M...M...M ... (Maps, Maps Maps)

Instructional Objectives
Background Information
Web Resources

Topographic Maps

Instructional Objectives: Students will:

1. Construct a topographic map of the Denali National Park.

2. Identify the different elevations within Denali by color. (Choose colors for different elevations on map. For example: Red for up to 1000m, Blue for up to 5000m, etc.)

3. Create a picture of Denali National Park using a topographic map. Identify different features found in the park on the topographic map.

4. Name some historic landmarks of Denali National Park, compare mountain peak heights and observe the geologic structure of the park.

Background Information:

A number of maps have been printed which show the different elevations of Denali National Park. These maps are prepared for hikers, mountain climbers and day tourists to Denali National Park. The maps are available from a number of sources and identify the topographical features of Denali as well as the few man made structures inside the park boundaries. One of the highlights of the park is Wonder Lake. There are some special landmarks in the park such as the Park Headquarters, Wonder Lake, Mount McKinley (Denali), Eleson Visitor Center, Kantishna (gold mining town), Teklanta River, Toklat and Riley Creek. There is a campsite at Wonder Lake where many visitors spend memorable moments at this "best view site of Mt. McKinley".

(Source of map information: United States Geological Survey, Denali National Park and Preserve, Alaska, Fairbanks, Alaska, 99701, Map Number 63148-F8-SI-250, Experimental Edition.
Source of official topographic terms: "Topographic Map Symbols" from the U.S. Department of the Interior, US Geological Survey at 1 800 USA-MAPS
Heacox, Kim, The Denali Road Guide, Lorraine Press, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1986, page 2-3.)

Activity: M...M...M...(Maps, Maps, Maps)

Time Needed For Activity: One 45 minute period to color topographic layers, and record different elevations and landmarks in student science journals.

Target Grade Level: Middle school (Extensions and adjustments for elementary and high school found below.)

Materials Needed: For each group of two students (Work in teams of two.)

  • Master topographic maps

  • Color markers or school paint

  • Student Science Journals

  • Topographic Maps from school library Atlas, if available
  • Corrugated Cardboard from throw-away boxes, approximately .5 to 1 cm thickness (thinner cardboard is easier to cut, thicker cardboard has a more dramatic effect. The box size from which the cardboard is obtained should be approximate size 30cm x 30 cm per team of two students.

  • Scissors for each student

  • Student science journals

  • School Glue, one container per group of two students

  • Colored markers, crayons or school paint
    Master topographic map for construction (you may want to provide multiple copies of the master topographic map which can be downloaded from this web site to each group of two students who may glue the master on corrugated cardboard and then cut out the different elevation layers from the model).

Click here for the Middle Level Topographic Map Master.


Basic Activity:

1. Distribute materials from Basic Materials list to students.

2. Have students create a color key to represent the different elevations and draw key on the map.

2. Have students color different elevations of the Denali National Park and record historic landmarks in student science journals.

Extended Activity: For Three Dimensional Map

1. Distribute materials from Extended Activity list to students.

2. Have students glue the master topographic maps on the corrugated cardboard box pieces. Use one box side as the base of the topographic map. Also, have students determine what colors will be used for each elevation layer on the topographic map and create a key on the side of the map. (See special extension for elementary and high school students below for grade appropriate master maps)

3. Have students place the first elevation level on the base of the topographic map and then follow with each additional layer. School glue should be used between each layer. When completed properly, the map should resemble a very unique stack of pancakes.

4. Students will have to draw and color some features such as Wonder Lake and the Park Headquarters on the topographic map. Record the elevations and historic landmarks of Denali National Park in student science journals.

5. Place finished maps in a special place while the glue dries.

Evaluation/Alternative Assessment:

  • Have each group of two students present their topographic maps to the class and discuss the construction and the landmarks of Denali. Some students may wish to research Denali on the World Wide Web for additional information about the Denali National Park and publications such as the National Geographic Magazine.

  • Display the completed topographic maps in a special well traveled place in school.

  • Have students record in student science journals the different elevations and environments in the park.

Extensions for Elementary:

Use master topographic map identified as Elementary Level and use school clay for the different elevations with the three dimensional model. Click here for the Elementary Level Topographic Map Master.

Extensions for Secondary:

Use master topographic map identified as Secondary Level and use Plaster of Paris to construct for the three dimensional model. Paint elevations and include glaciers in the project. Also have students research Denali Park for more detailed information to be reflected in their topographic map project. Click here for the Secondary Level Topographic Map Master.

Have students research mountain climbing on Mount McKinley and the hazards present in this activity.

Use officially recognized symbols for the topographic map.

Construct the topographic map to scale.

Research the geology of Denali National Park.

Research the kinds of wildlife found at different elevations at Denali National Park.

Web Resources:

Destination Alaska:

Alaska National Wildlife Refuges:

Alaska Map:

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