Brillion Middle School teachers Ryan Peterson and Matt Van Thiel have their 8th grade Earth Science students do a fun and engaging activity on topographic mapping. The activity is based on the Earth Science with Vernier activity “Ocean Floor Mapping.” Using plastic utility tarps, they create a simulated lake in their classroom. Fishing line is used to set up a 24 x 24 grid over the top of the “lake.” Vernier Motion Detectors are taped to the end of long poles and are used as “boats” to go around and measure the depth from the surface of the lake in each of the 576 6″ x 6″ squares.
The class is divided into six teams. Each team collects depth measurements on 1/6th of the lake. When the entire class is done, they share data so that each student has the data for the whole lake. Given the depth data, the students then draw contour lines to create a topographic map of the lake.
Ryan and Matt found that keeping the lake bottom relatively simple gave their students the best experience. This activity was a great challenge for their 8th graders and they really got into it. According to Ryan, “The grandeur and authenticity of this lab really draws them in and they truly want to finish the map.”
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