Activity descriptions and ideas
I first learned how to make topo maps from Eric Muller of the Exploratorium’s Teacher Institute. I changed the method for making the topo map from the models but otherwise our activities are very similar. You can download his "To Topo Two" activity below or from his website with other stellar activities.
USGS has a great description of how to make 3-D model using clear, stacking, salad tray tops.
RAFT describes 2 different ways to create 3-D models. Both are downloadable below or you can access them, and lots of other fabulous idea sheets on the RAFT website. The first “3-D Viewing Topo Lids” uses clear, stacking, salad tray tops. The second, “Making Mountains” uses EVA foam.
If you are an NSTA member, Science Scope had a fabulous article in its October 2005 issue called “Making Sense of Topographic Maps”.
Topographic map information
The best place to learn more about topographic maps is the USGS. For more information about the symbols commonly found on topo maps, see the USGS map symbols page. For more information about how topo maps are created and what they are, see the USGS topo map information page.
S&S Worldwide has the best deal on EVA foam at $15 for 78 sheets.
7. Scientific progress is made by asking meaningful questions and conducting careful investigations. As a basis for understanding this concept and addressing the content in the other three strands, students should develop their own questions and perform investigations. Students will:
f. Read a topographic map and a geologic map for evidence provided on the maps and construct and interpret a simple scale map.