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’World’ Party (Multimedia)

EarthView celebrates an astronomical milestone

Story Series
News Feature

More than 100,000 people have now stepped inside Bridgewater State University’s EarthView, a replica of our planet that conveniently fits inside most school gymnasiums and inside features room for a small class.

Recently, a ceremony was held at Bridgewater Middle School to mark the milestone. See a video from that day.

“Using EarthView to bring education to you is one of our main goals,” Dr. Vernon Domingo told the students who attended the event. “We want to give this gift to the community, and it’s always been a wonderful thing for everyone involved.”

Also on hand was President Frederick W. Clark Jr., who spoke of the benefits of EarthView as an educational tool.

“This type of program is important because if you want to change the world, you’ve got to understand the world,” he said.

Earthview is 20 feet tall when inflated and features a hand-painted exterior map of the earth’s surface, showing rivers, continents, and other geographic features. Inside is a portable geography classroom revealing those same details but from the inside looking out, providing viewers with new perspectives on them. It was created 20 years ago by engineer David Knudson, and acquired by a small education company, which began taking it to area schools.

When Dr. James Hayes-Bohanan and Professor Domingo heard about it in 2008, they knew it could be an important tool for the work they do.

“We immediately thought this was an intriguing way to think and teach about geography,” recalled Dr. Domingo, now a professor emeritus of geography.

Spurred by the enthusiasm of the two professors, who believed the inflatable globe could help their efforts to promote expanded teaching of geography in Massachusetts, BSU acquired EarthView that year.

Since then, Drs. Hayes-Bohanan and Domingo – co-coordinators of the program – have brought EarthView to schools each Friday during the school year – mostly to middle schools, where geography is primarily taught. Including displays at other venues such as the State House, EarthView has made close to 500 appearances.

Piquing students’ curiosity about geography is a primary goal of the two professors, who are assisted in their school visits by BSU students and a retired geography teacher, Rosalie Sokol.

When students enter the gyms where EarthView is displayed, “we see their jaws visibly drop” at the sight of the globe, Dr. Domingo said. “That means you have immediately created an environment where learning can really take place.”

Lilly Ogden, a Littleton Middle School teacher who has hosted EarthView, said, “When the students step inside the globe and see the world from a different perspective, it’s a unique addition to our study of world geography.”

North Andover Middle School teacher Robert Poirier said EarthView is the top attraction at the annual Family Geography Night that he organizes at the school.

“No matter how many times I have ‘gone inside the Earth,’ it never ceases to amaze me,” he said. “The size, the plate lines, the colors, and of course the amazing instruction provided by James and Vernon make it an experience that not only I but my students will remember for a long time.”

Dr. Hayes-Bohanan said he enjoys showing students that “geography can be a lifelong pursuit and not just a box to check off…. We are letting people see it is still a vibrant and essential discipline.” (Story by John Laidler for University News, video by Charlie Peters and Drew Cambra)

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