“The facts are simple,” says Charles K. Johnson, president of the International Flat Earth Research Society (in 1980). “The earth is flat.”
Well, I’ll be honest – I’d be hard-pushed to prove otherwise if asked to! After all, I’ve not been out in space and seen our ‘Blue Marble’ for myself and I suppose even the fact our view eventually disappears ‘over the horizon’ could just be down to topography.
Despite this inherent lack of proof, I would still be quite happy to teach my students that the Earth is, in fact, round. Not perfectly round, but certainly not flat! In the geography department I’m working in, all the classroom walls have the most wonderful giant world map wallpaper.
The maps are, of course, flat and it started me wondering how to translate a flat map projection into the reality (although, I acknowledge, contested by some) of a round Earth in a way where children could make the connection between the two. I know the way flat projections distort some of the features on them used to puzzle me when I was little, anyway!
Asking children to go up to the wall map to point out places is a good use of it but it’s fairly impractical in a crowded classroom and a globe can often be too heavy to pass around. The answer I came up with was this beach ball – something I found in one of the classrooms and now have invested (£2) in for myself.
The idea I had was that the children can pass the ball to each other, with the teacher asking them questions. ‘Where is Europe?’, ‘Name a country in South America.’, ‘Where do you live?’, etc. By then pointing out the same places on the big wall map, the teacher can help the children to make the connection between the two, losing the Flat Earth Society several potential new members in the process.