Integrate > Workshops > Teaching the Methods of Geoscience > Activity Collection > Measuring the Campus Green

Measuring the Campus Green

Paul Vincent, Valdosta State University.
Valdosta State University, Physics, Astronomy, and Geosciences
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Summary

In this activity, the students measure the size of one-quarter acre and use that information to measure the area of a campus green. Students are told the number of square feet in a quarter acre, and are then provided compasses, a GPS unit, measuring tapes and marking flags. We then proceed to a large campus green and without any additional formal instructions they work in groups to devise an approach for plotting corners of a square that measures one-quarter acre. Once they work through this process we return to the lab where the coordinates are plotted on a large-scale map and the area of the campus green is measured using a dot grid.

Learning Goals

The primary objective is for the students to develop proficiency in the field: understand measurement techniques, synthesize data collected in the field, and transfer that data from a field book to a map.

Methods of Geoscience

Methods are not directly addressed in this exercise. Rather, I allow students to struggle with devising a technique for taking consistent field measurements with a measuring tape.

Context for Use

This is completed with a sophomore-level college class which usually has 15 students enrolled. This is the first field assignment for most of these students. The assignment takes place over two class sessions–one in the field, one in the lab. The are no special skills needed and it should be easy to adapt to other settings.

Description and Teaching Materials

In this activity, the students measure the size of one-quarter acre and use that information to measure the area of a campus green. Students are told the number of square feet in a quarter acre, and are then provided compasses, a GPS unit, measuring tapes and marking flags. We then proceed to a large campus green and without any additional formal instructions they work in groups to devise an approach for plotting corners of a square that measures one-quarter acre. Once they work through this process we return to the lab where the coordinates are plotted on a large-scale map and the area of the campus green is measured using a dot grid.


Teaching Notes and Tips

The biggest difficulty students encounter is measuring a square that has sides with uniform length. Eventually someone figures out that they need to measure diagonally.

Assessment

I have the calculated area of the campus green. The students' grades are calculated on how close their measurement is to the actual measure using percent error.

References and Resources

I do not utilize any additional resources for this exercise.

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