Designed by Amanda Locke
My BIG CHALLENGE inquiry concept is based on the following NH curriculum framework proficiency standards:
- Students will be able to use maps and globes to identify surface features of the Earth.
- Students will construct one or more physical models representative of objects or processes in the natural world, and explain how the elements of the model are representative of the real object.
- Students will be able to use different models to represent the same object or process.
- Students will be able to recognize that a model is a representation of an object or process and is not identical to the object or process.
- Maps are used to represent large-scale, 3 dimensional surface features of the earth in 2 dimensions and a smaller scale.
- Different types of maps are practical for identifying, studying and navigating the various dimensions (horizontal distances, vertical heights above and depths below sea level, land form shape and texture) of the surface features of the earth.
The surface of the earth is not flat or small like the paper maps we use to represent it. Contour maps are useful for showing the “texture” of the earth’s terrain — Tiny Terrain or Humongous Hills?
Does this make any sense?
We all know that the earth is not flat. Besides being round, it is also pretty darn bumpy with all those mountains, valleys, cliffs, canyons and hills around. So why are maps flat?
Hikers use maps to be able to tell hills from mountains. Skiers use maps to be able to tell the expert slopes from the bunny hills before they get to the top. Emergency planners use maps to locate the highest ground to tell us where we should go in case of a flood. We will use maps all year long as we learn about different kinds of landforms.
In two weeks we are going sledding. Where? Well, that is for you to decide. As a class you will need to make a decision between 3 possible sledding sites, based only on flat maps.
So before you rush off to polish up your sled, consider this: Can flat maps give you the information you’ll need to convince your classmates that they’ll have sufficient slope for sledding and not be stuck at a standstill? How will you know if the map is showing you a flat field, a crazy cliff or a steep slope?
Three challenges should help you figure out just that. Your group will earn a piece of map for each of the following challenges you solve. Only when the class has earned all three of the maps can the great sledding location debate begin.
The bus will be here a week from Friday ready to take you to the site you agree on as a class.
— Earn one map piece for each key question your group is able to answer:
- Bird’s eye view: Value = one piece of map #1
- Model in a Puddle: Value = one piece of map #2
- The Cross Section Connection: Value = one piece of map #3
After the whole class has earned all 3 maps, your group will need to:
- First, make a decision about where you think you want to go sledding and
- Second, present your choice to the class with 3 reasons that use the map to prove your choice of location is the best choice.
Bird’s Eye View
If you wanted to make a map, you might begin by taking an aerial photograph of the area from a plane or a satellite. Can you make a useful map that will tell you about terrain from a bird’s eye view? Use this challenge to find out.
Hidden under the box at your station is a top secret, three dimensional object. Your challenge is to find a way to represent that object on paper—from above; in other words, create a bird’s eye view map of the object. One of your classmates (who has never seen the item under your box) must be able to use your map to pick your top-secret item out of a group.
- Please do not put your names anywhere on the map.
- Maps may contain numbers but no words (except in the key)
- Maps must represent the shape of your object from directly overhead (No descriptions of color or material permitted)
- Let the teacher know when you are ready to put your map to the test
- Measure the height of your object above the surface of the desk at more than one point.
- Create a key that will help the user of your map understand how to use it (you won’t be allowed to explain your map. They must be able to just pick it up and use it).
KEY QUESTION – Earn your map piece
In your experience, what components of your map were most important for successfully matching the map to the object? (Consider the map you made and the map you read)
Model in a Puddle
Obviously we are not going to sled on the crazy objects from the last challenge, so it is time to talk terrain! Your challenge is to create a model of a sledding hill and then to map it using contour lines. What are contour lines? Follow the following steps to find out:
MAKE A MODEL
- Use the clay to make a model of a sledding area. Create two sledding paths. One path should represent your ideal sledding slope. The other path should represent an area that would not be good for sledding. (You can assume that there are no trees on your hill).
- Find a way to test your model to be sure that one part of your model represents an area where a sled would not have enough slope to move and an area where it would.
- Use a permanent marker to draw a straight line to identify BOTH the BEST sledding path on your hill and the BUMMER sledding path on your hill.
MODEL MEETS PUDDLE
- Place your model in the clear tank and secure an overhead transparency over the top of the tank.
- Looking down into the tank, trace the outline of the hill (the “shore line” where the clay ends and the plastic begins) onto the transparency and mark it with 0 cm as a height.
- Move one corner of the transparency and add enough water to fill the tank 1 cm deep.
- Trace the new “shore line” you created on the transparency and mark it with the current depth of water. (Congratulations! You have created a contour line! What can this new line tell you?)
- Repeat steps c & d adding 1 cm to the depth of the water each time until your hill is submerged.
- Before removing your transparency, trace and label your BEST and BUMMER sledding paths on the transparency map.
We are going to need these maps to be waterproof for the next challenge. Carefully trace your clear map onto paper. Be sure to include a scale so we’ll know how tall your sledding hill is in the real world.
KEY QUESTION – EARN YOUR MAP PIECE
How are the contour lines different in the areas surrounding your most and least ideal sledding paths?
The Cross Section Connection
In the center of the classroom (covered) is a whole mountain range of sledding hills. In front of you, you have a contour map representing one of the clay hills created by one of your classmates. But which one? Without asking your friends, how will you know which model mountain this map represents?
Your challenge is to create cross section views of the BEST and BUMMER sledding paths marked on this map. Once the mountain range is uncovered, you must use the 2 cross sections you have created to help you match this map to its model.
The line depicting the sledding route can be used as an x-axis on a graph. How can you accurately transfer the contour information to a graph? (More hints available if you are truly stuck.)
BEST sledding path
BUMMER sledding path
- Use what you know about graphing and contour lines to complete a picture of each sledding route.
- Use your two cross sections to identify the model that matches your map.
KEY QUESTION – EARN YOUR MAP PIECE
In what ways do you think your cross section matched the model you selected? In what ways do you think your contour map matched the model you selected? (In other words, prove that you made the correct match between model and map.)
So what, we went stomping around in the snow, tracing contour lines onto our sledding hill before we could get down to the serious business of sledding. BIG Deal!
It is a BIG deal because it is a BIG world out there. Our little models and maps helped us to understand the shape and size of a much BIGGER sledding hill. We are going to explore BIGGER things yet… like underwater mountain ranges, planets and even the weather.
As much as I would like to take you on a field trip under the ocean, into the atmosphere or into outer space to learn about these things, I just don’t think it is in the budget this year. So, it looks like we are going to have to rely on many different kinds of maps and images to help us. Luckily, the skills of contour mapping that you just learned will be a BIG help as we go exploring in all kinds of places that we may not be able to go and see for ourselves.
In fact, scientists often need to find ways to study things they can’t see first hand. Making measurements and models is a big part of the way scientists learn about the world and help to explain it to other people. In the process, scientists have had to create many of their own tools and technologies. Here are just a few measuring and modeling tools that I can think of:
- C.A.T. scans and X-rays to see inside people
- Satellites to take pictures of our planet and others
- SONAR to see under the ocean
- RADAR to see weather patterns
What other science tools come to your mind? What one would you like to learn more about? Which ones are related to a job you can imagine yourself doing in the future?
Before we head off on any more of our explorations as a class, we are going to take some time for an individual exploration of scientific measuring and modeling. Scientists get to use some pretty cool tools. Your challenge is to choose a scientific measuring and modeling tool, learn how it works and find an interesting way to teach the rest of us about what it is and what it is good for.