Palace of Memory: The Globe

My sixth graders are learning about how to read a globe.  A lot of map-reading stuff is dependent on memory, and so it’s important to develop map-reading skills from an early age.  This part of building the Palace of Memory is about learning to work with the globe at the center of the library palace:

Today, Class, we’re going to work with developing your skills with the globe at the center of the Palace of Memory.  So close your eyes, put your feet on the floor, and imagine yourself in the Palace of Memory.  You’re facing the east wall, the yellow one, when you arrive, and to your left is the green wall, the north one.  To the right is the south wall, the red one.  Put your hands slightly behind you in your imagination, and on the rim of the globe behind you.  Turn around, and look at it directly.

It is a big globe, maybe six or seven feet in diameter, arranged in a big, fancy wooden frame.The surface of the globe is bumpy and painted to show mountains and rivers and valleys, and there are faint lines showing the countries of the world. It’s right in the center of the room, directly underneath the center of the ceiling. And it’s arranged on brass fittings, so you can spin and move it in many directions at once.  

Reach into your left pocket in your imagination, and pull out a pen.  Hold it in your writing hand, and pick up the flexible steel ruler that is lying on the frame around the globe.  Bend the flexible ruler so that it lies against the surface of the globe, and you’ll see that it forms a clear straight line from the north pole to the south pole.  Arrange the ruler so that it passes through the city of London in southeastern Britain, and that it touches the north and south poles. Then, sse the ruler and the pen to draw that exact, precise line.  This is called the Prime Meridian, and it is how map makers and astronomers calculate the time in the various time-zones around the world, all 24 of them.  Cartographers use this Prime Meridian for measuring distances, and it is also called 0° East.

Then, spin the globe to the opposite side of the world, the middle of the Pacific.  Using your first line as a guide, draw the exact opposite line. This is the 180° line, and it is sometimes called the International Date Line, although that line has some jigs and jags in it.  

Spin the globe so that you’re looking at the Equator, in your imagination.  Draw in the Equator using your ruler, spinning the globe so you get a very exact line.  This line divides the north and south hemispheres.  It’s important to remember that these lines are all imaginary, but that navigators and cartographers use them to help guide people around the world.

Tonight for homework, imagine the other two critical lines — the Tropic of Capricorn and the Tropic of Cancer.  Place them correctly on the imaginary model of the world that you’re going to start carrying around in your head.  Any time you see a map, consciously place the information on that map, on this globe.

You may be worried, because you’ll be seeing a lot of historical maps that don’t show the world as it is today, but as it was at some point in the past.  Do not worry.  It is useful to remember that the old Roman EMpire and France covered some of the same places.  This is normal.  However, if you need an imaginary way to remove modern information from the map, and look only at the past, you will see some knobs and dials on the wooden frame around the globe. These can move the time period on the globe’s surface to show any time in the past or present, so be conscious about storing the WHEN information on maps, as well as the WHERE.

Now… one last bit… please spin the globe so the part of the world where you live is between your left and right hands on the surface of the globe.  Lean in really close.  Locate your house, your workplace, this school, and the major roads and routes that lead you to and from those places to the grocery store, your friends’ houses, and the other places that are important to you.  

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