Carson High students scale the United States

Carson High School students will have to walk across the United States on their way from the main building to the Jim Randolph High Tech Center - at least until the chalk fades.

Students in geographic information system classes spent Friday morning drawing 18-square-foot maps to scale of the United States on the sidewalk between the two buildings.

GIS teacher Marc Dastous planned the project to help the students understand the concept of drawing to scale.

"Most of them can do it on the computer, but they lose that connection when they try to transform it to real life," Dastous said. "They need to be able to visualize in their heads that it is much larger in reality. What is an inch on the screen can be three feet in relationship to real life."

The class started with a map drawn on a letter-size piece of paper with a one-inch grid. Later, they marked off an 18-foot square box on the sidewalk and marked off 19-inch squares to make a grid.

"We had to learn how to scale it," said Josh Camper, 16. "We had to make it bigger from a miniature map."

The students divided into groups, each taking a different region of the United States to draw using the sidewalk chalk.

"We're learning how to deal with other people," said Alex Olson, 17.

Dastous said the main purposes of the project were to understand how to scale and to learn to pay attention to detail.

"Everything nowadays involves detail," said student Daniel Fournier, 16. "If you don't pay attention to detail, something will go wrong somewhere along the way."

Dastous came to Carson High School this year to take over the GIS program after Anita Brooks took the year off to pursue her master's degree.

In Arizona, where Dastous taught before coming to Carson, he had 36 students who spoke English as a second language.

In his 11 a.m. class, he has five ESL students.

"This is wonderful to continue working with them," he said. "I try to focus more on visual learning rather than just lectures."

Liz Gutierrez serves as an aide in translating for Spanish-speaking students.

"When I explain it to them, they understand," she said. "If I wasn't here, they wouldn't."

Edwin Esquivias moved to Carson City from Guadalajara, Mexico, about six months ago. He said school is often difficult because he has not yet mastered the English language.

However, he said the map project made learning a little easier.

"Podemos aprender organizarnos y entendernos (We can learn how to organize ourselves and how to understand one another)," he said.

Regardless of language, Dastous said all of the students learned to persevere.

"It's amazing when they begin it in the outline form, they think, 'This looks terrible,'" he said. "Once they start to color it, they really see it come together."

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