LEAven Blog


Can You Draw Me a Map?

Does Your Classroom Have a Globe?

     Right before Thanksgiving, I talked to fourth graders about the hymn, “Now Thank We All Our God” by Martin Rinckart.  I projected a map of Germany and showed them the town of Eilenburg, where Rinckart was pastor.  I looked around for a globe to show them where Germany is in relation to other countries, but there was no globe in the classroom.  So, I promised them I’d get one for their classroom.  I ordered one online and delivered it just before Christmas.  I was astounded by their reaction to the globe!  I answered their questions about the earth, its position in the solar system, plate tectonics, why the earth’s axis causes the seasons, etc., for almost half an hour.  It reminded me that globes and maps are powerful teaching tools!

In ancient days, when I was in school, my fifth grade teacher, Mr. Rudolph Heinze,1 taught us how to make maps using a grid transfer technique that enabled us to enlarge a small map onto a large sheet of cardboard covered in construction paper (later we ued a roll of 48″ wide construction paper for the maps).2

Today it’s quick and easy to have students trace a digitally projected Google map image onto pieces of large construction paper. I used to demonstrate this computer projection technique for making maps of the Holy Land when I taught the “Teaching the Faith” course at Concordia University, St. Paul, MN.  I covered the walls in my classroom with large pieces of construction paper and traced the projected map images so they could see how to make and study maps with their students. 

“Can You Draw Me a Map of the Holy Land?”

     To understand the Scriptures, a knowledge of geography of the Holy Land is essential.  Yet, how many of our students know basic geographical features of the ancient and modern Holy Land (rivers, mountains, important cities, etc.) and could easily locate them on a map?  As we go about teaching our children God’s teachings, we need to be intentional about teaching not only the “who, what, why, and when” but the “where” of the Scriptures as well.  For example, the “where” of the story of the “Woman at the Well” (John 4:1-42) takes place in Samaria at “Jacob’s Well.”  Note the number of geographical features mentioned just in John 4:3-6:

He [Jesus] left Judea and departed again for Galilee.  And he had to pass through Samaria.  So he came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the field that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there…

     Geographical references fill the pages of the Bible for many good reasons: 1) Geography shows God is active “in our physical world.”  2) Geographical locations have meaning, e.g., Bethel (House of God), Calvary (place of the skull), Region of the Decapolis (region with 10 cities), Gethsemane (oil press), Jerusalem (vision of peace), Nazareth (branch or root), Sychar (drunken, confused, or ungodly), etc.  3) Geography show the scope of how the message of the Gospel was spread throughout the world (Jonah’s circuitous journey to Nineveh, Mary and Joseph’s journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem and flight to Egypt, Paul’s missionary journeys, etc.).  4) Jesus meets people where they are and each place is notable because of what he did in each location. 5) As noted above, geography helps us understand the setting and point of view in which the stories of Scripture take place.  Where a person is from may influence how they think and feel about themselves and about people from other places.  6) Given the current situation in Israel, Gaza, Palestine, and the Middle East, Biblical geography takes on heightened importance.  7) And, finally, Jesus commissions us to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:16-20).

Encourage Students to Know Where Biblical Characters Lived      

     In every Concordia Self-Study Bible are maps showing the places where the people of the Bible lived and where Jesus ministered to people.4  I want to encourage you to teach your students about the very places where Jesus walked, preached, healed people, and saved the world.  May God’s blessings rest on your teaching wherever you find yourself serving God on this earth.

1 Dr. Heinze became a professor of history at Concordia Teachers College (now CU Chicago).  He was my 2nd, 4th, and 5th grade teacher and history prof at CTC-RF.

2 This was before the era of computers and digital projectors.

3 “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” (John 1:46) tells you a lot about what people assumed about Jesus.

4Also see the “Content Maps Index” for dozens of maps interspersed in the CSSP and keyed to the biblical stories and locations.

Dr. Jeffrey E. Burkart, former Associate Dean of the College of Vocation and Ministry and Coordinator of Lutheran Teacher Education, now serves in retirement as Emeritus Professor of Education and Artist in Residence at Concordia University, St. Paul, MN. He is a nationally known teacher, author, speaker, dramatist, poet and musician. Dr. Burkart has over 200 publications including 12 books, numerous professional journal articles, book reviews, chancel dramas, Christian musicals, hymns, poems, CD recordings, films and videos.

Before coming to Concordia, St. Paul, he taught in LC-MS elementary, junior high, and secondary schools in Indiana, Missouri, Nebraska, and Wisconsin. He and his wife, Martha, have three grown sons (Jonathan, David and Andrew) who all are proud graduates of King of Kings Lutheran School and Concordia Academy, Roseville, MN.

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