1st Grade Trophy Links

Vermilion Parish Schools
Activity 7:  Ooh, What a Relief It Is (SI GLEs: 13, 14, 19; ESS GLE: 21)

Materials List: two pounds of clay, wooden craft sticks, toothpicks (used as tools), clear container with clear lid, stackable clear plastic lids, overhead markers, water, topographic map of Angel Island, topographic maps of a local Louisiana area, metric ruler (one per student group), optional metric ruler with centimeters marked

The purpose of this activity is for students to create a model that will demonstrate their understanding of major landforms. Introduce students to the topic of elevation with a relief map. Discuss and review the basic landforms of mountains, plains, and plateaus and a similar feature of these landforms—rivers. Challenge student groups to make cross-sectional profiles. Using a relief map, introduce the use of contour lines. Rules for using contour lines should include the following:

  • In areas of high relief (steep areas), contour lines are closer together.

  • In areas of low relief (flat areas), contour lines are farther apart.

  • Contour lines never cross.

  • Contour lines “V” upstream.

  • Hachure marks show a depression in elevation.

Part A: Divide the class into small groups to construct the landform models. Each group will use the following materials: approximately two pounds of clay, wooden craft sticks, toothpicks (used as tools), and clear container with clear lid. Each group will be responsible for constructing a Louisiana landform model with the materials provided. Let the models dry overnight. Each student should draw a cross-sectional profile of his or her model and write a short paragraph describing the features of its environment.

  • Measure and mark every 1 cm on the side of the container.

  • Pour water into the container around the clay feature until the water is level with the lowest cm mark.

  • Place the lid on the container.

  • Mark the water line around the clay feature on the lid using overhead markers.

  • Continue pouring water up to the next cm line and marking the rising water level until 2-D model of the feature is drawn.

  • Drain the water off of the landform models and dispose of it.

Part B: Using the directions at the USGS website instruct students to make their 3-D model Angel Island using stackable clear plastic lids (one for each contour line). See MAPS under Resources for a link showing pictures of stackable clear plastic lids modeling a topographic map. After students have constructed their 3-D model, students will present their completed projects to the class, illustrating their understanding of

  • How elevation is shown on topographic maps.

  • How contour maps relate to cross-sectional profiles and contour intervals.

  • How the distance between contour intervals indicates the steepness of the slope of the landform and basic landform features.

Students can exchange contour maps and draw cross-sectional profiles from this information, identify features, and then match them with appropriate models.

The Earth Science Information Center at the U.S. Geological Survey is a good source for other maps. See TOPOGRAPHIC under Resources for pictures of what this might look like.

Part C. Provide groups of students with 7.5-minute (1:24000) topographic maps of a local Louisiana area and have students identify various landform features. Have a topographic treasure hunt and have students locate specific information on topographic maps. Topographic maps for several Louisiana locations are available online on the WETMAAP  website. Click on the “site map” button; on the next page click on “topographic maps”. From this list a choice can be made of the maps’ scale for a variety of maps.





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