By Marlee Kingsley, MPIA 2014

Eagerly waiting for the paint to dry, College Hills Elementary School students approached the 40-foot map of the United States for the first time shortly after Bush School and Rotary volunteers made their final touch-ups, packed up their supplies, and headed home.

Carrie Morgan, volunteer at the school’s Parent Teacher Organization, said, “The kids [felt] like it was Christmas. Once I told my kiddos that we could go take a look, the whole playground came out to look closer and it did not disappoint!”

“By painting the map, we are communicating to children that we so value their understanding of our country that we made it a permanent centerpiece at our school. Their interest in the United States will grow as they see how much we value it through our action of painting it where they will see it every day.”

The project, Paint USA, began when the author of this article was encouraged to find a way to bring two service-minded organizations together in a shared activity. The Bush School and Rotary both have a strong commitment to public service, making them natural partners. This project gives students the added benefit of interacting with Rotarians, who have spent a significant amount of their lives contributing to their communities through professional and volunteer activities.

On October 19th, Bush School students, Bree Bess, Marlee Kingsley, Heather Mauel, Ashley Rogers, Robby Smith, and Trey Sparks spent the hours leading up to the Texas A&M – Auburn game working alongside local Rotarians, including Dr. Joseph Cerami, to give students and teachers an innovative and engaging tool to learn U.S. geography.

To create the giant map, volunteers first fought the wind as they laid out a paper template to mark the boundaries of each state. Alaska seemed to cause the most challenges with its numerous bays and complex shape. Once the lines were marked with chalk, the workers outlined each state with white paint and then filled them in with bright colors. The final product provides teachers and students with a proportionally accurate map of the United States.

When asked about her decision to volunteer, Robby Smith said, “Being at the Bush School, I really love U.S. history, and I want kids to come to love America as much as I do. Painting a map of the U.S. on their playground sounded like a fun, tangible way to foster excitement about America.”

Dr. Cerami said that he expected the map to have a significant impact on educating thousands of elementary students in the years to come.

The project was paid for by contributions from the Bush School’s Public Service Organization, the Rotary Club of Bryan, the Rotary Club of College Station, and the College Hills Parent Teacher Organization.