A month ago, Tsau Primary and Toteng Primary had two walls, with slight crumbling paint, that the students ran past without a thought or a glance. Today groups of kids gather in front of the once blank walls, whispering to each other with curiosity. Why? Over the last few weeks, Peace Corps volunteers from Tsau, Toteng, and Sehithwa, sponsored by the Travel for Impact community fund held two paint-a-thons – completing large scale world map murals at the Tsau and Toteng Primary schools.
Geography is a required topic taught in Primary Schools in Botswana. Yet, often when shown a world map or even a map of Africa, many students can’t point out Botswana, let alone the beautiful Okavango Delta region they come from. For students whom travel, even to the nearby village of Maun, is not an feasible option, these maps will provide a method to explore the world from the grounds of their school. Having a mural of the world painted on the side of a building shows that learning can take place anywhere – not just in the classroom. They can study longitude and latitude, the vast oceans of the worlds, the lakes and rivers that sustain us, the big cities and small towns. They can learn about the incredible place they come from, and aspire to where they want to go in their future.
While studying a map and memorizing where everything is, may be trivial in itself – the foundation it creates it imperative. Maps give us an understanding of where we are, who are neighbors are, and the geological and political landscapes that influence people and cultures. Maps have the ability to inspire and encourage exploration and they allow us to look at a far away country and say someday I want to experience that place. Importantly, they build pride in where we come from. When a child is able to physically place their finger on a small spot and say, in this wide world, I am right here – that is a powerful thing.
So what’s next? Both schools are now planning World Map Days in which students and teachers will participate in activities exploring the map and learning how to use these murals as tools in the school setting. With this new teaching tool, teachers can better design geography lessons for their students and students can take charge of their own learning, exploring the map using games and activities during their breaks and after school.
Travel for Impact’s sponsorship of these maps have made two once boring slightly crumbling walls, into tools for learning and exploration for the 1,000 students attending Tsau and Toteng Primary – bringing home the idea that Botswana’s tourism industry can also bring travel and exploration to the people who call this place home.
Written by Emma Gies and Bridget Babcock