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Mapping Landforms

Summary

Grade Range
2nd
Group Size
2-3 students
Active Time
1 hour 15 minutes
Total Time
1 hour 15 minutes
Area of Science
Geology
Key Concepts
Landforms, bodies of water
Credits
Svenja Lohner, PhD, Science Buddies
images showing a lake in a forest on the left and a play dough model of the lake in a forest on the right.

Overview

In this lesson, students will build three-dimensional play dough models from pictures that show various landforms and bodies of water. As they analyze and compare their different models, students will realize that there are many different types of landforms and bodies of water on Earth. Based on their play dough models, students will discuss how various landforms and bodies of water can be represented on a map.

Learning Objectives

NGSS Alignment

This lesson helps students prepare for these Next Generation Science Standards Performance Expectations:
This lesson focuses on these aspects of NGSS Three Dimensional Learning:

Science & Engineering Practices
Developing and Using Models. Develop a model to represent patterns in the natural world

Analyzing and Interpreting Data. Use observations (firsthand or from media) to describe patterns and/or relationships in the natural and designed world(s) in order to answer scientific questions and solve problems.
Disciplinary Core Ideas
ESS2.B: Plate Tectonics and Large-Scale System Interactions. Maps show where things are located. One can map the shapes and kinds of land and water in any area.
Crosscutting Concepts
Patterns. Patterns in the natural world can be observed.

Materials

For each student group:

For the teacher:

Background Information for Teachers

This section contains a quick review for teachers of the science and concepts covered in this lesson.

Landforms and bodies of water are natural features of the Earth's surface. They have developed over billions of years through the movements that occur inside Earth and on its surface. Wind, weather, or erosion turned rocks into tiny sand particles, glaciers or rivers carved huge canyons out of mountains, and deposits of sand formed beaches and sand dunes. These are just some examples of how the landscape has been shaped across the planet. The table below lists and describes some more common landforms.

Type of landform Description
Mountain A large, steep hill
Hill Mounds of land with rounded tops that are shorter than mountains
Valley Areas of low land in between mountains or hills
Plateau Flat surfaces that are higher than the land around them
Canyon Large cracks in the earth formed by rivers or weathering
Plain Large areas of flat or gently rolling land
Desert Dry areas that get little or no rain
Island Area of land completely surrounded by water
Ocean Large bodies of salty water that cover about 70% of Earth's surface
River Large streams of water that flow into larger bodies of water
Lake Smaller bodies of water with land all around them
Beach Area of loose particles at the edge of the sea or other body of water

Each place on Earth is characterized by its own specific combination of landforms and bodies of water. We interact with some of these landforms almost every day when we swim in a lake or river, climb up a hill, or hike down a mountain. We can use distinguishing landforms such as mountains or lakes to orient ourselves, for example when we are hiking in nature. We can also orient ourselves by using a map. A map is a representation of a specific location on a piece of paper. It can show where things such as roads, bodies of water, or mountains are located. Some maps include representations of all the landforms in a specific area and thus can give a snapshot of distinct landscapes anywhere in the world.

Each landform or body of water can be represented on a map, as shown in Figure 1. On a physical map, different colors often indicate a different landform; blue indicates water, brown indicates mountains or hills, and green indicates forests or grassland. Most maps include map symbols or a legend, which are small icons, lines, dots, or colors that describe how to read the map.

 Physical map of the Efate Island showing different landform features. Image Credit: Wikimedia commons user Hk_kng / Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 Unported
Figure 1. A map showing different landform features on an island. (Image source: Map of Efate Island EN by HK kng is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0, from Wikimedia Commons)

In this lesson, students will create representations of specific landform features by building three-dimensional play dough models from pictures that show various landforms and bodies of water. As they analyze and compare their different models, students will realize that there are many different types of landforms and bodies of water on Earth. Based on their playdough models, students will discuss how various landforms and bodies of water can be represented on a map.

Prep Work (10 minutes)

Engage (15 minutes)

Explore (30 minutes)

Reflect (15 minutes)

Make Career Connections

Lesson Plan Variations

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