MAPS AND RELIEF MODELS
Joseph T. Hannibal
The Cleveland Museum of Natural History
1 Wade Oval Drive, University Circle
Cleveland, OH 44106-1767
Level: Grades 4 - 6
Estimated Time Required
Anticipated Learning Outcomes
Understanding topography and its graphical representation
on topographic maps is an important part of Earth science education. Topographic
maps typically represent topography by the use of contour lines, lines that
connect points having the same elevations. The concept of contour lines,
however, is not easily grasped by beginning students at any level. One way
to approach the teaching of this concept is by hands-on activities that
utilize three-dimensional topographic maps (sometimes known as relief models)
There are a number of published descriptions of ways to devise topographic maps and relief models. Some are very simple, involving cutting out and stacking simple paper or cardboard shapes, but others are more complex, involving pieces of masonite board, clay, shoe boxes, and so on (see, for example, Braus, 1988, p.35-36; FOSS, 1990, Activity 4, Landforms Module; and Heller, 1970, p. 398-399). The project described here requires only simple materials and is intermediate in complexity.
Instructions are given for the preparation of customized topographic maps as well as three-dimensional maps (relief models) tailor-made for particular locales. This ensures that the map will be relevant to students. A map made for use by elementary school students in Cleveland, Ohio, is used as an example.
The instructor using the procedures outlined here should be familiar with topographic maps.
Procedures for Instructor's Customized Topographic Map
Results and Discussions
It is difficult for students to visualize topography using
a two-dimensional topographic map. A three-dimensional map (relief model)
is better, but a three-dimensional map of familiar terrain is best, especially
when used in conjunction with a field trip.
This project can be used in conjunction with U.S. Geological
Survey's "What Do Maps Show?" (1993). Related projects are described
by Heller (1970) and by O'Connor and Shugrue (1973).
This project was originally designed for and tested by
a Young Astronauts group, then led by Bob Schmidt, at Urban Community School.
Urban Community School is located at the spot marked by the school symbol
on the topographic map.
Recommended Reading for Teachers
BART, H.A., 1991, A hands-on approach to understanding
topographic maps and their construction: Journal of Geological Education,
v. 39, p. 303-305. (Designed for beginning college students, but could be
adapted for younger students).
BLUEFORD, J.R., and GORDON, L.C., 1984, The not-so-rocky road to Earth science: Science and Children, v. 21, no. 7, p. 12-15.
BRAUS, J. (ed.), 1988, Geology: the active earth: Washington, National Wildlife Federation (Ranger Rick's NatureScope Series, v. 3, no. 2).
DELANEY, A.A., 1971, Contour elevations through projections: The Science Teacher, v. 38, no. 7, p. 70. (On using a special photographic slide for depicting contour elevations.)
ENGEBRECHT, V.M., 1979, Developing Map Skills, Book 1: Primary and Intermediate Grades, Hayes School Publishing Co., Wilkinsburg, PA,7 p. plus 24 duplicating masters.
ENGEBRECHT, V.M., 1978, Developing Map Skills, Book 2: Intermediate and Upper Grades, Hayes School Publishing Co.; Wilkinsburg, PA, 6 p. plus 24 duplicating masters.
FOSS (Full Option Science System), 1990, University of California, Berkeley, distributed by Encyclopedia Britannica.
HELLER, R.L. (ed.), 1970, Geology and Earth Sciences Sourcebook for Elementary and Secondary Schools: 2nd Edition, American Geological Institute; Holt, Rinehard and Winston, 459 p.
O'CONNOR, J. and SHUGRUE, S.K., 1973, Toward topographic map making: reading contour maps and how to survey and map the schoolgrounds: Science and Children, 11:13-17.
U.S. GEOLOGICAL SURVEY, 1993, What Do Maps Show? (A teaching packet including a poster and four lessons - can be used "off-the-shelf" for upper elementary-junior high students. Lesson 4 - how to read a topographic map, is particularly relevant here.)
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