David Smith '59 is nationally recognized for his award-winning curriculum “Mapping the World by Heart"
David Smith '59, 11-year Shady Hill student and then a longtime Shady Hill teacher, and now an educational consultant and author, is nationally recognized for his award-winning curriculum “Mapping the World by Heart.” During his time as a middle school gradehead at Shady Hill from 1970-1992, David realized his students had little knowledge of where the different New England states were located and even less about global geography, so he began having his students draw the cities and counties of Massachusetts entirely from memory. From there, he expanded to having students draw countries all over the world, again entirely by memory. These memory maps attained legendary status among students and alumni, many of whom proudly display their maps to this day. David’s curriculum was featured on NBC’s Today Show and in the Boston Globe, TIME Magazine, and the Associated Press.
After retiring from Shady Hill, David began traveling as an educational consultant, sharing his geography and global issues curricula with educators in various countries. His travels inspired the idea of creating a realistic picture of the diversity that exists in the world, in a way that would be easy for young people to understand. The result was a book, If the World Were a Village: A Book about the World's People, published in 2002. In this book filled with lively illustrations, David presents the population of the world as a 100-person village and then shows how many of the 100 villagers share different characteristics -- race, language, religion, etc. -- and how many live with -- or without -- things like electricity. (76 of the villagers have electricity while 24 do not.) Over 1 million copies of If the World Were a Village have been sold and it has been translated into 36 different languages. Its success led to other books, including If America Were a Village; IF: A Mind-Bending New Way of Looking At Big Ideas and Numbers; and This Child, Every Child. David is now working on his next book, No Place to Go, which highlights the issue of access to sanitation.
The size of our world and the diversity of its people is a glorious thing, says David, but one that can be challenging to teach effectively. David has made it his life’s work to advance this educational goal.