Jefferson Elementary School students soon will get to explore South Carolina, Alaska, Idaho, Massachusetts and all the other states – and even walk on them.

The Aiken Rotary Club and a club it sponsors, Aiken High School's Interact Club, joined Jefferson teachers and administrators to create a chalk and paint map about 40 feet wide on the school's basketball court on Saturday.

“We've had tremendous cooperation with the school here, and the involvement with the Interact Club is really special,” said Rotary Club member Lyn Kenney.

The group took fewer than three hours to chalk the state boundaries and fill them in with paint. A second application was scheduled for school personnel to complete at a later date.

Kenney had worked on a similar Rotary project in California and asked Interact parent volunteer Karen Bowles about bringing one to Aiken. Bowles discussed it with Interact teacher/adviser Art Lader.

District Superintendent Dr. Beth Everitt, also a Rotary member, welcomed the idea, and Principal Becky Wilson quickly responded to a proposal for interested elementary schools.

“We are very excited, and it's great to have these high school students with us,” Wilson said.

Bowles, the mother of Interact President Lauren Grimm and a Rotary Club member, has been excited about the enthusiasm of the Interact students and the support of her club.

“We also couldn't have done this without Don Wells at Park Avenue Paints,” said Bowles. “We purchased other supplies through a Rotary grant.”

Sophomore Regan Gregory said the venture sounded inspirational to she and her friends.

“We all worked together, and it went pretty quick,” she said. “What we wanted is a chance to get out and meet people and learn the community.”

Three faculty members joined the others for the project – kindergarten teacher Nick Kaune, third-grade teacher Robyn Rogers and fourth-grade teacher Renee Enlow. Each already is considering grade-appropriate activities.

The map can provide kindergarten projects on colors, the shapes of states and much more. Third-graders study South Carolina history and could get visuals of the Confederate and Union States. Enlow's fourth-graders can get a larger view of the 13 original colonies and the western movement. She said she would like them to invent their own games as well.

Rotary has made it possible for Interact students to get new opportunities, said Lader, who works with his wife Lisa on the student club. Without both clubs, the students wouldn't necessarily meet and collaborate with adults on a useful project.

“Our students are literally working beside the very people they want to become,” Lader said. “This is modeling, the best kind of education.”

Senior writer Rob Novit is the Aiken Standard's education reporter and has been with the newspaper since September 2001. He is a native of Walterboro and majored in journalism at the University of Georgia.