Thursday, April 7, 2011

World Map Mural

All over the world, Peace Corps volunteers have painted thousands of world map murals in schools, parks, city buildings, community centers, sports centers, health centers and hospitals. The first world map was done by a Peace Corps volunteer named Barbara in the Dominican Republic in 1989. Since then, a “world map kit” has been created and distributed to all Peace Corps countries with detailed step-by-step instructions on how to create this beautiful and educational mural. You can read about the project here.

The other Peace Corps volunteer who lives in my community (my ¨site-mate¨) Kristen and I decided to paint a world map mural in a rural school outside of our village. My parents graciously decided to give us the funding for the paint, brushes and other supplies. Kristen and I had both worked in that school in the past giving classes and knew the Director, teachers and students well. When we brought up the idea of a world map project, they were excited and ready to support the activity. We decided to use an empty wall on the side of one of the main class buildings. It would be seen by the school children and also by people walking by the school.

What we thought would be a relatively quick project (a few weeks at most), ended up taking us 10 months from start to finish due to rainy season, summer vacation, and the conflicting work schedules of Kristen and me. The map was further complicated by the fact that we had to take a “chicken bus” out to the community ever time we worked on it, taking up practically an entire day. However, we pushed through. We were determined to have something tangible come out of our Peace Corps service, and I think we just wanted to see if we could actually do it!

Here is our map project, step-by-step:

Step one: Wash the wall.  Have a carpenter (or otherwise skilled person at measuring) mark out the 6x12 foot space on the wall. This took one day, and required us to coordinate with the carpenter and pay his bus fare and for his labor that day.
Washing the wall
Don Enrique measuring
Step two: We painted the rectangle a light blue (ocean) background color. We did two coats (two separate days of painting).
Painting the background
Step three: Have the carpenter return to mark out the grid system on the map. The Peace Corps world map kit uses a grid system to transfer a relatively small map image onto a larger surface. We made 1,568 blocks (28 rows x 56 rows) in pencil.

Step four: Draw the map! We used pencils and the map guide to draw each individual square. This tedious task was made easier by many hands and eager kids.
Drawing countries
It´s done! Ready for paint!
Step five: Outline all the countries and borders with black permanent marker. Be careful not to make mistakes! We had a little trouble with this part in the area around the former Soviet Union since the guide we were using was quite outdated and needed some new countries added. We had to improvise a bit on this part and not use the guide. Let’s just say it’s not perfect, but it gets the job done.

Step six: Paint the countries! The guide told us what color to paint each country, and we divided the work up among students. This required two coats of paint as well and involved a lot of paint drips on clothing and on each other. We bought primary colors and from those were able to mix other colors like purple, pink, and brown.
Painting countries, one by one
Our arms got a bit tired
Step seven: Use the light blue ocean color to paint over the pencil grid lines (they wouldn’t erase!)

Kristen and Me
Step eight: Re-draw all the borders with black permanent marker and write country and ocean names.

Step nine: Celebrate the map! We didn’t have time for this step since we finished just days before I will be leaving my community, but you could tell the kids felt accomplished and proud of what we had done. Even if they had just played a small role: painting a couple countries or helping paint the ocean, they felt part of the larger overall activity.

The younger children in elementary school loved to crowd around the map as we were writing the country names yelling out “Look! There’s China! It’s so big!” “Wow, Nicaragua is so small!” “I didn’t know that’s where South Africa was…” “Wait, Africa is a continent?” I can tell that many hours will be spent sitting in front of this map contemplating the various countries on it and giving these children a greater sense of their world and their place in it.

¨This map was made in 2010/11 with the Peace Corps volunteers Kristen O´Neil and Lilia Penny Gage with the fourth and fifth year students with funding from Steve and Amelia Gage.¨
On the top of the map we painted a Peace Corps symbol (“Cuerpo de Paz in Spanish”), and the Nicaraguan flag. On the bottom we wrote when the map had been made and by who, as well as noting my parents for their financial contributions which made it possible.

Kristen and I, very satisfied!
Good work kids!
I’m happy to be able to leave this map behind which will last long after the memory of my presence has faded.


Gail said...


Smith said...

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Painting of World Map