Cutting Edge > Enhance Your Teaching > Visualization > Teaching Activities > Visualizing Topography

Visualizing Topography

Steve Reynolds
,
Arizona State University

This activity was selected for the On the Cutting Edge Reviewed Teaching Collection

This activity has received positive reviews in a peer review process involving five review categories. The five categories included in the process are

  • Scientific Accuracy
  • Alignment of Learning Goals, Activities, and Assessments
  • Pedagogic Effectiveness
  • Robustness (usability and dependability of all components)
  • Completeness of the ActivitySheet web page

For more information about the peer review process itself, please see http://serc.carleton.edu/NAGTWorkshops/review.html.


This page first made public: Apr 10, 2006

Summary

This learning module demonstrates how topographic maps depict elevation differences and the shape of a landscape by utilizing 3-D visualizations. This module is a series of visualizations set within a lesson activity that leads the student on an exploration of how 2-D topographic maps depict the 3-D character of a landscape surface. The learner embarks on a guided tour of 3-D landscapes, yet sets the pace of the adventure and is free to move backward and forward on the journey. Features explained and depicted include contour lines, cliffs, hills, valleys, and profiles. This visualization is part of a curriculum developed by Steve Reynolds, geology professor at Arizona State University.

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Context

Audience

The module was designed for use by groups consisting of 2—4 students to encourage discussion of ideas and interpretation of images, movies, and answers.

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

How the activity is situated in the course

The full module was originally developed for use in an undergraduate geology summer class and allotted 2-3 hours for completion. However, the menu-driven design of the module allows each section to be covered in separate 30- 45 minute segments.

Goals

Content/concepts goals for this activity

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

Other skills goals for this activity

Description of the activity/assignment

This learning module demonstrates how topographic maps depict elevation differences and the shape of a landscape by utilizing 3-D visualizations. 2-D topographic maps are paired with 3-D visualizations of these maps, complete with interactive capabilities that allow the learner to rotate or tilt the visualization in order to gain different perspectives. Other animated features include sequential vertical slicing of a topographic cube and flooding of 3-D rendered surfaces. The goal is for the student to be able to read this type of map and easily recognize the surface features the map represents.

This module is a series of visualizations set within a lesson activity that leads the student on an exploration of how 2-D topographic maps depict the 3-D character of a landscape surface. The learner embarks on a guided tour of 3-D landscapes, yet sets the pace of the adventure and is free to move backward and forward on the journey. Features explained and depicted include contour lines, cliffs, hills, valleys, and profiles.

This visualization is part of a curriculum developed by Steve Reynolds, geology professor at Arizona State University. His website contains a variety of 3-D perspectives, color photographs, and information regarding the Geology of Arizona, Landscapes of the Southwest, structural geology, and science-education reform.

Determining whether students have met the goals

The Teachers Guide includes worksheet example pages.

More information about assessment tools and techniques.

Download teaching materials and tips

Other Materials

Supporting references/URLs

The Hidden Earth: Visualization of Geologic Features and their Subsurface Geometry, a downloadable pdf also found on Steve Reynold's website, reports on assessment of learning with the 'Visualizing Topography' module. This 48-page manuscript (Piburn, et al., unpublished) was presented at the National Association for Research in Science Teaching, New Orleans, LA, 2002.

Stephen J. Reynolds: Arizona Geology. (more info) is the homepage of Stephen J. Reynolds that includes numerous geoscience visualizations, including the Visualizing Topography activity highlighted here.


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