All around the world in one day

Elementary students in northeast Nebraska flock to Wayne State for Land and Sky Day

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  • Elementary students attempt to toss a ring to a location or area that they were given. The closest ring to the assigned area was the winner.

  • Students from Wayne Elementary play a geographic version of “Simon Says.”

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Debbie Hernandez, Staff Writer

“Where am I?”

“How do I get there?”

“What’s on the other side of that mountain?”

It’s geography that has us posing such questions, and Wayne State professor of geography Randy Bertolas knows just how meaningful it is in our day-to-day lives.

Essentially growing out of an idea Bertolas had after wanting local elementary school children to be provided with more exposure to world geography, Land & Sky day was born.

For its fifth consecutive year at Wayne State, Land & Sky day hosted children from around the region and lead visitors through a variety of activities on a National Geographic Giant Traveling Map.

“This year’s map is Africa, though past years have featured maps of South America, Europe and Asia,” Bertolas said. “A grant from WSC Service-Learning provides funding to ship this map to Wayne where, unrolled, it measures 26’ x 35’ when laid out on the Student Center Frey Suite’s floor.”

Bertolas’ World Regional Geography Honor students served at the event as a service learning project. They have recently been studying Africa, and, previous to the event, got out on the map themselves to practice exercises and activities they’ve prepared for the visiting children.

“I enjoy seeing their faces light up when they know the answer to a question or when they learn something new. It’s wonderful to see them use that knowledge to find something out on their own,” freshman Nicole Babutzke said. “It’s good for them to learn about all the diverse regions and languages spoken. It keeps them open-minded.” 

About 70 sixth graders from Wayne Elementary were hopping, competing and collaborating on the basketball-court sized map, followed by 36 students in grades K-4 from St. Mary’s elementary school around lunch time.

“Dr. Young opens the planetarium and graciously takes time out of his schedule to share with our visitors one of the campus’ modern marvels. Elementary school administrators and teachers love bringing their students to WSC for the whole ‘Land & Sky Day’ experience,” Bertolas said.

In past years, students from Wakefield, Pender and Carroll have also visited. The children get a broader perspective on geography, their world and their place in the universe. Bertolas’ Honor students get to serve a need in the community (teaching geography to young people) while also learning more about themselves and a region of the world.

“My favorite part about today is beating everybody at everything,” fourth grader Sedjro Agoumba said. “It’s good to know geography because you know more and you’re not dumb.”