Young geographers can literally grasp the shapes, sizes, and
locations of states as they arrange these foam-core puzzle pieces. Tabs
of hook-and-loop fabric (Velcro) attach the states to a painted plywood backboard. Hung on a wall, the map beckons family and friends to learn
geography and plan future travels.
It takes about 8 hours to make. Cutting the pieces with a craft
knife may seem tricky at first, but you’ll learn the skill quickly.
Supplies. You’ll need a saw, a hammer, scissors, and a
thin-bladed craft knife with extra blades. Buy a half-sheet of 1/4-inch
AC plywood or tempered hardboard; two 4-foot lengths of 1-by-1; eight
1/4-inch brads; two #12 eye screws; 32 inches of picture wire; primer and paint; a multi-colored map of the United States that measures about
40 inches straight east from Eureka, California (about $1.50 to $4 in
book or map stores); a broad black felt-tip marker; a piece of 32- by
40-inch foam-core (sold in art and crafts stores); spray glue; and about
2 feet of 3/4-inch-wide hook-and-loop fabric fastener.
Assmebly. First, cut the plywood into a 31- by 43-inch rectangle,
and cut the 1-by-1s to 43 inches each. On the back side of the plywood,
center the 1-by-1 strips about 6 inches from the top and bottom; tack
them in place from the front with four brads per board. Install eye
screws into the top of the upper strip and string picture wire between
them. Prime and paint the plywood.
To make the puzzle pieces, cover your work surface with heavy
cardboard so the craft knife won’t cut it. With your marker,
outline the main body of the United States and the borders that separate
Alaska and Hawaii from the rest of the map. With scissors, cut around
your outlines. Cover your work surface with newspaper. Spray glue onto
one side of the foam-core, wait until it’s tacky, and then lay down
the three map pieces, arranging them as shown in the photograph. Using
a paper towel, press down firmly to force out air bubbles, starting from
Outline each state, keeping lines simple to make cutting easier.
Retain your original outline of Hawaii. Expand the borders of small
states, like Rhode Island and Delaware, by borrowing slightly from the
territories of other states or bodies of water. Also expand the borders
of states like Maryland and Alaska, which have long, thin segments that
could break off if not made more substantial.
Discard newspaper and, to prevent blisters, put tape around the
upper segment of the middle finger of your writing hand. Hold a craft
knife in that hand as you would a pencil and cut out the perimeters of
the continental U.S., Alaska, and Hawaii. Position these three map
pieces on the backboard and trace their outlines with your marker.
Then, on your work surface, cut out individual states.
Outline the surface edge of each state again and arrange the states
on the backing. Starting with the West Coast, and working east,
carefully lift up one state at a time and stick a 1/4- to 1/2-inch
fuzzy-surfaced tab of hook-and-loop fastener to the back of the state.
Attach to it a same-size piece os rough-surfaced fastener, remove its
paper backing, and put the state in place on the backboard. On large or
odd-shaped states, you may need to apply fastener at more than one