of a summer series on teaching with the mapwalk- Enjoy!
Check back on the blog for the date of Professor Cory’s next mapwalk this Fall!