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This year our high schoolers are taking Earth Science. Typically, earth science is a middle school course, but in NY it’s a high school requirement. So, I set out to find some high school level earth science activities. I came across a NY website for science teachers and modified an activity to suit our needs. Our kids enjoyed Trail Planning Using Topographic Quandrangle Maps.
Topographic Maps in Geography & Earth Science
Topographical maps are useful in both geography and earth science. Typically, in earth science students learn to work with and make their own topo maps while in geography students spend time interpreting the topo maps. In NorthStar Geography by Bright Ideas Press, topographical maps are in lesson five on topography. In addition to the activities found there, the USGS site has some challenging exercises for topographers.
- The National Map– Helps visitors choose maps to make from historical topo maps to digital quandrant maps
- Ideas for Teaching with Topographic Maps– from the USGS site
- Map Mysteries– This is a set of lessons which use Quandrangle maps to answer questions
- Topographic resources– from cK-12.org
What Is a USGS Quadrangle Map?
The United States Geological Survey (USGS) makes maps available on their website. The USGS is a science organization which provides information on the health of our ecosystems and environment along with information on natural hazards and our natural resources. They are also in the business of cartography (map making). Quadrangle maps are available for free download from the USGS.
- Shows elevation and other features of the land
- Historic topo maps can show physical and cultural features of an area at a certain point in time- you can see how an area looked before development
- Used by recreationists- great for hikers & cross country skiers
- Helpful when you are looking to by land for building or buying a home- gives a good idea of drainage and don’t forget to visit when it rains!
Trail Building with a USGS Quadrangle Map Reference
The task was to plan a new recreational trail within the area of the quadrangle map using a few criteria:
- Must be easily accessible from the road & include parking
- Four different habitats must be present along the trail
- Establish two new trails
- Include a picnic area
- Beginner Trails- are defined by a distance less than 5 miles, looped trail, no gradients larger than 150 ft per mile
- Advanced Trails- are defined by a distance 5-10 miles long, begin and end at a park access road, no gradients larger than 500 ft per mile
- Turn in a hand drawn map of the trail and surrounding area with labels
- Include a data sheet with a key listing out the criteria met on the map
Some of the challenges include interpreting the quadrangle map and following the guidelines to complete the task within the parameters. The results of this assignment were delightful!
More Posts on Topography at Blog, She Wrote
We’ve been working with maps a lot this year. Here are a few related posts:
- Teaching Geography with Earth Science– I thought this would be a lot to take on, but the USGS site makes a lot of suggestions for these together so we must be in good company. Or, at least, it does make sense.
- Making Edible Maps– A recent post on making fun maps to focus on topographic maps skills for students of all ages
- Salt Dough Maps Step by Step– If you don’t want to eat your map, there are alternatives which allow you to mold the topography.
- Geography Quest Mountain Edition– This Quest explores topographic maps and how to use them and interpret them.
Maps are fun for our family and topographic maps add a special challenge to map adventures. Find yours with your kids today!