Contour Maps

Contour Maps lesson plan

These 3-D topographical maps keep students on top of geography — and its terminology!

  • 1.

    Show students several contour maps. Be sure to find a map of your area. Notice that mountains are shown by irregular shapes that outline the edges of changes in altitude. These shapes appear to be inside of each other. In reality, if you read the map accurately, you'll realize that they are actually stacked, with each smaller shape placed on top of the larger one beneath it.

  • 2.

    Students imagine a place that has hills or mountains, as well as lower areas between them. Perhaps the imaginary location has a stream or a prairie nestled among mountains.

  • 3.

    Students use Crayola® Fine Tip Markers to draw a contour map that shows the hills or mountains you imagined. Include at least 10 changes in elevation on the map.

  • 4.

    On corrugated cardboard, students draw each of the layers of the area that you mapped. The higher the mountain (or lower the canyon or lake), the more layers will be drawn.

  • 5.

    Students cut out the layers with Crayola Scissors. Peel away some of the paper on the corrugated cardboard to create a rough, textural effect. Stack layers in order. Glue them to a larger cardboard base with Crayola School Glue. Lay flat to air dry.

  • 6.

    Students use Crayola Gel Markers to color the terrain. Add details such as streams, forests, and rocky gray cliffs.

  • 7.

    Students write a description of their Contour Map using all the new words they learned. Display the map and explanation together.

Standards

  • LA: Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.
  • LA :Write informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly.
  • LA :Make strategic use of digital media and visual displays of data to express information and enhance understanding of presentations.
  • SCI: Ask questions about the natural and human-built worlds.
  • SCI: Construct drawings or diagrams as representations of events or systems.
  • SCI: Construct original explanations of phenomena using knowledge of accepted scientific theory and linking it to models and evidence.
  • SS: Locate and distinguish varying landforms and geographic features, such as mountains, plateaus, islands, and oceans.
  • VA: Intentionally take advantage of the qualities and characteristics of art media, techniques, and processes to enhance communication of their experiences and ideas.
  • VA: Select and use the qualities of structures and functions of art to improve communication of ideas.

Adaptations

  • Have students work in small groups and select a specific area of their country to create an additional contour map. For example, groups from the U.S. could select a state or region for their map. Prior to the creation of the map, students should research the region, identifying the major landforms in the regions, human improvements to the region, etc. Students also prepare a written script for their presentation. The presentation could be videotaped for the class to view.
  • Student groups select a fiction book to read. As part of the reporting on the books, the group creates a contour map of the country where the story takes place.