johnsons-reef-990.jpg

Image courtesy John Brock of the United States Geological Survey and Wayne Wright of NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility  

Download this activity as a PDF.

Teachers know that not every student learns in the same way.  Some learn best by listening; others by reading; and still others by doing. An effective way to help students master Earth’s landforms and cultural features involves tactile learning in the form of 3-dimensional maps that students construct themselves.

Constructing a 3-D Map

a) Divide the class into small groups. Provide each group with a large sheet of Styrofoam and a similar size outline map of the region to be mapped. Secure the outline map over the Styrofoam with poster pins. Then instruct students to use a pencil point to transfer the shape of the region onto the Styrofoam by puncturing the outline of the map.

b) Next, have students spread clay within the outline they have made on the Styrofoam. If the students are creating a topographic map (a map that shows elevations and physical features), they will need to select different colors of clay to represent different elevations.  For example, they might choose green clay to represent elevations near sea level; yellow and red clay for higher elevations; then brown and gray clay for the highest elevations. As the clay is applied, they will need to make the layers increasingly thick to show the changes in elevation and shapes of landforms.

c) When all landforms are complete, students can roll blue clay into thin strands to show rivers and thin sheets to show major lakes, coastal waters, and oceans.

d) Have students complete their maps by identifying rivers, mountains, lakes, and oceans with small stick-on labels.

Extending the Activity

Students can apply the same techniques that they used in constructing topographic maps to create different types of maps.

a) Three-dimensional maps can be used for learning other spatial patterns on Earth, such as climate zones, cultural realms, and economic regions.

b) Students can learn the geography of the United States by creating 3-D maps of the entire country or of individual states.

This activity is based on a idea submitted by Lorraine Stepanek,
St. Mary’s of the Lake School, New Buffalo, Michigan

Related

Teachers and Parents

  • Picture of District of Columbia state winners

    State Bees

    On March 30, 2012 about 100 fourth to eighth graders in each of the 50 states faced off during the National Geographic state level bees.

  • Photo: 2009 National Geographic Bee finals

    How Schools Register

    Principals of schools in the U.S. with any of the grades four through eight are eligible to register their schools to receive contest materials for a school-level Bee.

  • Photo: The 2009 National Geographic Bee finals in Washington, DC

    Frequently Asked Questions

    Wondering how to register for the Bee or how to prepare? Our "Frequently Asked Questions" have the answers!

  • Photo: GeoBee Finals

    Study Corner

    What's the best way for students to prepare for the Bee? Here are some tips from the National Geographic Bee.

Quizzes to Go

  • Photo:  Screenshot from GeoBee Challenge HD for iPad

    Now on Your Favorite Mobile Device!

    Do you have what it takes to be the next National Geographic Bee Champion? Find out the fun way with the new GeoBee Challenge! Three types of game play make sure you really know your stuff and never get bored.

Google Earth Presents

  • geobee-google-video.jpg

    GeoBee: Geography

    A look into why geography is important to understand as students around the country prepare for the 2014 National Geographic Bee.

Download Google Earth »

Student Activities

Teachers can use these activities in the classroom to prepare students for the bee!

  • Photo: Map of the world showing areas of freshwater

    Geo-Scavenger Hunt

    Simply memorizing terms and place locations can be tedious and even boring. One solution is to make the task fun with an atlas-based scavenger game.

  • Photo: Map of languages

    Exploring Diffusion

    The movement of people, goods, or ideas from one place to another is a process known as diffusion, which plays an important role in shaping the characteristics of where we live.

  • Photo: Infared satellite image of hurricane Rita

    Tracking Violent Storms

    Springtime brings the possibility of extreme weather, including violent thunderstorms and tornadoes.

See More From the Study Corner »