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3-Dimensional Topographic Models of Geologic Features for the Classroom

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Jim Roark NASA GSFC SSAI
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This is a partially developed activity description. It is included in the collection because it contains ideas useful for teaching even though it is incomplete.

We are using topography data of Earth and Mars to produce accurate 3-dimensional plastic models of comparable large scale geologic surface features from both planets.
These models will be used in instructional settings to help students gain a better understanding of topics related to comparative geology, geomorphology and topography. Along with the models, associated lesson plans are being designed to help students and teachers understand topics related to topography such as maps, scale, shape, landform evolution, contour, slope, and exaggeration.
GSA Poster (PowerPoint 6.8MB Oct31 03)

Learning Goals

Content/Concepts:

Higher Order Thinking Skills:

Data observation strategies; articulation of observations; drawing conclusions from data

Other Skills:

Understanding of how models/maps (2-D and 3-D) relate to actual landforms; understanding what various topographic maps show and how they are used

Context

Instructional Level:

This exercise material is designed for middle school, grades 5-8.

Skills Needed:

None

Role of Activity in a Course:

The exercises are designed to be stand-alone.

Data, Tools and Logistics

Required Tools:

The required tools are standard in most classrooms or common enough to easily obtain.

Logistical Challenges:

Making sure there are enough of the tools and materials required by the class size.

Evaluation

Evaluation Goals:

The students should become familiar with how maps and models are used to represent surface landforms. They should learn techniques to produce their own topographic contour maps and profile plots. They should also learn how to make measurements of slopes and landform dimensions using the models, maps and plots. They should also be able to effectively communicate their observations and conclusions with the class.

Evaluation Techniques:

These exercises are still in the developmental and testing phase.

Description

We are using topography data of Earth and Mars to produce accurate 3-dimensional models of comparable large scale geologic surface features from both planets. These models will be used in classroom settings to help students gain a better understanding of topics related to scale, comparative geology, geomorphology and topography. The models are innovative in that they will provide students with a tactile representation of the three-dimensional character of a planetary surface, which is often difficult to visualize from 2-dimensional maps. Along with the models, associated lesson plans are being designed to help students and teachers understand topics related to topography such as scale, shape, landform evolution, contour, slope, and exaggeration.

Several model kits based on specific science themes will be produced over the next year. Initial models and lessons, designed for middle school grades 5-8, will focus on similar geologic features on Earth and Mars including: large volcanoes, canyons and polar ice caps. Each of these kits will include: relevant 3-dimensional models, descriptive text, 2-dimensional maps and images, lessons and suggested classroom activities that are aligned with the National Science Education Standards (NSES) [2] and Benchmarks [3].