Building the World's Greatest Learning Center

To all those interested in building the world's greatest learning center.... we saw this term, there is a very powerful advantage to building a learning center which is focused upon a large scale map of the world. The three panel map that we used can be assembled (some carpentry needed) in about 10 hours with a reasonable budget. Because the three panel world map is at a human scale (that is - the height of a human adult) it is something that children can engage with directly and often with great interest. We examined the use of such a learning center in relation to 'human origins' and 'the first Americans' the use of the large scale world map as the focal point of a learning center could be employed, effectively, in a number of cross curricular applications, especially in the newly published History and Social Science Frameworks from the State Department of Education.

You will find below the shorthand version of the parts list and the steps in assembling the learning center. Have fun, and send me some pictures of the center and the students when you build it.


Bob Sylvester

Parts List

World Political Mural Map - 110"x76" (National Geographic Item # K222007C) $99.95
Note that this map cannot be found on the National Geographic web site but can be purchased from Map_Store___Wall_Maps___World_Wall_Maps
3 sheets of finished and sanded plywood (bought at Home Depot) 4'x 8' x 3/4" $19.98 (each)
Sheets of plywood will need to be cut to 36" x 72" to form the three panels. Home Depot will cut.
3 sheets of clear acrylic (Lowe's #11237 ACRYLIC 'C') $26.85 (each)
Three sheets will not need to be cut but will form the flat (glass-like) frame for the map.
(pieces) 8 x 3/4" Wood Screws - Flat Head, Phillips Slot (Star Slot) - Brass $8.98 (box)
Screws will be used (w/washers) to secure the acrylic to the plywood panel.
(pieces) 8 x Finishing Washer - Zinc (or Brass if you can find it) $ 3.42 (box)
Rounded washers keep the wood screw from cracking the acrylic.
Brass Plated Piano Hinges (72" long) (with screws) $15.98 (each)
Hinges will be attached to the two central four central sides of the three panels.
Swivel Rubber Wheels (Lowe's item # 67046) $ 1.83 (each)
Two of the four slots of these wheels need to be screwed into the base of the panels.
Count #12 wood screws (rounded head) Slot or Phillips head.

In order to assemble the three panel map you will need an electric drill and some basic experience in carpentry. You will also need a sharp edged knife suitable for cutting through paper (something like a Stanley knife) do not need to be a carpenter, however, to finish this project. The first step is to purchase the plywood and get it cut to size (36" x 72"). This will be the exact size of the three acrylic panels but will be slightly smaller than the three panels of the map (which will be 36.5 x 76). You will then need to carefully cut the maps to the exact size of the acrylic panels. This will entail cutting a very small strip from the top and bottom but a larger strip from the sides. You need to make a careful plan in this step to take as much from the two outside paper panels and a minimum from the four interior sides of the map. This will be evident to you as you lay the acrylic on top of the three paper panels (which is the best way to make the plan). The maps are printed so that they can be overlapped by about an inch for purposes of wallpapering, so this should be relatively easy. You will still be able to cut the maps so that there is still some overlap at the hinges. The maps carefully between the acrylic and the plywood you should now plan where you will drill the holes for attaching the screws (with cup washers). This is the most difficult part of the process now as the acrylic panels tend to crack at the edges if you use a drill bit which is too large or too dull. Start with a drill bit (metal not wood) which is smaller than the diameter of the #8 screws. You can tell by simply by placing the drill bit side by side with the screw at the threads. Gradually work up with larger drill bits until you have a 3/16 (diameter) hole. This will mean that you will start with a small hole in the acrylic (along the outside of each of the three panels - equally spaced) and then drill a slightly larger hole in the small one already drilled. This should keep the cracking of the acrylic to a minimum. However, I have yet to find a method of avoiding the cracking altogether so do not get discouraged. cup washers should be placed under the head of each screw and then attached through the drilled holes onto the plywood panel with the map between the plywood and the acrylic. Take your time - mistakes at this point last. Plywood panels should be the exact same size as your acrylic panels so that assembly is relatively easy.

The next step is to screw the two piano hinges (72 inches long) on to two of the interior sides of the three panels. I would suggest that you attach the hinges first to the two sides of the middle panel and then proceed to attach the other two panels with the hinge. This is a two person job (I did it alone and it was a pain). This is the most awkward part of the assembly so bring along a barrel of patience with you. The last step is to screw the six wheels onto the bottom of the three panels. I would suggest spacing them about one third of the way in on each of the panels. You will only be able to use two of the four slots to attach a screw but that should be enough. Note - you will need to find a suitable wood screw (probably a #12 x3/4" rounded head) for the wheel slots. You can best do that by checking the size of the wheel slots and then matching the head of a wood screw to them. You will need a rounded head for it to fit nicely on the wheel housing. Make sure that you get a swivel wheel (as opposed to a fixed wheel) as the learning center will need to be moved from place to place. You should now have a fully assembled three panel world map that can be used in a variety of settings and conditions. It is a natural asset in a school library and a wonderful resource in a classroom. My own belief is that every classroom needs one. If you have any doubt to this perspective please read the newly-published frameworks for History and Social Studies for K-7 and see what is expected of teachers in terms of teaching of the physical aspects of our planet. Truly challenging stuff!!! Keep me posted and please make suggestions on how these can be built more efficiently.