PERRYVILLE, Md. – Students sat and stared in wide-eyed wonder at the giant balloon at Good Shepherd School in Perryville, Md., on Feb. 1. After all, it’s not every day that a 19-by-22 foot inflatable globe makes it way to their school cafeteria.
The Earth Balloon made its way from the Delaware Children’s Museum in Wilmington to Perryville as part of Catholic Schools Week, and students from every grade were eager to share their knowledge of their planet. Helping them along that journey was Rebecca Virden, field trip and outreach supervisor at the museum.
Virden tailored her discussions to each of the age groups that visited. For the kindergarten and first grade, it was a general discussion of the earth’s components that could be distinguished by their colors. Blue, she explained, represented water, which covers most of the earth’s surface. The green was trees and mountains, and tan signified deserts.
“We can live in a desert,” Virden told the students, explaining that if they dug far enough, they would find water even though deserts receive less than 10 inches of rain per year.
The students left their shoes in their classrooms so they could go inside the balloon. Inside, Virden led them on a trip around the globe and taught them how to say hello in various languages.
When the older students arrived, they delved into a discussion of plate tectonics and why the continents are shaped the way they are. Virden pointed out mountain ranges such as the Andes and explained why the Nile River flows the way it does.
Good Shepherd principal Sharon Hodges said the Earth Balloon had been at the school once before, several years ago when she was a third-grade teacher. A parent who was involved in the school then and now suggested to Hodges last summer that it was time for a return.
“We usually do one show during Catholic Schools Week, so it just fit perfectly. And we’ve been working with a focus on geography,” Hodges said. “It’s a good way to teach geography in a different light and give the students that experience.”
Virden said she wasn’t surprised that students from pre-kindergarten through eighth grade showed such great interest in the Earth Balloon.
“It kind of captures all ages because it’s the world we live in. You’re interested in what you see and what’s around us. It’s a new perspective,” she said.
The Earth Balloon marked the middle of Catholic Schools Week in Perryville. Hodges said other activities included a spirit day and scavenger hunt; a prayer service led by the pre-k; a teacher swap in which the instructors draw subjects out of a hat and teach them instead of their regular classes; and a sock hop.