Just as students choosing their own reading material are most likely to consume books, students choosing the area they want to study may be more motivated to learn mapping skills.
Climate change has put many areas at risk due to rising sea levels and increased risk of flooding and storm surge. So studying topography is a great way to deepen students' understanding of the challenges of adapting to changes in coastlines and other consequences.
A topographic map is a special type of field map with lines marking the contours of the land. Elevation values are printed along some of the lines. The difference between adjacent lines is called the contour interval and is printed on the map - in the margin or along the border.
An elevation profile is a line graph of the altitude of each contour line between two points. Profiles are the "side views of topographic maps." Using the edge of a piece of paper, mark the contour lines that cross the paper. Label each mark with correct elevation. Then you graph it. The x axis is the distance between the two points and the y-axis is the height above sea level. (Please see sample profile.)
A hiker or architect using the map may want to know the shape of the land in detail, as well as the location of various landmarks such as roads, hills, lakes and streams. (For more information see Pursue the Outdoors). Colors may represent vegetation, water, and built-up areas.
Mapping technology has revolutionized the study of the earth. Digital representations of the land available online through Google Earth provide unlimited possibilities for creating maps and studying the Earth's surface in detail. Google Earth will create an elevation profile for line drawn on the representation of the earth's surface.
Hand-held GPS (global positioning satellite) devices can also provide elevation data and could be used to create an elevation profile. In urban areas these devices are less accurate than in more open places. These devices are used by search and rescue teams and naturalists to name two applications.
The resources included in the external resource section can help you become more familiar with creating maps and profiles before you implement this lesson.