Crosscutting Concepts Disciplinary Core Ideas Earth & Space Science Is Lesson Plan NGSS Science and Engineering Practices Elementary Grade 4
Teachers and families across the country are facing a new reality of providing opportunities for students to do science through distance and home learning. The Daily Do is one of the ways NSTA is supporting teachers and families with this endeavor. Each weekday, NSTA will share a sensemaking task teachers and families can use to engage their students in authentic, relevant science learning. We encourage families to make time for family science learning (science is a social process!) and are dedicated to helping students and their families find balance between learning science and the day-to-day responsibilities they have to stay healthy and safe.
Interested in learning about other ways NSTA is supporting teachers and families? Visit the NSTA homepage.
Sensemaking is actively trying to figure out how the world works (science) or how to design solutions to problems (engineering). Students do science and engineering through the science and engineering practices. Engaging in these practices necessitates that students be part of a learning community to be able to share ideas, evaluate competing ideas, give and receive critique, and reach consensus. Whether this community of learners is made up of classmates or family members, students and adults build and refine science and engineering knowledge together.
In today's Daily Do, How can maps help us?, students engage in science and engineering practices and use both patterns and scale, proportion, and quantity as a lens to make sense of the phenomenon of changes in landscapes captured on a topographic map. Students have an opportunity to examine and use topographic maps in their respective locales. This task has been designed to be used by students, their families, and teachers in distance learning. While students could complete portions of this task independently, we encourage students to complete portions of this task under adult supervision.
To introduce the phenomenon, prompt students to think about how they know where they are going, especially when going somewhere new. Many students will probably reply, "Google maps" or "Ask Siri," or reference some other tech device.
Acknowledge that all of those things are great ways to get directions, but ask, "What if you were walking or riding your bikes to somewhere new and wanted to avoid a lake, field, or a huge steep hill (like the one pictured)? What could you do?" Have students share their ideas, then share an experience with students in which you may have taken what you assumed was an easy walk and encountered an unexpected hill, and how hard that was to conquer! Wonder aloud, "What if I had a map that could've shown me where the hill was so I could've avoided it?"
Introduce the idea that we have specialized maps that can show us land features such as hills, valleys, and bodies of water.
Have students go to the U.S. Geological Survey TopoView website.
Type "Avon IL" in the Location, and hit the search icon. Click "Avon, IL" and scroll down until you get to Avon, IL 2018 (U.S. Topo) Scale 1:24000 as seen in the image below.
Choose the JPEG download to continue the activity (image below). Allow students to explore the image and record what they Notice and Wonder.
Lead a discussion using the following prompts:
Students may share that they notice the following:
Students may share that they wonder
Share with students, "We will examine what the symbols on the map mean so we can begin to make sense of what we are looking at next."
Teacher Guidance for Reading Topographic Maps
In the public land survey system, a grid divides the land into numbered townships, ranges, and sections. Each township represents 36 square miles (6 x 6 miles), and is divided into 36 sections (red numbers inside each box, 1–36). The ranges refer to how far east or west you are from a principal meridian. For the purposes of this Daily Do, it is helpful to know this so you can find a specific section (red number). For example, on the Avon topo map, the village of Avon is in Section 19 (red number 19) of Township 8 North, Range 1 East (red number abbreviated as T8N R1E).
Ask students what they think the lines on the map mean. There are different kinds of lines, so make sure students specify which lines they are talking about. Depending on the age of your students, you may want to show them the video; however, have older students figure out some things on their own or in small groups. Prompt students to look at both the dark lines and faint lines and the numbers. If needed, prompt students by asking them, "What do you notice between the two dark lines?" or "What is the difference in the numbers between the dark lines?" Using what is already on the map, have students figure out what they can. Productive struggle is good; however, there is also a video option.
Video showing how to read a Topo map by Seth Horowitz. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zqPMYGDxCr0&t=379s
After students figure out how to read the lines on the map (via discussion or video), check for understanding by asking students to figure out what the change in elevation between contour lines is on the map of Avon, IL. Students should be able to figure out that there is a difference of 10 m between each contour line. If students struggle, have them look in the box with the red 23 (red numbers are section numbers) found in Warren Co. T8N R1W (image below). Students should be able to see two labeled contour lines, 600 and 650. As they count the contour lines between the two labeled contour lines, they should determine there are 4 lines. This means that each line needs to increase by 10 m to move from 600 to 650.
Say, "Now that we know what contour lines are on the map, I want you to find the following places on the map:
*Note: We chose to use feet for this because meters were too long of a distance given the scale of the map and lack of elevation change.*
Allow students some time to work on finding the locations on the map. If students struggle, provide the following supports and use the images below:
Go to USGS Topographic Map Symbols.
Have students use the resource to answer the following questions:
Allow students some time to work on finding the locations on the map. If students struggle, provide the following supports:
Say, "Let's see if we can use topographic maps in our area to plan a trip!" Have students return to the U.S. Geological Survey TopoView website using the first link. Type the name of the city, town, or village where your students attend school or live. Decide as a group the starting point of your trip and what kind of trip you will take, by foot or by bicycle.
Have students map a trip on foot that would be the most direct route toward a creek or body of water. If students decide to go by bicycle, have them map a trip that would avoid hills.
Allow students to share the trips they have planned.
If students are able, with adult supervision, have them follow the trip they made and take pictures or video along the way to share.
NSTA has created a How can maps help us? collection of resources to support teachers and families using this task. If you're an NSTA member, you can add this collection to your library by clicking Add to My Library located near the top of the page (at right in the blue box).
The NSTA Daily Do is an open educational resource (OER) and can be used by educators and families providing students distance and home science learning. Access the entire collection of NSTA Daily Dos.
This lesson was co-created by Negin Almassi, naturalist at the Sagawau Environmental Learning Center part of the Forest Preserves of Cook County, Illinois. For updates and to view how to use topographic maps in action, follow the Sagawau Environmental Learning Center on Facebook at @Sagawau.
Contact Negin at Negin.Almassi@cookcountyil.gov.
Web SeminarScience Update: The Science of Oil Spill Response and Cleanup, September 28, 2023
Join us on Thursday, September 28, 2023, from 7:00 PM to 8:00 PM ET, for an edition of NSTA’s Science Update. Major oil spills are rare, but...