Where in the world is Rotary Club? On local playgrounds
Olentangy Rotary Club members are painting or touching up maps of the United States on the playgrounds of Olentangy elementary schools, including Tyler Run last weekend. Pictured with Tyler Run's map are Rotary members and students (from left): Dan Weng, Rich Irelan, Megan Miller, Josh Miller, John Medeiros, Jason Miller, Michael Atkinson, AJ Moffitt, Ralph Abbott and Joe Schaeffer.
Eight years ago, Olentangy Rotary Club members, with paintbrushes and stencils in hand, drew maps of the United States on the pavement at seven local elementary school playgrounds.
The Olentangy Local School District has grown considerably since then to include 15 elementary schools, so club members are headed out once again to add color -- and a geography lesson -- to recess.
"There were so many new elementary schools in our district that we contacted the school system and told them we'd like to paint maps at any schools that didn't have them," said Rich Irelan, a Rotary member and head of the Map IT committee.
"When we did that, we heard from some other schools that we hadn't been out to in many years, and they said their maps were looking old and could use a touch-up."
As part of the Map IT program, about a dozen Rotary members repainted the lines on maps at Liberty Tree and Indian Springs elementary schools Aug. 24.
On Sept. 14, the group will reconvene to paint the 20-by-40-foot map outlines on the playgrounds at Freedom Trail and Walnut Creek elementary schools.
Once the outline of the country and its states are dry, students can paint the insides however they'd like.
"It wasn't a question of why (we should have a map); it was a question of when they could do it," Freedom Trail Principal Steve Sargent said, explaining his reaction to learning that the Map IT program is active again.
Sargent was the principal at Alum Creek Elementary School when it, along with Tyler Run, Wyandot, Indian Springs, Scioto Ridge, Oak Creek and Glen Oak, took advantage of the Rotary's offer in 2005.
"At recess, there are lots of teachable moments, and I look at that map as a perfect way to facilitate that learning," he said.
Irelan's three children attended Tyler Run, and he said he still remembers them coming home and explaining how they used the maps to play at recess and pretend they were visiting different states.
Teachers also use the maps to quiz students on state capitals -- something Irelan said the Rotary Club members also enjoy taking part in while painting the outline.
"It's just kind of fun and you can play with it, but it's also educational," he said.
The Map IT program originated with former Rotary member Dick Corson, who painted his first map at a Columbus school. Irelan credits Corson for bringing the program to the Olentangy Rotary Club and for hand-drawing, on four large pieces of paper, the stencil that Irelan said makes painting maps a simple, one-hour process.
Irelan said the Rotary, which holds open meetings at 7:30 a.m. Thursdays at the Bridgewater Conference Center, is available to fund and paint a map at any Olentangy school that would like one and that contacts the club through its website, olentangyrotary.org.
In addition to the Map IT program, the club awards three local high school students with $1,000 scholarships each year and partners with Olentangy Liberty High School to sponsor its Interact Club, which promotes service projects.