Fluvial Landforms on Maps

Karen Gran
University of Minnesota Duluth
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This is an in-class exercise designed to A) give students more practice reading topographic maps, B) have students identify fluvial landforms on maps, and C) get students thinking about the processes that formed the features they see on maps. The exercise has three stations where students identify fluvial features and answer questions about chronology, climatic influences, etc. Then we move away from the "classic" maps to local topographic maps and students have to find several of the same fluvial features and describe them to the class.

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Undergraduate course in geomorphology

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

Familiarity with river types and basic fluvial features.
Concept of rivers as dynamic through time.
Basic familiarity with topographic maps.

How the activity is situated in the course

This is a stand-alone exercise, done in class. We use this early on in our discussion of fluvial processes and landforms to give students a chance to see what these features look like on topographic maps. We also use this as an opportunity to introduce some of the fluvial features in the region and discuss some of the glacial history of the region.


Content/concepts goals for this activity

interpreting topographic maps
learning names of fluvial landforms
learning which fluvial landforms can be found locally

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

analyzing topographic maps for chronology and process, not just landforms
transferring knowledge of process in one area to process in another area

Other skills goals for this activity

working in groups
presenting observations to group orally

Description of the activity/assignment

This is an in-class exercise on fluvial landforms and topographic map reading. Students work in groups on a series of "classic" geomorphic maps and answer a suite of questions. The questions are designed to cover basic identification up to queries on chronology, process, role of climate and substrate, etc. After going through the classic maps, we pull out local topographic maps and find many of the same features and discuss how they relate to the local geology and glacial history.
Designed for a geomorphology course
Has minimal/no quantitative component

Determining whether students have met the goals

I pay attention while groups are discussing the maps to help nudge them in the right direction if they are wandering. At the end, when students can identify the same features in a much murkier setting (topogaphically), it shows that they understand the basic topographic signature of these features and what variations might mean. You could collect answers to the questions if you want.

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