Students in Lewiston and Endeavor might tell their parents they traveled all over the state of Wisconsin without leaving school.

“It’s not hands-on. It’s feet-on,” Randy Colton said about his large plastic map that elementary students stepped across Wednesday.

The retired Wausau educator has been traveling across the state to teach map skills to third- and fourth-grade students. The map – 21 by 17 feet – gave the students an interactive experience, he said.

The map even has a name – “Brie.”

About two years ago, National Geographic donated large maps to various alliances across the U.S., including the Wisconsin Geographic Alliance, which Colton represents. Each state has two maps. He said the other map used in Wisconsin is named “Colby.”

“Who doesn’t want to play on a big map?” said Sharon Kibby, third- and fourth grade teacher at Lewiston. Her students had been studying Wisconsin – its borders and geographic features – prior to Wednesday’s activity.

The project is based on National Geographic research that shows the effectiveness of such activities. Its value is simple. It engages them in learning, Colton said.

Students learned cardinal directions and map coordinates, each of them moving, at times, according to latitude and longitude. They learned that all maps have “T.O.A.D.S.” — Title, Orientation, Author, Date and Symbols. They learned about Wisconsin’s water networks – or, “the ways of getting around before road systems and railroads,” Colton said. The students used plastic chains to link routes, and at the end of his lesson, they did a scavenger hunt for cities.

“It’s pretty cool,” said Fritz Hammer, Endeavor fourth- and fifth-grade teacher. “This (teaches) all the landforms of Wisconsin, its highest points, the major lakes, major rivers, major cities.

“They learn things even as simple as the size of a city.”

“You know, we remember our field trips, and this is an in-house field trip,” Colton said of the big map. Recently he’s been to schools in Prairie du Chien, Lancaster, Minocqua, Waunakee and Milwaukee, among others.

All told, the project has reached about 2,000 students in 40 schools in Wisconsin, he estimated.

“I tell them, Mom and Dad might ask you what you did at school today, and I say, don’t say ‘nothing.’ Never say ‘nothing.’

“Say, today, I waked all around the state, for hundreds of miles.

“Being on the map, I hope this is something they’ll remember.”

Follow Noah Vernau on Twitter @NoahVernau

Portage Daily Register reporter