With a hop, a skip and a couple of jumps, the students of Timonium Elementary School are crossing the United States these days, following the Mississippi River from St. Paul to New Orleans and tracking the travels of westward-bound pioneers.
Thanks to a group of retired telephone company employees, the youngsters have a multicolored, 20-foot by 30-foot map of the United States (35 feet if you include Alaska and Hawaii) on their playground.
They can hopscotch across the states, toss bean bags around the Plains and even learn a little geography along the way.
The map is a gift of the AT&T; Corp. Chesapeake Chapter of the Telephone Pioneers of America, whose members are painting maps at elementary schools as a community service. Since spring, they have finished about 10 playground maps, starting in the city and stretching as far as Pennsylvania. Timonium is their second Baltimore County map; Fullerton Elementary's map was the first.
"I've been in a lot of volunteer projects, but not in one that's so successful," said Bob Hoskin, coordinator of the Chesapeake chapter's map project. "The volunteers have been very enthusiastic because you can see the benefits."
He sees the benefits of the map as a good way to teach geography, map skills and even spatial relationships.
Another group of Telephone Pioneers, the Bell-Atlantic Maryland Chapter, also is participating in the nationwide service project and started its efforts last spring at Glyndon Elementary School.
With paint donated by the Martin-Senour Co., about 10 volunteers from the AT&T; chapter undertook the Timonium project last week. Using a large stencil, the men outlined in white the blue background and then filled in the boundaries of the states before painting them in five colors. It takes four or five hours, and some geography know-how, to do the project.
"I brought the bay in a little too far," said volunteer Roland Pancotti as he struggled with the boundaries of Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania.
Another volunteer, Don McKinstry, was wielding the bucket of background blue to cover up misplaced borders.
Mr. Pancotti, who had participated in two Pioneer paintings before helping on the Timonium map, usually works on the northeastern states. "I'm very familiar with how the states run. I'm from New England -- a little town that's right about there," he said, pointing to a spot in the south central part of Massachusetts called Ludlow.
The map does not have state or city names, so teachers can use it for all kinds of lessons and games. The Pioneers give each school a booklet of teaching materials and suggested activities, Mr. Hoskin said.
Timonium Principal Jan Clemmens and Assistant Principal Kathy Volk already have big plans for their map, such as stressing map-making and map-using skills and following the routes of fictional characters.
"We'll be able to look at where Johnny Appleseed went, or where hurricanes will go," Mrs. Clemmens said.
Timonium's 433 students dedicated their map while it was being painted with songs and thank-yous for the volunteers. As the children started to assemble, Mr. Hoskin and others pored over the boundaries of Wisconsin, Michigan and the Great Lakes.
"S-h-h-h, don't let the kids know we don't know what we're doing," Mr. Hoskin said.